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The Cottage Bakery

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

A sweet little roadside cottage along county Route 57, a half-mile onto Point Peninsula, may seem virtuous but open its door and the sinful delights inside will tempt and delight you: cupcakes, cookies, donuts, brownies, cheesecakes, and oh, so much more! These wickedly splendid treats are made by the most remarkable woman. She is a woman who has never been deterred by hard-work, hardship, or heartbreak.  Cathy Gallagher is the sole baker and owner of The Cottage Bakery.

Cathy was not destined to be a baker. After graduating from Watertown High School in the 70s, she attended St. Joseph’s College of Nursing in Syracuse. Bumps in the road happened and she dropped out. She tried staying in the field, becoming an hospital aide for a while, but it was not to last.

One night, while enjoying a night out with co-workers at Benny’s Steakhouse, a prominent Watertown professional robustly attempted to coax Cathy to be his mistress. A handsome young man saw what was transpiring, placed his arm around Cathy’s shoulders, and sternly told the married gentleman to “leave my future wife alone.” 

That handsome young man was Bob Gallagher. He and Cathy started dating after that evening and married on February 21, 1976 at Sacred Heart Church in Watertown. Bob was always Cathy’s biggest supporter and champion. Cathy describes Bob as her one true love, her soul mate. They were together 43 years until his untimely death this past June.

Between her two professions of hospital aide and baker, Cathy worked at a Watertown radio station as a Traffic Manager. She worked at that radio station for twelve years, from the ground up, until a portentous merger and the top tier were let go on New Year’s Eve.

Undaunted, she took the severance package from the radio station and enrolled in classes at Jefferson Community College, graduating with two Associate degrees, one in Business and the other in Culinary Arts. 

She also began working as a prep cook at Sboro’s Restaurant. As her dessert making skills improved and gained recognition, she graduated from prep cook to dessert maker.

Post JCC, at 44 years of age, she pursued her Bachelors degree from SUNY Potsdam in Economics. 

Steadfast and focused, still regularly working at Sboro’s making desserts, her two children both teens at the time, Bob always her encourager, she attended classes at Potsdam on Tuesdays and Thursdays from sun-up to sundown. And, in one and a half years, she graduated in 2002 with honors, Magna Cum Laude.

Her desserts were gaining notice, and a profit, at Sboro’s. Before she took over, only 8% of their food revenue was dessert-based. After Cathy took over, that percentage jumped to 30%! With Sboro’s encouragement, Cathy created Desserts by Design, a high-end bakery creating signature desserts for local restaurants, special occasions, and fundraisers; all created in the kitchen at Sboro’s solely by Cathy. Cathy still supplies Sboro’s desserts to this day, employing her for over 22 years now.

Then came the call from JCC, an instructor remembered her culinary talents as a student and asked if she would be interested in sharing her skills as an Adjunct in their Culinary Arts Program. She accepted. Cathy taught Intro to Culinary, Baking 1, Baking 2, and Quantity Foods from 2006 to 2018.

Along the way, Bob and Cathy purchased land on Point Peninsula and built a garage with an apartment. They sold their house in Watertown in 2009 and moved into the apartment above the garage while an adjoining house was built. 

After the house was completed, the apartment space above the garage was the perfect space to convert into Cathy’s Desserts by Design kitchen. When the space was ready for production, the Health Inspector noticed during the review the large amount of traffic that passed by the residence — it IS the only road in and out of Point Peninsula — and suggested to Cathy that she put a stand with her desserts by the road.

And…The Cottage Bakery was born!

Cathy, never one to retreat from extra work, purchased a 10 x 12 shed from North Country Storage, and in addition to her Sboro’s responsibilities, JCC classes, and recurring Desserts by Design orders, she started stocking The Cottage Bakery shed in 2012 with cupcakes, cookies, fried cakes, brownies, breads, and so much more! 

The Cottage Bakery operates on the “honor system”  — a system that works well in our rural small towns — where her customers pay for the desserts they choose to purchase with cash and leave it in a lock box located within the shed.

The honor system only works for the honorable and Cathy had to take matters into her own hands on one occasion. 

A few years ago, Cathy noticed a red pickup frequenting her Cottage throughout a Father’s Day Sunday and at the end of the day, when totals were much lower than expected she became suspicious. When she saw the same red pickup truck make a second stop at her Cottage the following day, she confronted the perpetrator! Without fear, she questioned the young man, observed incriminating physical evidence of his crimes in his truck, and threatened him. After he left, she called the police and an arrest was made.

Today, in its ninth season, the Cottage Bakery is a bit bigger. Cathy has replaced the original 10 x 12 shed with a 12 x 16 shed, and her son, Ethan has finished the interior so that she can be open year-round. So, although the Cottage is typically open Memorial Weekend though Columbus Day, Cathy has already opened for the season with the renovations to the Cottage. As well as offering her scrumptious treats, she has expanded the menu to include: soups, side dishes, one-dish meals, local farm-fresh eggs, and seasonal local produce. She also offers hot coffee, iced coffee, and bottled beverages.

