Arbutus bakery hopes for sweet sales during holidays

Perhaps Rebecca Quinn would have considered ending her pursuit of opening a pie and tart bakery if she had run into adversity.

Instead, the 61-year-old Arbutus resident is taking a full-speed-ahead approach to opening Nonni's Pies and Tarts in a commercial kitchen space in The Lunchbox Lady at 1311 Francis Ave — with a little help from some Community College of Baltimore County business students.

According to Paul Coakley, the department chair of business studies on the three CCBC campuses, students will help Quinn create a website, marketing materials and brochures as part of the school's Enterprise Institute.

"(The institute) helps area small businesses get started or develop a business plan," Coakley said, noting the students also get valuable hands-on experience by participating in the institute which began several years ago.

After she receives assistance from the students at CCBC, Quinn may well be on her way to achieving her dream of opening a shop on Frederick Road where customers can come in and relax.

Before this happens, though, Quinn said an advisor told her she will need to sell $20,000 in pies or approximately 1,333 of her $15 pies — pies and 9-inch tarts cost $15 each, a 4-inch tart is $5 and a skillet apple pie is $32, but comes in an iron skillet that the customer may keep.

Nonni's Pies and Tarts opened for business at the end of October and has so far sold about 40 pies, a number she hopes increases with the holidays and more positive signs.

"What I feel like is, all along, God kept saying 'yes' to me," said Quinn, who moved to Catonsville at age 14 and lived there 40 years. "God's leading me every step of the way."

The journey started, Quinn said, when she found the base and established a home base for her delivery service.

The Archbishop Keough High School grad opened her bakery after a nearly 24-year career at the Maryland State Teachers Association.

She said much of what she learned about baking came from a book she purchased years ago, "Great Pies and Tarts," by Carole Walter, a tome she keeps close by as she meticulously measures ingredients, rolls dough and adds her own twist to the instructions in the book.

"One of the things that I do with my pies is, every one of them, I'm praying as I make them, for the people who are going to buy those pies," Quinn said.

Quinn plans on altering her menu each month to include seasonal favorites and currently offers 11 pies, including java eggnog and apple pumpkin pies.

The menu features four tarts, from caramelized walnut to chocolate candy.

Since Oct. 24 when the bakery opened, Quinn's work has involved more sales and marketing than actual baking.

Quinn travels around Catonsville and Arbutus several days a week in an attempt to entice businesses to carry her creations.

On Dec. 7, Quinn noted she had several locations still considering whether to stock her product.

Even though she loves the art that goes into creating her pies and tarts, Quinn has reveled in getting the name Nonni out in the community.

Nonni is the Italian word for grandmother, said Quinn, a mother of four and grandmother to three.

"Dreams come about by you taking action," Quinn said.

The Lunchbox Lady owner Connie Neiman, who rents kitchen space to Quinn, said she sees a lot of herself in Quinn and hopes that she finds success.

"She's basically in the same age bracket as I am. She's reinventing herself after a long career," said Neiman, whose three-year-old boxed-lunch business has seen enough growth to necessitate a move to a larger facility.

"It's a challenge because you're a jack-of-all-trades," Neiman said of opening a business. "It seems like she's willing to experiment with different recipes and is eager to sell and introduce herself to the community."

Whether a financial success or not, Quinn has enjoyed the ride and opportunity to make people happy through her creations.

"It's a huge jump, a leap of faith," Quinn said. "A lot of people laugh at me, but I say I'm out there baking and I'm bringing joy to people."

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