Eight years ago, she walked into my West Bloomfield store with a little plastic baggy full of cookies.
“Can I sell these here?” she asked Larry Krispin, whose shoulders arched up in a shrug.
“Why not? We’ll give it a shot,” he said.
For five years, Polly Levey-Carpenter baked her chocolate-chip loaves at a friend’s restaurant and sold them at Hiller’s. When the restaurant closed, she came to Krispin once again. “Can I bake at your store?” she asked.
“We’ll give it a shot,” he said.
Polly spends her days at my Plymouth store, overseeing a staff of bakers who mix flour, eggs, chips, butter, nuts and other quality ingredients into swirling batters.
Only the best ingredients go into Polly’s Pastries: Diamond walnuts, Amish Country eggs, fresh-squeezed orange juice. By hand, she whirls streusel in the middle of each cake and applies lemon glaze. Perhaps I like her so much because she is driven by a love of what she does. But I also like the melts-on-the-tongue softness of her baked goods.
Sour cream coffee cake, banana chocolate chip, double chocolate, Michigan dried cherry, triple chocolate fudge pinwheels, everything sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. There are ten handmade products now, and we sell 3,000 packages a month.
“My name’s on all these products,” says Polly. “It’s important to me to turn out something authentic. If it doesn’t come out well, it doesn’t go out.”
You’ll see her in many of my stores, sitting at a demo table, slicing just-baked cakes into sample bites. I am comforted by Polly’s presence, by her hard-working determination and talent striving to give Hiller’s shoppers something unique.
As a kid, Polly baked with her great-aunt Madie. “She’d save little tins from chicken pot pies. When I spent weekends with her, since she didn’t drive, there was nothing to do. So we baked. That was really love,” says Polly.
From impromptu baggies full of cookies made with and hand beaters to a standing mixer and walk-in ovens, she’s grown her business to 100 handmade products a day. The chemical- and preservative-free loaves sell out at $6.99 apiece. Her regular customers – yes, Polly has a draw of returning fans! – look for her bubbly smile and booming voice. Sometimes, they call with special requests.
“People from other states stock up, they buy six at a time,” Polly says. “A lady called the other day and said, ‘I’m coming tomorrow and I want banana-chocolate chip. Will you throw in a few extra chips?’ It was her daughter’s birthday and the only cake she’ll eat is mine! She came back two days later to thank me.”
When you do what you love, you make something lasting. When you pour your heart into a project, it sings. When you have freedom and the support of others, you create rich flavors. Polly’s Pastries: find it only at Hiller’s.