Zelienople pastry shop has been sweet retreat for 4 decades
After indulging his sweet tooth at Carol's Pastry Shop in Zelienople, Rodney Gasch brushes the crumbs from the front of his shirt.
“Removing evidence,” he said with a smile, before ordering a dozen cookies to take home to his family.
The Forward Township man, like so many other locals, has been coming to the bakery for decades.
“The food's great and it's not a chain,” said Gasch, a weekly visitor. “And they're open early. If it's 5:15 and I need a donut, I can go to Carol's. She'll be there.”
The day starts at 1 a.m., when proprietor Richard “Bill” Wahl begins preparing the day's goodies from scratch. His wife, Carol, arrives a few hours later to put the finishing touches on each sugary masterpiece.
It's a grueling schedule they've maintained for 40 years.
A graduate of Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis, Bill honed his craft at Kretchmar's Bakery in Beaver. In May of 1974, the newlywed Wahls purchased K-C Bakery, where Bill spent his high school days washing dishes. Eleven years later, they moved a few blocks up Main Street to their current location.
It was a rough start, especially with three young children.
“I would bundle the kids up in the morning, put them in the car, haul them down to the bakery, get them out and lay them in a place we had fixed up for them to sleep in,” Carol recalls.
Customers appreciate the effort and reward the hardworking couple with their loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising.
In addition to eating up daily offerings of muffins, bear claws, donuts, cookies, pies and bread, generations of Zelienople residents have had their wedding and specialty cakes made-to-order by the small business.
Children come in with ideas scribbled in crayon and the Wahls recreate them using flour, sugar and eggs.
“When people are happy with what you make and enjoy it, that's the best part,” Carol said.
The Wahls are gearing up for the busy Easter season – the time of year when weight-loss resolutions fall by the wayside.
Even after 22 years on the job, store manager Marjorie Jackson – the only other full-time employee – can't resist eating a chocolate-chip Danish now and then.
She's proud to see the business thriving in a competitive market dominated by big box retailers.
“When you're in a small town, everyone tries to help the small-town guy out,” Jackson says. “If you want special service and a special product, then you have to make the effort to come in. And when you do come in, we treat you very well.”
Carol's Pastry Shop is located at 142 S. Main St., Zelienople.
Kristy Locklin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.