The demand for sweet treats and comfort foods through the pandemic lockdown and reopening has Jessica Deshiro rethinking what she can handle, and what matters most at the end of the day: “Satisfied customers and getting home to my family.”
“I think people underestimate the demands of professional baking,” said Deshiro, the owner of Mammy’s Bakery in Wiscasset Village.
As a single mom of four children, the business owner said that the constant demand, customer expectation, and early morning preparation of baked goods has left her exhausted.
“We’re all burnt out,” said Deshiro, speaking for her coworkers and small business owners alike.
So to cope, Deshiro will downgrade from a wide selection of American-Italian desserts to a more manageable selection of authentic Italian desserts and entrees, using local ingredients and recipes passed down through generations.
The classic Italian pastries, like tiramisu, lemon squares, biscottis, cannolis, lobster tails, and chocolate chip cookies, aren’t going anywhere.
And Deshiro will continue to offer specialty orders for weddings and events, “Just not the three tiered wedding cakes,” she said.
In fact, there will be a greater supply of select homemade pastries and entrees, like lasagna, tortellini, and eggplant parmesan available throughout the day.
“I joke with customers and tell them we’re not Panera Bread, we’re a small batch. When we run out of 10 portions of eggplant parm, we’re out for the day,” said Deshiro.
When Deshiro opened Mammy’s Bakery in Wiscasset Village three years ago she anticipated preparing fresh pasta recipes every day, a base for a variety of sauces and vegetables.
She planned to decorate the front of the bakery with tables from her family home.
But rolling, filling, and shaping the dough into different pasta dishes every morning proved challenging, amid training staff, adjusting to pandemic guidelines, rising customer demands, and a decreasing supply chain of fresh ingredients.
The countertop displays and cases of pastries grew, as customers demanded more baked goods.
“It’s easy to whip up 10 batches of brownies, but that’s not what Mammy’s is all about,” said Deshiro.
With a larger supply of select baked goods, Deshiro will be able to focus on preparing take out pasta dishes, sandwiches, deli salads, eggplant parmesan, chicken parmesan, soups, and other entrees.
She’ll be selling deli meats and cheeses from Boar’s Head, a favorite spot among her American-Italian family members.
To sustain the cost of her prime location, Deshiro will start wholesale distribution of her entrees and pasties to convenience stores in Newcastle, Damariscotta, and Bristol. She decided to close the shop on Tuesday and Sunday to make time for wholesale distribution.
“I’d rather be known for what we’re good at than be mediocre,” said Deshiro.
Her chalkboard menu now reads, “What we have is what you see. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
The unfortunate reality is that some patrons emerged from the pandemic shutdowns with demanding attitudes and unrealistic expectations.
“We’ll always love our customers and the community, but the pandemic has created this sense of entitlement and demand among customers,” she said.
During the busiest hours of the day, customers might storm inside and complain about the limited supply of chocolate chip cookies or cannolis.
“It’s not okay for business owners to take anymore,” Deshiro said.
Like many business owners, she has also been busy adjusting to staff changes.
Deshiro will be looking for someone to replace Liz Pope, “The glue of the bakery,” when Pope returns to teaching this fall.
In the rare moments that Deshiro has to herself at the bakery, she thinks about the realities of her work and why she started the business in the first place: To channel the recipes created by her grandmother, Mary-Lou Deshiro, or Mammy, as Jessica calls her.
Mary-Lou suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which inspired her granddaughter to start selling baked goods at Alzheimer’s walks, where she learned that she could bring awareness through the power of pastries.
Since opening, Deshiro has kept a donation jar on the counter and gives customers more information about Alzheimer’s disease if they want to learn.
Now she’s using the power of pastries to raise awareness and funds for child abuse prevention, and families struggling to put food on the table.
The death of four-year-old Kendall Chick in 2017 sparked an urgency in Deshiro to use her business as a platform for social advocacy.
Prior to the pandemic, Deshiro started a fundraiser for families in need of free meals. Several individuals donate to the fundraiser each week.
“As a single mother of four, I know how stressful it can be to be stuck at home, or trying to make ends meet at work,” said Deshiro.
By adjusting her inventory, reducing her business hours, and giving herself time for self-reflection, Deshiro can raise awareness for social causes.
“Helping to make an impact is so important in the world today,” said Deshiro. “I will always look at my business as a platform for social awareness.”
Mammy’s Bakery, located at 100 Main St. in Wiscasset Village, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Monday. For more information, call 504-4104 or go to mammysbakerymaine.com.