Clickable Heading MYRIAD

Somewhere between a newspaper girl and a career?

So this past semester, I started what I’ve been referring to as a “big girl job”.

But let’s backtrack.

My parents own a bakery. I grew up in it.

When I was a baby, my parents would take me to work at 2 AM and put me to sleep in a bassinet on the main bench while they began prepping sticky buns for the day.

This is my sister pushing me in a swing my parents put in the bakery for us. You can see the cake decoration bench right behind us. We used to sit in the swing and every time some teenage employee passed us they would push the swing.

When I was a toddler, I would wake up with the sun and run downstairs with my sister in footie pajamas and get a warm roll, or some eggs from my parents. I’d eat it while coloring with expo markers on white cake boards before falling asleep curled on some flour sacks.

This is me and Emma, drinking milk out of coffee cups, and sitting in the rolling case where we stored pastries and muffins when we closed.

When I was a child, I would only get to eat anything from the bakery on “Fun-day Fridays”, when I would be allowed one item of my choice. I would go to church or lunch with my grandparents and return to choose whatever my favorite was at that moment (either a chocolate iced, cinnamon sugar cake donut, or a cinnamon roll) and eat it before going on a bike ride to 34th Street park to climb the tree or walking to the beach with the Lindbergs.

To the left, Emma and I with those grandparents outside the bakery after finishing the 2022 season. To the right, them at my high school graduation. Our Nana basically raised us during the summer seasons when our parents were working full-time every day and we were still babies. They live in the apartment above the bakery every summer, and in Flordia in the winter. They owned a few different bakeries in Pittsburgh, PA before buying Dot’s in 1985. My mother bought it from them in 2000.

When I was around 8, I started selling newspapers outside the bakery every Sunday with my sister. We would offer the lines of people outside the shop an Atlantic City Press or Philadelphia Inquire while they patiently waited half an hour for their number to be called. We got to keep and split our earnings after we paid for the papers. I sold newspapers for years, starting with my sister, then with the young daughter of a close family, then with a friend Keira, then with Keira and another girl named Riley. From there, I moved from the yellow bench outside, to the wooden working benches inside.

When I was 12, I started working on weekends in the spring or fall when everyone who worked for my parents went back to school or college or Pennsylvania, huddled next to a propane space heater and wearing two sweatshirts when it was slow.

Me in my young teen years in the shop.

When I was 14, I started working legally and got my very first paycheck. (I was unpaid for previous labor, as it goes with most family businesses). I worked behind the counter all summer for the first time and hated it deeply, which resulted in my hiding in the back to talk to whatever boys were working the dishwasher, and being a pretty terrible employee. I had been helping for years, but I now took over the entirety of the cake decorating from my mother (who hated it) and improved really quickly.

For some god-forsaken reason, at fourteen years old, I was somehow the one making the cake for my middle school graduation ceremony. I’ve improved since this I promise.

By the time I was 15, I realized I was much happier making the pastries and donuts and muffins and bread and such than I was selling them, so I switched to early finishing shifts and loved it, even working another job nearly every day as well. I also started to really fall in love with cake decorating. I loved the creativity of it, that there was room to do whatever I wanted. It’s like art with icing.

Our family in the front of the shop during the spring of COVID-19. It was only the four of us working, and we were only doing pick-up orders over the phone. No one came in or out of the shop, and we were taking every precaution known to man to try and stay as safe as we could while also not closing the business. It was the weirdest time ever.

At 19, I’m still awake by 4 AM most every day of the summer. In the shop telling other people what to do, decorating ridiculous cakes, avoiding helping customers, smiling at regulars, accounting every detail of my life to Katie Mazzitelli and Quinn Hughes, drinking lots of coffee, burning my fingerprints off, and dodging people who ask me if I’m taking over the business.

Slight interjection to say I think I could write an entire anthology about Dot’s Pastry Shop itself, from the story of how my grandparents ended up in Ocean City, how my mom took it over, and what growing up in such an environment was like. I don’t think it’s possible to explain some things though. How do you dare explain something that was your life, was what made your life good and rich, and what ruined it in ways? There’s a sort of understanding that I think my sister and I are the only ones in this world who can fully comprehend. And I think that’s a strangely beautiful thing. But I want to take my time with all of that history and tell those stories in due time.

So anyway I grew up in the business, and because of that I know a lot about it. I’m pretty damn good at it. My mom always told me that if I ever needed a job, I could go to a bakery and tell them I was born and raised in one and they would hire me. So thanks to, yk, transferable skills, when I wanted to find a decent job up at school, I searched for cake decorating jobs.

I sent out my resume to a few places and got hired at a bakery. I decided to not tell them that I grew up in one because I wanted to be taken more seriously, especially with how young I am. I realized quickly that it was somehow exactly what I was used it and also very different. Every bakery is universally similar in some ways, and most basic skills are the same. But this bakery was much bigger and fancier than I’m used to.

Most of my Dot’s coworkers are around my age. We wear old high school gym shirts and gossip and listen to loud music and fuck around while we work. (We do work)

I will say, for the most part, I love everyone I work with at Dot’s. I’ve known most of them for years, and we really do feel like a family sometimes. Here are some pictures from last summer.