Cathy truly has a passion for baking. She describes her kitchen as her sanctuary. And, nothing makes her happier than seeing the smiles her desserts bring to her customers’ faces.

Despite the heartache of losing Bob in June, she has not slowed down. During our conversation, she pointed to a box of tissues and mentioned that there are several boxes around her kitchen and house. She allows herself to mourn, to cry but then she wipes her tears and keeps moving forward.

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Cathy is always available for a fundraiser. She regularly collaborates with the Lyme Free Library hosting Victorian Tea Parties and Culinary Classes in her kitchen. Give her a call for your next charity event: (315) 408-7318

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Mary Madison Studios

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

Weddings are magical. As in, whether a large ceremony with hundreds of guests, or standing together in front of the Justice of the Peace with your closest friends and parents, you’ll be in a dreamlike state for the entire event. When the day is over, and the enchantment has worn off, the two of you will look back on the day and wonder, “did we eat?”

Enter the importance of the wedding photographer! Photos of your special day will help you recall all the beautiful memories of the occasion.

What better duo to capture those memories, than the husband and wife team of Mary Madison Studios! They understand the enchantment, the flow of the wedding, the unexpected moments, and the occasional bumps in the process. They’re married; they’ve experienced the magic, and they know exactly how to seize those moments that seem fleeting during your cherished day!

Kathleen and Dave Bonney are the artists that make-up Mary Madison Studios. The business name comes from their middle names: Kathleen Mary and Dave Madison. Both grew up in Cape Vincent, became friends over their passion for photography, and fell in love. 

Kathleen, also known as Kat, formally a Trottier, credits The Latimars, a brother and sister photography team from Boston, for teaching her the fundamentals of wedding shoots. Dave attributes his time spent in Rochester after graduating from JCC and years photographing arbitrary patrons while tending bar, for honing his skills. And, both acknowledge the discovery of their eye for photography to Cape resident, and retired TI Art Teacher, George Mingle. When each was a High School student, they took his Black & White Photography Class and realized then they had a talent with the camera.

Mary Madison Studios has been in business since 2015. In those five years, they have fulfilled 75 weddings! As well as, get married to each other – in June 2017 – buy a house, and have a baby – in July 2019. WHEW!

What sets Mary Madison apart from other wedding photographers, is the time and care Dave and Kat spend with the couple. Dave credits Kat with an important conversation that many are afraid to present. Kathleen sits down with the bride-to-be to discuss the realty versus expectation of the wedding day to dispel unrealistic goals.

On the day of the wedding, Dave and Kathleen start their day early, and are the last to leave at the end of the day. They split at first, Kathleen follows every movement of the bride and bridesmaids, Dave monitors every detail of the groom and the groomsmen. Coming together for the ceremony to work jointly to get those perfect shots. At the reception, they work the crowd to get those “spontaneous” shots as well as the traditional. Dave has been known to prove his skill for dancing too when the party floor needs a livelier participation. 

By spending that extra time with the couple, caring enough to be early and stay to the very end, they guarantee the couple more genuine memories of their special day.

I asked Dave and Kathleen if the wedding photography field was a cutthroat business. They completely dismissed any notion of competition. Just the contrary, they described it as a nurturing and generous environment. They’re friends with most of the North Country photographers. And, if Dave and Kat can’t fulfill a wedding, they happily refer the engaged couple to one of the trusted, local wedding photographers, because they know the same would be done for them.

One local wedding photographer, whom Dave and Kathleen seek advice from and consider a mentor, also lives in Cape Vincent. Kristen of Kristen Charles Photography is a portrait photographer with a studio located in Watertown. When Dave and Kathleen need business advice, or have a question about photography, they go to Kristen. It was Kristen, whom they chose, to be their photographer when they wedded in Dave’s father’s backyard in the summer of 2017.

Talking with Dave and Kathleen, it’s clear their passion for photography. They both get a twinkle in their eye and a glow about them when they talk about their craft. And, they don’t do just weddings, they also do engagement, newborn, maternity, lifestyle, and senior photos. 

Mary Madison Studios is not their only profession. Kathleen is employed at Converse Laboratories Inc in Watertown. The company that originally started as a dairy lab, and today is better known for testing drinking and non-potable water supplies. Dave works for Watertown Savings Bank. He is also a trustee on the Village Board; and, is enthusiastic to be working with current Mayor Golden and his vision for riverfront revitalization.

When they are not working their day jobs or shooting photos, they are busy caring for and raising the cutest baby. Owen entered their lives in July 2019. Always the professionals and undeterred by swollen ankles, Dave and Kathleen were shooting a wedding five days before Owen’s arrival! They also like to work on their house, as well as travel when they get the chance.

You can access the Mary Madison Studios portfolio through their website: http://marymadisonstudios.com/  You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

“Mary Madison Studios” was published in the March 11th edition of the Thousand Islands Sun newspaper, as well as the Chamber newsletter.