Custom cake decorating wasn’t always the plan. But after three years in business, Gina-Marie Semkiw says she’s found a job she truly loves to do as well as a supportive community to do it in. Semkiw is the owner of Gina-Marie’s Cake Boutique which is located on 51 Bridge St in Amsterdam, NY and offers unique cake designs for all sorts of occasions including weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries.
Semkiw grew up in Fort Johnson, NY and attended Amsterdam schools. After high school, she studied in Rome, Italy as an international businesses student. She then returned to the Capital District and was accepted at Albany Law School, but decided that the field wasn’t for her. After that, she spent some time trying to figure out her career direction.
“I’ve always been artistic, I’ve always sculpted,” said Semkiw. She said watching episodes of the reality television show “Cake Boss” provided the early inspiration to merge her artistic abilities with baking cakes.
“I said that looks like a lot of fun. That’s something I can do,” said Semkiw.
Semkiw credits her mother for challenging her to think about her direction in life and providing encouragement and support for her business venture.
“My mom’s friend had me make a sweet sixteen cake. I did a ‘Chanel Purse’… And it came out awesome! And everybody from that party was like, how can we order from you?”
Unprepared for orders, she thought for a while about the idea of starting an actual business, but then decided to go for it.
At first, her mother provided her with a kitchen to work from. After a year’s time, she moved to a rental kitchen as orders increased.
“I started getting more orders and more orders, and I loved it and I thought it was great. I was starting to get better and better. I would just start reading, watching online tutorials, reading books on it, just to get more familiar with techniques,” said Semkiw.
In April, Semkiw moved into the former location of Dolci Bake Shoppe on Bridge Street.
“I had always seen this space here and always loved it,” said Semkiw. “When this space became available…I was like I want that space!”
“I love this area. I know everyone who owns businesses across the street and next door. I just thought it was a great area to be in,” she added.
She recounted how she had a problem recently with a large order she had to fill, and turned to the community for help.
“It was a thousand plus cupcakes and I thought I had enough counter space… but I just didn’t.”
After calling around, Phil Rossignol of Southside Food Company and Jackie Parillo of Armory Grill both loaned her some tables so she could get the job done.
“I love the community here, it’s awesome, they’re so nice,” she added.
Looking to the future, Semkiw says she would like to offer decorating classes, tea-parties for children, and if she can obtain the appropriate license, a “decorate and sip” event with wine for adults. She may also consider opening for daily retail sales if the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge generates enough foot traffic.
In regards to the pedestrian bridge, she said, “I think once it opens, it will be beneficial for not only the [Bridge Street] area, but the Riverlink Park, because it’s so beautiful over there,” she said.
She recounted a recent visit from a college friend she studied with in Rome, Italy who came away with a positive impression from the city’s waterfront area.
“I’m going to come back here, this is beautiful…this area is beautiful,” she recalled her friend saying. “That’s a complete outsider’s perspective, who has never been here before, has never heard too much about [the city], and she thought it was awesome.”
No matter what future path the business takes, Semkiw says she always hopes to be involved with the decorating part of the operation.
“I love being able to carve a cake into something…as long as my hands keep working, I never want to stop that aspect,” she said. “I really love decorating cakes. Love it!”
To have a cake made by Gina-Marie’s Cake Boutique, call (518) 466-9886 for an appointment. Or connect via the Facebook page.