At my current position, there are store workers and bread workers and pastry chefs and cake decorators and night crews and delivery drivers and office workers and cleaning crews and managers and supervisors. The bakery puts out 10 times the volume of my family bakery.

Everyone I work with in the cake department is much older. Most married, many with kids. This is their career, their job job.


And not just that, but EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM went to culinary or pastry school, except for a select few who had been there for decades and worked their way into production. One night we were talking and I asked how I even got hired. A boss told me it was because during my trial (coming in to decorate a cake or something so they can judge your skills) they could tell I knew what I was doing, and that coupled with my years of previous experience was enough to convince them I was at a high enough level to work there. Also, I did well during a test shift.

One night I was icing cakes, and my boss was telling me about some story of when she was young and dumb (because I was telling her about my latest young and dumb endeavor) and the guy working at the station opposite mine was shocked when I told him I wasn’t even twenty yet. I cracked a joke about not knowing how I got hired.

“Well, you went to school for this right?”

“No, I didn’t”

“Oh, so are you going to school for it now?”

“Actually, I’m not”

“Oh, then yeah how did you get hired? Do you go to school at all?”

“Yeah, I’m at Rutgers. But I’m studying gender”

“What? That’s not even a little bit close”

Royal icing decorated sugar cookies! I made a million of these last week.

Considering I’m the obscure nineteen-year-old college student in the group, I feel a bit like an outlier. But I don’t really mind. I get called a baby (endearingly), or told to be grateful that I’m still so young and can avoid the mistakes they made that I get told stories about. I get shown baby pictures and wedding albums and hear about how hard it is to raise boys, or breastfeed, or go through a divorce, or pay off student loans, or be a homeowner when you have insane cats.

Piping pies
Decorating mango mousse tortes

I also had to spend some time proving myself. I wasn’t allowed within two feet of a cake for a bit, but as time went on I was entrusted with more. I always seemed to surprise people when I was capable. I was told to base a cake and did it flawlessly on the first try, and when a store worker came back asking someone to write an inscription on a cake and I offered to do so, writing in perfect cursive, people just didn’t expect it. But once they did, it was so fun getting to be able to start to learn things I had no clue how to do before.

That being said, I’ve learned a lot of new skills. For instance: fondant. I had never worked with it professionally before, and now feel much more confident with it. Other things too, like flooding cookies and decorating with royal icing, or making, piping, and filling macarons, mousses, and more.

A couple days ago: piping out, baking, and brushing eggnog macarons with silver luster dust mixed with vodka (which dries out). I had never made macarons professionally and they’ve always turned out like shit when I’ve made them at home, so it was cool learning.

Bakery culture is a whole thing. I don’t really know how to describe it to people. Go get a job in a bakery I guess. But it seems to be mostly the same everywhere. I almost treat it like people watching, listening to the wild conversations that happen over stacking and icing petit-fours or airbrushing buttercream roses.

One of the coolest parts, I will say was the uniform. Very offfical, checkered pants with a white button-down chef’s coat, an apron, and a hat. And its laundered for me by the company and ready for me every morning before my shift. Idk if any of you have watched it, but I feel like I’m in the TV show on Hulu The Bear, whenever people say things like “behind” or hand me knives the size of my forearm.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out my place in this bakery world. My parent’s business is mine if I want it, which I don’t think I’ve ever wrapped my brain around completely. It’s a very complex, nuanced situation and there’s so fucking much that needs to be considered concerning the shop. I’ll grossly simplify it by saying that I don’t think I could own the shop. I mean, I could, but also, I can’t. So. yeah.

I could open my own bakery, but that’s also a whole thing.

I could work for someone else’s bakery, run or manage it even. Make that my job job. Once, while in Flordia for my dad’s 61st birthday, I asked a Publix employee if I could borrow a writing bag to write on a cake we were buying from their grocery store. He let me, and after I piped out the inscription in five seconds and it looked good, he told me if I ever moved to the area to please put in an application.

I could make and decorate cakes as a side business. I’ve considered this heavily actually. It’s super lucrative and an easy way to have a second stream of income. And by doing something I really like to do. An opportunity to make money through creativity. I want to do this, and I think I will, but I want to wait until my life is a bit more settled in one location, rather than jumping around the country and world like I’ve been doing the past couple of years.

Or I could never do anything in the bakery realm. Maybe get a job with my degree in Women’s studies (once I have it lol). Or maybe get a completely different and unrelated job. Maybe just have this unique trade upbringing stuffed away in my brain to pull out and use for holiday baking and birthday cakes for friends.

Some of the cakes I’ve made for friends and family

I don’t really know what I’m going to do.

For right now, I appreciate being able to make money doing something familiar. I appreciate the experience of working a job much more serious than my past ones. I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I appreciate the skills I have, and the ones I had going in. I appreciate my parents for doing what they do (and did) to give me and my sister a good life.

Most of all I think, I appreciate all the possibilities that came along with my unusual childhood.

I don’t know what I’m going to do, like ever. But there’s something thrilling and encouraging about the widespread possibility.

EDIT: 2/18/24
The cake I made to launch MYRIAD : )