Thursday, September 3, 2015


I’m leaving Bradenton exactly 16 years since Rea & I first bought a house in the newly designated Village of the Arts. We were the second ones, closing just a week after Graciela Giles. Rea designed the renovation to house BONNI BAKES, which started out as a wholesale boutique bakery. 

After a while I felt isolated & missed interacting with people. So the next year I started making those famous thin-crust pizzas a few times a week. Ultimately we became a bakery/cafe, offering lunch 5 days a week. 

I've met, loved and sometimes lost many wonderful people over the past 16 years, including my own mother & husband Rea in 2003.

Lots of positive change has taken place in the Village over the years and BONNI BAKES was always in the thick of it. Join me for a stroll down memory lane looking back at some of the food, customers (many of whom became good friends) and events that make up those memories.

I started baking Breadstix, crackers, breads, muffins & cookies (especially Chocolate Orgasm Cookies). Soon they were joined by pizza, stromboli, soup, salad & lunch specials. 

I created C.A.F.E. (Community Arts Fundraising Event) where diners enjoyed a simple meal then voted to donate the cost of their meal to a local non-profit project. 


"Mommy or Daddy & Me" intergenerational baking classes were lots of fun for all ages. We were the first restaurant in Bradenton to be permitted to offer Doggie Dining at our outside patio, separate menus of course. 

I gave my building & facilities over to various charities for free so they could have fundraising events. Rick Kerby, a trained chef as well as the Artistic Director, cooked up some great meals & raked in some great money for the Manatee Players.

One year I decided to work fewer hours and invited guest chefs to provide a different cuisine each day at lunch. We offered Spanish tapas, Persian, Macrobiotic, classic French, Latin Caribbean & Southern Comfort. In addition, there were unique dinners featuring Paella, Minorcan specialties & Ethiopian. 

And then there were cooking demos & classes; customers who decorated Christmas cookies that we donated to local charities, and lunches made up solely of organic veggies from my Geraldson Community Farm CSA share.

BONNI BAKES was a favorite venue for parties, whether we only catered them or hosted as well. Various birthdays & anniversaries were celebrated; we provided wedding cakes for the two Village weddings; Lee's retirement party from Good Earth Natural Food Stores was a bitter-sweet celebration, and we hosted several Pot-Luck Community Thanksgiving dinners too.

I believe that Anna D'Aste & I outdid ourselves making the 7 (count them) colorful cakes for Franny's Quinceanera.

I've spent several stints on the Village Board of Directors and am proud to have written the Banner Grant, which helped us begin to create "place-making" in the early days. 

As a clinical social worker I was happy to collaborate with the Boys & Girls Club in writing a grant for "Culture Vultures". The 6 week program improved self esteem of the participants by creating art alongside professional artists in their Village studios. 

As an 18 year breast cancer survivor, I was motivated to raise funds for Breast Cancer Research by creating "Artsy Undies", an art show that filled every wall with locally decorated bras that all screamed WE NEED MORE SURVIVORS!!

When I found out that nothing was being done to raise funds for a local Prostate Cancer Support Group, I created "Artsy Undies 2". It was a show composed of decorated tidy whities, jock straps & boxers.

Over the years we've especially focused on exposing young children to art. In addition to housing the Culture Vultures Gallery, we welcomed young students from PS 9; I put together a summer program for Harllee middle school & hired artists from the Village to teach in their medium, and held a month long art show featuring the work of 4-6 year olds from a local daycare. The focus of "Arts Alive" included numerous school children in Manatee County who decorated the Funky Men.

People still ask me when 
are the belly dancers coming
back? They were such a hit    
during "Dancing thru the Village"
an event that also had a Conga Line & a dozen other dance groups performing at different galleries.

I've been a recipe tester for several national cookbooks & appreciate those customers who bravely tasted & rated the results for the authors. Remember when we baked our way through classic Brooklyn bakery favorites including bagels, bialys, black & whites, pletzl, mohn cakes, rugelach, babka and onion rolls.

And let's not forget the fantastic fruit from our organic
  Keitt mango tree, which worked its way into cookies, cakes, jams, fruit butter & ice pops. 

For me it's the end of an era and I want to say a sweet "goodbye" to everyone who has helped me celebrate my years in Bradenton. Stop by BONNI BAKES during Friday's ArtWalk for some free baked goods & a hug. See you there at 930 12th St W between 6-9pm.

Hugs from my kitchen, and Elvis is out of the building