Phil Castle, The Business Times
Crystal Umberger believes desserts and other sweet treats should justify the indulgence. “If you’re going to eat the calories, it should be worth it.”
That’s why Umberger goes to great lengths to bake cakes, cookies and other pastries that taste every bit as good as they look. She uses only fresh ingredients and cream-based frostings, then delivers her wares from her kitchen, usually the same day she makes them.
That kind of attention to detail — along with the connections she’s made with local businesses and through social media — has turned an avocation into a rapidly growing vocation. Sales during February, for example, topped her first years in business combined, she says. “It’s really just now starting to expand.”
If the trend continues, Umberger hopes to expand her operation to keep pace, hiring help and eventually building a commercial kitchen.
Umberger operates Pistachio, a Fruita bakery she named after a key ingredient in some of her favorite baked goods. She officially launched the venture almost two years ago, drawing on a passion for baking that went back to her high school days making a pistachio cake from an aunt’s recipe.
A state law that allows entrepreneurs to sell certain food products directly to consumers without health department licensing or permitting enabled Umberger to both operate a business and remain at home to care for her two sons.
Pistachio offers an alternative for customers who want homemake pastries for events, gifts or the occasionally decadent dessert, Umberger says.
The bakery offers an extensive menu of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies and scones from which to choose — along with a variety of flavors and frostings. There’s chocolate and vanilla, of course, but also lemon and orange as well as carrot cake and peanut butter.
Umberger also offers what she calls her signature pastries, starting with her take on her aunt’s recipe for pistachio cake. She says she’s makes a more dense and moist cake than the original. “It’s just unique.”
She also makes an iced pistachio scone, pistachio cream cupcake and a milk chocolate cookie with milk chocolate chips. Her signature brownies are made with Enstrom almond toffee.
Pistachio also accommodates special orders for those craving a favorite flavor, Umberger says. She once made salted pistachio port wine brownies for a wedding reception.
She packages her orders in rustic brown cardboard boxes with clear plastic windows, tied twine and labeled with handwritten tags. “It just feels more gourmet, like a treat.”
Umberger says she bakes all her pastries to order, usually in the mornings, then delivers in the afternoons. Pistachio offers free delivery in Fruita and delivers elsewhere in the Grand Valley for $5.
Demand varies with the seasons, Umberger says. Brownies have been especially popular lately. But she expects to sell more cupcakes with pistachios and lemons during the warmer summer weather.
Even as Umberger fills individual orders, she also sells a lot of her wares for special occasions and events, most recently Mother’s Day and high school and college graduations. She also expects to cater a lot of weddings.
Rather than the more traditional wedding cakes, a growing proportion of couples prefer a dessert bar offering a variety of cakes, cookies and brownies, she says.”It really gives you a good mix of a variety. It looks pretty, too.”
Umberger has set up what she called a pop-up shop to sell her wares and has scheduled another event for June 6 at the On the List nail bar and beauty salon at 2490 F Road, No. 1, in Grand Junction. “I basically set up a tiny bakery.” she says.
In addition to events, Umberger says she sells pastries to businesses that offer them as gifts to customers and sweet treats to employees.
Sales have picked up, she says, thanks in large part to the connections she’s made with local businesses as well as her marketing efforts through Facebook, Instagram and other social media venues. “That’s totally catapulted me. That’s been huge. And it’s free, which is the best.”
For now, Umberger handles the business herself with occasional assistance from her sons and husband. But if the operation continues to grow, she expects to hire help.
Ultimately, she says she’d like to build a commercial kitchen separate from the rest of her home to offer a place to bake and accommodate consultations with her customers for weddings and other events.
In the meantime, Umberger says she’ll continue to concentrate on making sweet treats well worth the indulgence.
To place an order from Pistachio, send an e-mail to email@example.com. For more information about the bakery, visit the Web site at www.pistachiopastries.com.