The warm, comforting aroma of freshly baked bread, pastries, cakes and cookies was a constant in Mandy Gay’s childhood home.
Gay remembers being spoiled with scratch-made desserts prepared lovingly from grandparents on both sides, as well as from her mother who she said is brilliant in front of a mixer and oven.
Life continued, and Gay not only realized her love of transforming raw ingredients but also discovered that baking truly does run in her family.
A few years ago, Gay met her husband, John. The pair bonded over many things, including their shared loved for all things sweet and homemade.
Today, the couple travels all over the Orlando region to deliver myriad goodies, such as whoopie pies, coconut macaroons, cookies and cakes.
Last week, Mandy and John Gay opened their first brick-and-mortar endeavor in downtown Winter Garden: Gingers Baking Co.
SELLING LIKE HOT CAKES
After realizing her passion for baking, Mandy Gay started experimenting with ingredients and manipulating recipes until they became her own.
“My house growing up was very often filled with the smell of fresh-baked goods,” she said. “Baking is definitely still nostalgic for me even to this day.”
The couple opened Gingers Baking Co. in 2019 to share their love for the iconic whoopie pie treat from New England.
The pair fondly named the business to match their shared red hair.
Although the original vision for Gingers was a food truck concept of a cafe on wheels, the business started through participating in pop-up events and smaller farmers markets.
“We started to ask ourselves, ‘How do we make Ginger’s stand out? What is our product line going to be? What is going to make us special?’” Mandy Gay said. “People started picking up these whoopie pies and not really knowing what they were, because they’re a very regional type of treat. Being able to explain to people and share with them where they came from and what was important to us as children and now adults is special.”
The bakery began gaining momentum and was accepted into bigger farmers markets, including the one in Winter Garden, which Mandy Gay considers one of the premier markets in Central Florida.
What began as a hobby and weekend gig at local markets bloomed, and the business started to outgrow the home kitchen and commissary kitchen.
Mandy Gay baked, baked and baked — and then baked some more — before asking herself if her passion was something she could turn into a full-time career.
She quit her job to focus completely on the baking business during the pandemic in July 2020.
Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin and the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve even recognized Gingers’ delectability and now carry the bakery’s whoopie pies.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Mandy Gay was renting a kitchen for the past five months to do her baking out of the city of Ocoee.
After the available space on Main Street popped up a few times, the couple decided to go and scope the place out. Mandy Gay said she immediately saw the vision.
“It just made sense to have Gingers here, because the foundation and support was here,” she said. “We picked up a lot of dedicated customers here in Winter Garden who have turned into friends and family. This area is so unique, and it’s just like the small town that I grew up in. Nobody is the same here. You don’t see huge chains or the big-box stores. Instead, you see somebody like me doing their own gig with something that they’re passionate about. It just makes you feel warm inside. This experience has been incredibly difficult, but the support from Winter Garden has just been monumental.”
Throughout the years, Gingers has focused on perfecting and growing its recipes.
The shop currently is offering whoopie pies in flavors such as traditional, confetti and pumpkin for the fall season. However, the menu will continue to expand with featured specialty items.
Gingers also has partnered with a local company that is providing a dark, smooth, Italian-style coffee roasted in Naples, as well as pre-made, flash-frozen pastries such as cornettos.
Gingers ships its novelties nationwide.
MORE THAN FOOD
“I’ve learned that you just have to allow the journey to take you,” Mandy Gay said. “As much as you try and as much as you think you’re really in control of what’s happening, you’re not. This journey has taught us that a thousand-fold. It’s just been a lot of the right person, right time, right product. We’ve just kind of gone about this journey with the mindset that if it feels right and like it fits, then that’s the path we need to follow.”
Mandy and John Gay share a love for fostering relationships with people, and they love that food gives them the ability to do just that.
“We just talk to everybody,” Mandy Gay said. “We identify and can find common ground with nearly everyone. … Work is hard, but if you can find common ground with your colleagues, with your management, with your customers; because regardless of what job you do you’re in customer service. That’s something that’s so important to me. I want customers to come here and feel welcome.”
Mandy Gay said she wants Gingers to be a community space where people feel welcomed, comfortable and safe. The shop also will be a spot where local artists and makers can show off their creations.
“I want this place to be like the cafe version of ‘Cheers,’” she said. “I want that hometown, bakery, hangout joint, where people are clamoring to get in here just to hang. I see this being such a community driven space. For me, it’s more than food.”
John Gay hopes the location is the first of many.
The store is planning for a grand opening in early October.