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Who’s Behind the Counter: Mike Cline and Anne Strauss at SugarBakers

Catonsville’s one-of-a kind cake emporium has made a name for itself.

Patch: How long have you been in business in Catonsville?

Mike Cline: SugarBakers opened in Catonsville on Mellor Avenue 15 years ago in 1996. Eight years ago, we divided the business and left the production operation in our old space and opened our retail side here on Frederick Road.  

Patch: Why did you choose Catonsville? 

Cline: The owners lived here, off Rolling Road. 

Patch: What do you like about being in Catonsville?

Cline: This is a great location for our customer base, which draws from D.C., northern Virginia, Annapolis and Pennsylvania as well as Baltimore.

Anne Strauss: Plus we have our local clientele who come in for specialty cakes or just for a grab-and-go dessert. Catonsville is a great community. The people are very caring, which makes it a nice place to work.

Patch: What services do you provide?

Cline: We sell wholesale to Catonsville Gourmet, Mathews 1600 locally and to hotels and restaurants in Baltimore and Annapolis. We also sell retail, but a good chunk of our business is bridal. We have two bridal consultants, and we do on average about 25 to 30 bridal consults a week.

Patch: What happens in a bridal consultation?

Cline: The customers taste 11 different types of cakes and fillings and we discuss the concept for the cake and size and price.

Patch: What is your busiest time of year?

Cline: Fall is the busiest time for weddings now, and we’re always busy around holidays. But we have 10 decorators now just to keep up.

Patch: What specialty cakes do you make?

Cline: We make completely custom-made cakes or we can modify one of our designs. If you bring us a picture, we can make it. We make custom cakes for all kinds of occasions: anniversaries, retirements, graduations, bar and bat mitzvahs. 

Patch: Have you ever done a celebrity wedding?

Cline: Yes.

Patch: Can you tell us who?

Cline: I’m not allowed to say.

Patch: What’s one of the hardest things about your work?

Strauss: Sometimes we will have 10 people standing at the counter, and it can get very busy and stressful. Sometimes a customer might take a long time making a decision and people who are waiting get frustrated, but we try to take our time with everyone, and it is gratifying when a customer says, “Thank you for being patient with me.”

Patch: What are you looking forward to?

Cline: The owners, Jamie Williams and her husband and business partner, Gene, have built a really solid operation here. Now they are involved in their new venture, a bakery and restaurant in Lewes, Delaware, called CakeBar, which opened on April 1. As far as SugarBakers is concerned, we are always refining what we do. Things change in cake design and you have to keep up with the times. Our wedding cakes have been featured in bridal magazines, in Whose Wedding is it Anyway?, Hometown Wedding and on the Today Show

Patch: What is one thing you think is needed in the business community?

Cline: Our customers are well served here. They ask us about restaurants, flower shops, hair salons; we have them all within a few blocks. It would be good to have a grocery store though.

Patch:  What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you when it comes to running a business? 

Cline: You have to have a great product. But patience is the other key. We have to take the time to listen to what the customer really wants and to make sure that they understand what we can do.

Patch: What are you proud of?

Cline: I am proud when I say I work at SugarBakers, and even though we’re not a chain or franchise, people know exactly who we are and what we do. I’m also proud that after 15 years and even in a down economy, we are still going strong, we are getting new clients, we are taking care of our community. We have a lot left in us.

Karen August 15, 2011 at 11:50 AM
Fabulous cake shop! Had a cake made for my husband's Navy retirement several years ago, which everyone raved about, and am planning to get a cake for my daughter's fifth birthday next year.
Dianne Burch August 15, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Love the Smith Island Cake that Catonsville Gourmet offers. SugarBakers' version has multiple layers of yellow cake with white frosting topped with coconut. Yummy! Just enjoyed a piece last night.

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