Treat yourself and your next party guests to sweet and savory goods sure to satisfy any palate and appeal to the eye. The new Aggie Mae’s Bakery and Sweet Shoppe opened this year in Grand Ledge. The bakery is named after owner Neva Austin’s mother from whom she learned to bake from scratch. “I don’t remember there ever being a mix in the house while I was growing up. My mother taught me everything,” Austin said. “She gave me my foundation.” To this day, the aroma of freshly baking bread reminds Austin of some of her fondest childhood memories. Bread and homemade baked goods are comfort foods, she said, and she’s been sharing that feeling with the community for the last five years. In 2009, Austin rented a kitchen in an elementary school in Eaton Rapids and baked goods for local residents. She soon found the need to expand, and rented a space with a kitchen at Lansing’s City Market and opened up a shop in Old Town. Earlier this year, she decided to move the shop from the city market to Grand Ledge in part because she has roots and relatives who live there. “Grand Ledge has a hometown feel and it’s growing,” she said. “We have a lot of clientele from the area who’ve been very supportive.” Family has been her inspiration for the bakery’s look, too. A former marketing and sales professional, Austin put her creative flair into designing the bakeries with a classic rustic European décor. While the atmosphere is homey and welcoming, it’s the pastry display cases that attract the eye. Each day of the week features a different kind of hearty specialty bread. Chocolate-cranberry, fig-pecan, herb de Provence, oatmeal, spelt and pretzel rolls are just some of these. Others are offered every day. On Monday through Saturday, guests can enjoy cinnamon raisin, Italian sourdough, pumpernickel, multi-grain, rye and more. Also on the menu are sandwiches, soups, kids’ meals and, of course, pastries and dessert. To wash down the sweets, there is a full coffee and espresso bar. The sandwiches have fun and memorable names and two — the Aggie and Melvin’s Melt — give homage to her parents. Among the most popular desserts is homemade cheesecake, plain or with turtle, triple chocolate, raspberry or other toppings. “All are heavenly,” Austin said. “Now that Easter is coming, we’ll sell traditional Easter treats like hot cross buns.” Cupcakes are the shop’s signature item and are popular for weddings, birthdays, open houses, luncheons, business events and other parties. These aren’t ordinary cupcakes, but are decorated with Austin’s artistic flare. She considers food as her art medium. “Food should taste as good as it looks and look as good as it tastes,” Austin said. Austin continues to experiment with new recipes, too. “The beauty of owning your own business is the freedom you have to create,” Austin said, “and to indulge your passions. My passion was always in baking. It’s something that moves me … and running the bakeries fulfills that dream.” It also keeps her in close touch with her family and friends. They can give her immediate feedback on new things she’s trying. “My husband Michael and three daughters are my official taste testers,” she said. A supervisor at UPS, he works the night shift so he is able to help out at the eateries during the day. “He does a lot behind the scenes,” Austin explained. Her eldest daughter Audrey does more than just test the recipes; she works at the Grand Ledge bakery full-time baking bread. “She’s a natural,” Austin said. “She does a fabulous job.” Middle daughter Rebecca attends the University of Michigan and 10 year old Angel Marie helps when she can. Like Aggie Mae, Austin is eager to pass along all her recipes for many generations to come. Judging from Austin’s success, she’s a natural, too. Aggie Mae’s Bakery and Sweet Shoppe 317 E. Grand River in Lansing’s Old Town 914 Charlevoix Drive, Grand Ledge (517) 214-2765 www.aggiemaesbakery.com
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.