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.
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