Thursday, January 1, 2015


This is the 15th Anniversary of the opening of BONNI BAKES and the VILLAGE OF THE ARTS in Bradenton, Florida. My late husband Rea & I were part of a band of eclectic folks who believed, just like Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland in those old flicks, that together we kids could put on a great show.
Rea created The Villager newspaper in 2002
Back then we were all swept up in the vortex of enthusiasm & optimism, and spurred on by our collective creative energy. We believed in the dream that this neglected neighborhood could be re-invented as a place for artists to live, work & prosper. To that end we were willing to invest our time, hard work and limited funds to make it a reality. And each one of us had our own story.

The original look in 2000
If the Affordable Care Act had existed in 1999, I wouldn't be here today. In October 1997, two weeks after I transitioned from being a Clinical Social Worker to a full-time home-based baker in North Carolina, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later we moved to Bradenton, but since my health insurance was connected to my small business, I needed to relocate the business too. At that time in Florida you couldn't bake out of your house and sell to others, so we had to find a building we could convert into my boutique bakery. On September 10, 1999 we closed on a house at 930 12th Street W., and once renovations were complete, we opened the first new business in the fledgling Village of the Arts...BONNI BAKES Bakery/Cafe

My Grandmother the family baker

From the time I was a little kid, I loved spending weekends with my grandparents. My Grandmother was an incredible baker who turned out oodles of cakes, cookies and breads from a tiny gas oven in their small kitchen. I would wake up Saturday morning to the intoxicating aromas of fresh baked food. The living room furniture, covered with clean white sheets, held the amazing results of her baking since 5 am. 

The main dining room at Bonni Bakes

My goal was to create a comfortable environment where people could relax and eat delicious food, freshly made using pure ingredients, at a reasonable price. And I did. Fifteen years later people still talk about those great thin crust pizzas. 

The Mahon Pizza I created was a favorite
I had never made a pizza before, although being from Brooklyn, I knew what great pizza tasted like. In those early days I invited all the gallery owners over for taste testings. They agreed that dough #7 was perfect, and so it became my standard crust for the next 12 years.
Vegan Pizza was always available
In the beginning there was my first true love BREAD.

Crusty loaves, Breadstix, crackers, muffins, flatbread, biscotti, sweet breads & more

The hardest part was figuring out how to produce enough by myself, a self-taught baker. I ultimately worked it out with the wonderful help of customers, many of whom became friends. There were hectic times when customers on their lunch hour picked up the slack...Lori the lawyer served drinks and Father Ron took orders. 

Hardly a grey hair back in the early days

Many people brought their favorite CDs to play & share as well. Romances started in that dining room and new businesses were forged. Fund raisers, like CAFE and ARTSY UNDIES, helped educate & support community activities. 

First Place Winner of Artsy Undies Breast Cancer Fundraiser 
We were a family that extended out the door & included the Village of the Arts community too. The year Rea died I hosted a communal Thanksgiving Dinner which helped to ease the pain in my heart. Here are some of the other food memories we enjoyed through the years.

Spanish Salad from our Minorcan Dinner
One of many critters I sculpted out of dough
Our 7 cakes for Franny's Quinceanera

A catered tray of Asian Summer Rolls
House baked bagel with cream cheese & lox platter
New York Onion Rolls              
Homemade soup was always on the menu
Unique cookies for all occasions
Painted Desert artfully decorated crackers
Middle Eastern lunch platter with fresh pita
Rugelach ala Grandma
Lots of things have changed over the past 15 years. I've shared the Village's bumpy ride from "dream" to today's "reality". Let's celebrate!!
Join me during the January ArtWalk this Friday from 6-9pm and help celebrate 15 years since we both opened & enjoy FREE cake.
Stop by my driveway at 932 12th St West, where I'll be set up.

I'll resume my regular baking schedule next Monday by posting the week's MENU on January 5th. Until then,
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, prosperous & peaceful NEW YEAR

Hugs from my kitchen,
Bonni (aka Bakes) and the newly Pinkie Twinkie

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