Craving comfort food? Two Fort Wayne bakers are finding ways to get fresh confections to customers

Sarah Thompson makes bread, sweets and more. Entrepreneurship often requires business owners to think on their feet. But what happens when a pandemic challenges you to completely rethink how you get your product in the hands of the customer? Two local bakers have done just that—and their approach has been met with a great response from the Fort Wayne community as sales of comfort foods are on the rise nationally. 

Following the announcement of Gov. Eric Holcomb's shelter-in-place order, Sarah Thompson with Qué Será, Sarah Bakery has pivoted in recent weeks to continue bringing her baked goodness to her corner of the world. She previously sold her creations at places like the YLNI Farmers Market, but the new normal has precluded her and other food vendors from doing so. Instead, she turned to the power of the web and the conscious community to remain operational during this unprecedented time.

“This virus has caused me to up my online presence and ordering,” she says. “I've always offered online ordering, but previously, my minimums for ordering were a lot higher. Now, people can just order 1-2 items at a time instead of a whole batch at a time.”

Thompson allows customers to order ahead on her website, and she makes contactless pickup available from her porch in Roanoke. The response from her customer base speaks for itself; she almost sold out of her first pre-order sale. Last week she was close to selling out of her chocolate Babka knots. In her words, “the support has been amazing, and I'm so grateful that Fort Wayne is choosing small businesses right now.”

Que Sera, Sarah is known for artisanal basked goods.

Thompson's reputation for delicious baked goods precedes her. She says her sourdough prosciutto and Gruyere croissants are the most popular, "but everything really sells pretty evenly." Thompson attributes the popularity of her items to her artisan touch. 

“All of my baked goods are naturally leavened with my sourdough starter, and people really appreciate that!” she says.

Speaking of sourdough, Thompson also offers sourdough starters and bread-making classes on her Instagram account, so residents with extra time on their hands during the pandemic can learn some baking skills from home.

Angie Harrison of Bakerson Pies is spreading joy through the power of pastries.

Like Thompson, Angie Harrison of Bakerson Pie Co. has innovated in recent weeks in response to COVID-19. March 14 was her last in-person sale, as the governor’s order went into effect the following Monday. 

She decided to hit the pause button on production until she had figured out what the new restrictions meant for her business. 

“Then, as I was watching everything kind of transpire and shift, a couple of weeks passed,” she says. “I got to thinking: What do I need to do? How do I keep sustainability in the midst of all of this? I was watching what others were doing and seeing how it was affecting restaurants, and people were moving towards delivery and pickup.”

It was then Harrison had a bit of a eureka moment. Working out of CookSpring, a communal kitchen in Fort Wayne, she says figuring out accessibility wasn’t a novel concept. She doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront, so it was just a matter of shifting her communication and operations to accommodate the new way of doing things.

Previously, customers had picked up orders from the commercial kitchen. So the curbside model wasn’t completely foreign to her following. In addition to pickup, she offers delivery within the city limits for a nominal fee.

So far she says both arrangements seem to be working out. Customers are buying pies for a variety of occasions and keeping her busy with requests for treats for grandparents, birthday celebrations, and even office parties via Zoom. Harrison serves full-sized pies, as well as mini ones, all packed with sweet or savory flavors. 

But there’s more to her business than making money from her crusty confections. If you ask her, it’s more about another c-word: Connection. 

“Part of what I enjoy about this business, and the reason that it even exists, is the whole notion of relationship and community... how people come together around food and events,” she says. “Even in the midst of our isolation, I think there are ways to still stay connected, and food sometimes is one of those ways to bring a little goodness everywhere you go.”

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.