Great big small-town bakery cooks up sweet memories
Ahhh, the aroma of freshly baked bread. And cookies. And muffins and pastries. And cakes, doughnuts and pies. Just the thought of it brings to mind a small-town bake shop populated with smiling folks eager to fulfill your every need, no matter how gooey.
Rehoboth Beach is fortunate to have talented hometown bakers who rise in the wee hours to knead, proof, frost, pipe, decorate and sprinkle their way into our hearts. And one of these local bakeries even provides a few other things as well. Like onions. And dishwashing detergent. And antifreeze, hot sauce, flowers and greeting cards. You can buy a lottery ticket and make a bank deposit. But the bakers still toil through the night to concoct personalized goodies for their loyal customers.
Journeyman baker Nancy Stout has been with Giant Food for 26 years. She grew up near Washington, D.C., and Rehoboth Beach was her perennial vacation destination. During one of those vacations, she spotted a sign out on the highway: “Giant Food Coming in 1999!” With her marriage over and nothing tying her to D.C., she knew that Rehoboth Beach would be the perfect place to bring up her kids, Scarlett and Robert. When her district manager listened to his answering machine that night, Nancy’s voice anxiously inquired, “What do I have to do to get that store?!”
On Jan. 2, she got the call. By March 1, she had sold her house, and on March 20, 1999, she stood smiling behind the bakery counter of the brand-new Rehoboth Beach Giant Food.
Over the years, Nancy’s love for small-town Rehoboth has translated into helping people mark special occasions. “I’ve baked christening cakes, birthday cakes, graduation cakes and wedding cakes - all for the same kids,” she coos. “I’ve made cakes for dogs, a Phantom of the Opera cake, a vegan cake (with a Hawaiian theme, yet), and even a Paint Splatter cake.” (House painters have birthdays, too. Use your imagination.)
Rehoboth being Rehoboth, Nancy has also crafted her share of festive cakes for gay and lesbian partners. With the recent passage of Delaware’s civil union laws, she’s made herself the go-to girl for rainbow-hued civil union and anniversary cakes for families, friends and happy couples alike - many of whom use the occasion to celebrate upwards of 50 years together.
“This may be the Giant, but it’s still a neighborhood bakery,” says Nancy. And she makes a point of telling me that she doesn’t do all this alone: Store Manager Mike Long is, in her words, “one real cool dude” who keeps everything running smoothly. Next in line she credits Sharon, the bakery manager (“my sister from another mister”) for “taking care of business while I get to decorate cakes. She calms me down.”
Twenty-two-year-old Ben (he’s been with Giant since he was 14) is her eyes and ears out at the counter, and hard-working Philip helps her with heavy equipment and freight deliveries. Mary is another smiling face who takes pride in helping customers choose flavors, colors and decorating styles. Thirteen-year Giant veteran Brenda (“she’s my rock”) makes sure that yummy creations are prepared fresh and on time. Bakery clerk Shameka also gets up close with the customers and loves to decorate as well. “She’s gonna be me when I finish with her,” winks Nancy.
“I’m grateful to be here. How many people can say they smell great when they finish work? When I get up early and there’s a little snow on the trees, it’s like my world is sprinkled with powdered sugar.”
She loves to tell about the guy who stared at her from out in the store as she decorated cakes. Turned out her stalker was none other than plumbing contractor Harry Caswell. Seems that the burly entrepreneur was fascinated with the mechanics of cake decorating. As an anniversary gift, his wife Lynn arranged for Nancy to give Harry a short course in cake decorating. Turned out he was a natural. The good news is that he and Lynn were thoroughly grateful for Nancy’s generosity. The bad news? “He got so good that I lost a customer.”