Tonawanda News

June 16, 2013

Magpie's Bakeshop & Café takes flight with homemade baked goods

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

CITY OF TONAWANDA — For the past 14 years, Sarah Mallare has worked both in the kitchen and serving at The Village Inn of Grand Island, building up a loyal following of customers who would regularly ask her when she was going to open her own place.

Mallare considered it, but loyalty intervened, she said. “The Village Inn has always been my heart and soul. They kind of helped make me who I am today.”

Still, Mallare was preparing to take on a few dessert-oriented accounts outside of her work at the Village Inn when she found out about an empty bakery at the corner of Niagara and Main streets in the City of Tonawanda. She looked at the site with her sister, Christine Carr, who encouraged her to take the chance.

“She said, ‘We have to do this,’ ” Mallare recalled. “ ‘If we don’t, we’re never going to know.’ ”

That dream has finally come to fruition with the new Magpie’s Bake Shop & Cafe at 38 Niagara St., Tonawanda, operated by Mallare, Carr and their mother, Christine “Maggie” Smith. 

On a recent weekday, the shop’s cases were full of mini cheesecakes, full-size cheesecakes (including Oreo peanut butter chocolate and lemon raspberry), apple crisps, cake pops, key lime pies, brownies, cookies, turnovers and an array of cupcakes.

Mallare, a single mother of two daughters and Kenmore West graduate who still works at The Village Inn, plans to offer an ever-changing slate of treats, including bread puddings, shortcakes with strawberries or peaches and her mother’s apple dumplings

“I want to do all the old-school, rustic stuff that just makes your tummy and your heart feel good,” she said. “(Growing up) we had dessert every day, pudding or Jell-O, but on the weekends it was always something from scratch, homemade, and that’s what we’re all about. ... I think that keeps us apart from other bakeries.”

Mallare’s business partner and sister, Carr, has been baking at The Village Inn for about 10 years. She said she’s looking forward to branching out and trying something new.

“I like seeing the finished product,” Carr said. “It’s very satisfying to know that your own two hands made that. And I love to talk to the people who come in here, and making people happy. Because sweets make people happy.”

The sentiment runs in the family. On a recent Friday, Maggie Smith worked on a tray of kolaches in the café’s kitchen, adding cherry or cream cheese filling to cups of homemade dough. She said that she’s excited about the venture and hopes it works out for her daughters.

“I always baked homemade when they were growing up, and they couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t make boxed cakes,” she said. “We’re homemade kind of people. Simple people who love to bake.” 

The shop’s hours will expand once the school year is open and a grand opening event is planned for the future. Mallare hopes to add some tables to the business and branch out to breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and soups, including to-go items. She has won awards at the Buffalo Soup Fest for her hot popper chicken soup and Mayan chocolate stout chili, both her own creations.

“I was an artist first and then food became my canvas,” Mallare said.

While the name of the shop comes from their mother’s nickname (and love for baking pies), Mallare and Carr both noted there’s another, slightly mysterious, story behind the name. They were close to Leon Carr, the nephew of Mike Carr, who was killed in a snowboarding accident in 2008.

Not long after his funeral, Christine Carr arrived home from a trip to discover two blackbirds mysteriously in her kitchen with no fuss from her cats or damage to her home. When she opened the door, they simply flew away.

They both take it as a sign from someone who believed in doing something he loved everyday.

“Leon taught me to believe in myself,” Mallare said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think of him.”