LAKE PLACID - Only 15 months ago, the world came crashing down on the owners of three local businesses when a fire destroyed their building at 263 Station St. And for one of those businesses - Cake Placid - the arduous and emotional rebuilding process has paid off.
It is now one of the most popular bakeries in the Adirondack Park.
As firefighters continued battling the blaze in the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2013, Cake Placid owner Jennifer Gates wrote the following on her business Facebook page: "I am devastated and beyond words right now." Even though Gates reassured patrons that she would rebuild, she had her doubts.
Jennifer Gates, owner of Cake Placid (Photo — Andy Flynn)
"The fire was definitely a low point," Gates said Monday, April 28 at her current shop in the Placid Pond shopping plaza, which she opened a year ago. "I contemplated not reopening. I contemplated going back to work for Golub (Corporation) or Price Chopper, just because I was kind of down."
But if you know Gates, you know she doesn't give up. She may not have had a lot of business insurance, but she did have a lot of support from the community, which banded together to hold a series of fundraisers for the businesses that lost their home: Cake Placid, Placid Boatworks and Rick's Taxi.
"The thought of reopening was going to be a very astronomical financial adventure," Gates said. "With what I could do personally and what the community came together, as far as fundraising, it got us into this spot, along with the help of our landlord . ... It kind of launched us off in a different direction."
In 2012 and 2013, Cake Placid was named the No. 1 bakery in the Best of the Mountains competition by readers of the Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise. And this year, it was named the best bakery in the Adirondack Park by readers of Adirondack Life magazine, tied with Cafe Sarah in North Creek. Given Gates' success, it's hard to tell that baking was not her first career choice.
Gates graduated from the Lake Placid High School in 1995 and subsequently entered the psychology program at SUNY Plattsburgh.
"I spent a year there and realized that psychology is not my calling," Gates said. "And then I took a number of years off and just worked."
Gates moved to Cooperstown for a short period and ended up living in Amsterdam and Clifton Park before moving back to Lake Placid four years ago. While away, she worked in retail, management and bakeries and attended college.
"I always kind of had that passion," Gates said of baking. She bought a Wilton cake decorating starter kit when she was 19, "but I didn't really know if it was something I wanted to do for a living."
Gates went back to school, attending Fulton-Montgomery Community College for about a year, taking business classes including marketing and food purchasing. Then she studied baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Afterward, she worked for a food broker in Albany and as a cake decorator and trainer for the Golub Corporation, which owns the Price Chopper grocery store chain.
"That's where I gained most of my decorating experience," Gates said. "And I worked for a couple of bakeries in the Capital District like the Vanilla Bean and the Bread Basket Bakery until I decided to come up here and open my own."
Gates returned to Lake Placid mainly for the kids.
"My family is here, and we wanted to raise our kids and be closer to our parents," she said.
Cake Placid began as a side business in 2007. The first shop opened in November 2011 on Station Street, and the second shop opened at 2051 Saranac Ave. on April 27, 2013. Gates describes her bakery as rustic yet modern.
"We're not your typical Adirondack pine cones everywhere kind of retail spot," Gates said. "We wanted to add a little more of a modern flair to us, too. We're a bakery that has feel-good comfort food. It's nothing fancy, although we can do fancy. ...We offer cupcakes and cakes for all occasions, breakfast pastries, pastries, cookies, bars. We're basically a walk-in full-service bakery."
Customers can also order cakes and other baked goods, including wedding cakes.
Things are going so well for Cake Placid that Gates is ready for her next move.
"Now we're at that point in order to keep it going on a successful route, I wanted to open a second shop just to catch our customers downstate because downstate is more year-round, whereas here we're more of a summer business," Gates said. "We do a lot of wedding cakes in the summer. That's a bulk of our sales."
That's right, a second Cake Placid shop in Ballston Spa, which is expected to be open by Mother's Day.
"It's kind of like a second home for me, down that way," Gates said. "I just have so many customers that come from the Capital District and the Saratoga region that it just seemed fitting to be there."
The best part of Gates' job is pleasing the customer. She loves hearing the positive feedback, especially since she puts so many hours into her job, and says it's rewarding to see that all her hard work is paying off.
"I'm right where we want to be," Gates said. "I'm not necessarily looking to open a franchise or anything. I just want to be in upstate New York, raise my family and turn out good product. ... I'm taking on this second venture, which is kind of putting me over the top, overwhelmed, but I'm the type of person that needs to be busy constantly and always working on something."
For more information about Cake Placid, call 518-523-9866 or visit online at www.cakeplacid.com.