Editor’s note: Unfortunately, since this article was published, Nana’s Bakerz Dozen had to close it’s doors on Main St. According to co-owner Brooke Ayala, her mother Dawn Jobin is still taking orders from customers by phone or email. “They can phone her at 518-866-6571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and advise if the order is emailed it has not been placed until we call them to confirm the receipt of their email and review with them their order.”
Brooke Ayala can’t recall the first name of the white-haired man who she was waiting on before our interview, but her little daughter Gabby calls him “Santa Claus” and she knows he has a dog named Otis who accompanied him the first time he visited the shop. He’s from out-of-town, but stops in to Nana’s Bakerz Dozen every week during the summer.
“I’ve worked hard to not be just a bakery,” said Ayala, who is a co-owner of the business.
And indeed, I get the sense that customers come to the shop on Main Street in Amsterdam for something a little more than just the cookies, cupcakes, muffins, pastries, breads, lunches and breakfasts they offer daily.
Paying attention to her customers seems to come naturally for her and her mother and business partner Dawn Jobin, who chatted with the handful of customers in the shop while I was there. Two of her three children, daughter Gabby and son Nathan, were also there that day, and as it turns out, each have their own role in the business.
Raising three kids while operating a bakery would be challenging enough for any person. But on top of all that, Ayala said she also battles against several chronic health problems, including Crohn’s Disease. But her attitude remains optimistic, looking for the good that comes through adversity. In fact it was her health problems that originally brought her and her mother together to form the business.
“In 2013, I got really sick and I was living in Florida at the time,” she recounted. It was then that she decided to move back to New York to live with her mother, who had been baking on the side to earn extra money.
Fortunately, after moving, Ayala’s health began to improve. The two brought their baked goods to the City of Amsterdam’s farmer’s market last year and because of the good response they received, they decided to open up a storefront on 44 Main Street in Amsterdam in November 2014. The space had been recently rehabilitated by the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency.
“I think of Amsterdam as the town that got forgotten,” Ayala said.
Initially, she didn’t feel a connection to the city’s downtown area. However, she recalled an experience that changed her mind.
“A couple months after we opened, my car broke down by [the old Key Bank],” she said. “It was all lit up for Christmas. It was snowing really bad. It was just dusk, so you could just see, it was really beautiful, I don’t know how to explain it. My car broke down there right in the middle of the street. And I was about to get upset and yell some things I probably shouldn’t. But instead I started walking around and I was like, wow it’s really beautiful right here, at this moment right now.”
“I don’t think I felt any sort of pride for the city until that moment,” she added.
That ability to look at the beauty in the midst of a bad situation is what keeps her going, even through the late nights and early mornings that are required to sustain the business.
“Even when you have a bad day, you can’t give up,” she said.
Fortunately, her three children are able help when they can.
“They stock the coolers, when we get the deliveries for the Pepsi and the Snapple,” said Ayala. About her daughter Gabby, she said, “She helps mom wash the dishes. She unwraps the Hershey’s Kisses for the peanut butter blossoms.”
Her son Nathan helps come up with new ideas for cookies.
“I sleep and make cookies, ” he said with a smile from behind the counter.
“Him and I are like the creative ones,” said Ayala. “We like to throw stuff into a bowl and see how much stuff we can throw in there and what we can make it taste like. There’s a cookie in there right now called the ‘campfire cookie’, which is a s’more cookie basically, and he and I came up with that.”
Her teenage son Adrian also helps take orders from behind the counter.
Besides operating the storefront, she said that the bakery is also pursuing business-to-business deals. According to Ayala, the bakery currently supplies goods to Mohawk Dairy and Fresh Basil in Amsterdam, as well as Dairy Frost in Johnstown.
Looking ahead, the bakery will be unveiling some new interior decorations to the public at an “ice cream social” event coming up August 29. This winter, they will also be offering a free cookie to anyone who donates a hat, scarf or other winter clothing item at the shop. The collected items will be donated to the Danielle’s House homeless shelter in Amsterdam.
To find out more about Nana’s Bakerz Dozen, please visit their Facebook page or call (518) 842-4640.