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Berlin shop celebrating five years of getting ‘Baked’

(March 26, 2015) Since the beginning, Baked Dessert Café in Berlin has been something of an anachronism, much like the town itself, selling things made by hand, in store, sourced from local and all-natural ingredients.
The shop, which is tucked away on 4 Bay Street across from town hall, is celebrating five years in business next month.
“Our goal from the very beginning was to offer really high quality all-natural baked goods,” owner Robin Tomaselli said. “That’s really important to me. I don’t want to feed somebody something I wouldn’t want my own child to eat.
“We have stuck true to that from the very beginning despite the fact that it would probably be easier not to,” Tomaselli said. “It’s something that we really care about, and quite honestly I’d rather close the door on the bakery than to provide something that’s been make on assembly line that’s been frozen for god-knows-how-long that somebody is going to sell and call ‘fresh baked.’ We’ve stuck really true to that.”
Tomaselli caught the baking bug at an early age, thanks to the talents of her grandmother.
“I have a huge family and she was just an incredible cook and a baker,” she said. “You didn’t have a meal at her house without having dessert, so my sweet tooth got started really early.”
Like they do at Baked Dessert, Tomaselli’s grandmother made everything from scratch and often improvised.
“There are so many people that are discouraged about baking because, when you hear pastry chefs or bakers talking about baking, it’s always described as an exact science. Things have to be measured perfectly,” she said. “That’s probably true in some recipes, but I can tell with you my grandmother it was pinch here, a dash there. There was a lot of experimentation and I do exactly the same thing.
“Sometimes the things that I try and we experiment with don’t work, but that’s part of the process,” Tomaselli continued. “Other times they work better than you would have ever expected.”
Six years ago, Tomaselli was busy running “a little cake and cupcake business back across the big bridge.” An increasing number of family members, meanwhile, had moved to the Eastern Shore.
“My husband and I knew we wanted to come this way eventually and a little location on Main Street became available,” she said. “I’ve always loved Berlin, so as soon as I saw that I was like, ‘My gosh I would love to open a little bakery in Berlin.’”
Tomaselli’s husband was instantly onboard.
“He said, ‘Let’s go ahead and make the move,’ kind of four years ahead of schedule,” she said.
The honeymoon period in Berlin lasted roughly a year, when the landlord abruptly announced the building on Main Street would be sold, and Baked Dessert would have to vacate the premises.
“We had 30 days to move,” Tomaselli said. “That was a pretty stressful time for us.”
Things appeared grim when the late Ed Hammond, who played a major role in the restoration of Berlin historical sites such as the Atlantic Hotel and Calvin B. Taylor house, stepped in to save the day.
“He called me the day we found out we were getting kicked out of our space and told us he had just gotten word that Patrick Henry, whose gallery was here, was moving out,” Tomaselli said. “He was like, ‘We want you to stay in town,’ and we didn’t want to go anywhere other than Berlin.
“We looked at the space and they really helped us by allowing us to do remodeling for 30 days without paying any rent, which allowed us to move and only be closed for four days so that we didn’t miss out on tourist season,” Tomaselli said. “If we had been closed for the summer, that would not have been great for us.”
Tomaselli called the move to Bay Street, “the best thing that ever happened to us.”
“It’s a much larger space and it allowed us to add things like lunches and wine, which has been a really good thing for our business,” she said. “It’s also allowed us indoor seating, which we didn’t have over at the other location.”
The new space also allowed Baked Dessert to display local artwork, something that Tomaselli said has leant a homey quality to the bakery.
“Customers comment on that all the time,” she said. “When they’re in here, they feel like they’re in somebody’s home. That makes me feel good, because I love our customers and I want them to feel at home here and be really relaxed.”
The move also added a touch of mystique to the shop, like a speakeasy that serves “croclairs” (a croissant-éclair hybrid).
Tomaselli was quick to capitalize on the notion.
“Because we were off the beaten path a little bit people were saying, ‘You guys are kind of like Seacrets, you’ve got to find you in order to get baked,’” she said. “That kind of stuck and we’ve been using ‘Get Baked’ [in advertising] ever since.”
Today, Baked Dessert is an integral part of the Berlin community, home of the official town pastry, a signature peach dumpling, as well as artisan bread, custom cakes, vegan and gluten-free offerings, and craft beer and wine tastings.
Despite the change in location and the massively increased attention the town has received during the last five year, Tomaselli insists she has stayed true to her roots.
“We can honestly say right down to our sprinkles that we don’t use anything artificial – no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no preservatives, no trans fats,” Tomaselli said. “That’s something that, as long as our doors are open, will be true.”
Plans are under way to add homemade gelato to the menu, meaning every pastry instantly becomes à la mode optional. Tomaselli also said the shop will have an increased presence at local farmer’s markets, beginning with Ocean Pines.
“We like being small, but we’re going to start to branch out a little bit more,” she said. “We’re excited about that.”
Tomaselli has also been a key figure in the “be a concierge” mantra in Berlin, where businesses cross-promote rather than compete, keeping the atmosphere positive and the flow of business through town constant.
“I love this town,” Tomaselli said. “I love the people in it. We think we have the best customers on the planet. Outside of us sticking true to what our initial goal and mission was, the town works really hard to bring people into Berlin, which helps every single one of us. I think it’s important for all of us to succeed, and we should be rooting for each other. That makes us all successful.”