Maker Monday: The Bakery Society Pittsburgh

Jami Pasquinelli

Jami Pasquinell

Occupation: Executive Director


In December of 2014, Jami Pasquinelli joined Pittsburgh’s Economic Development South (EDS) community development corporation as the commercial district manager in the Mt. Oliver and Knoxville neighborhoods. She spearheaded The Bakery Society Pittsburgh (TBSP) project after she started the “Sweet Saturdays” event with EDS — an opportunity for community bakers to come together and sell baked goods.

This eventually became the concept for the nonprofit bakery incubator. TBSP is a collaboration of regional partners and currently occupies the former Kullman’s Bakery space, continuing the long-held tradition of baked goods in Mt. Oliver. Pasquinelli now serves as the executive director of TBSP, managing the overall strategic plan of TBSP to further impact the Pittsburgh region through culinary incubation and entrepreneurial education.

How did you get into your career in manufacturing?

I grew up in the small town of Latrobe, Pa., where my family owned a restaurant and an in-house bakery. I received a lot of my training in the food service industry and entrepreneurship by working at my family’s business.

After I went to college and received my master’s degree, I went on to do grant writing in academia where I learned about the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) and the Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

Fast forward a few years, and I found an awesome opportunity to use my knowledge of the tax credit programs, grant writing, and community development to benefit the underserved neighborhoods of Mt. Oliver and Knoxville in Pittsburgh.

During my time in Mt. Oliver and Knoxville, I needed to think outside of the box for community development. The Bakery Society Pittsburgh was a concept that was thought of through creative community development and my love of entrepreneurship and sweets. It only made sense for me to combine the two concepts.

What do you love most about your job?

I love making baked goods that remind me of my childhood and sharing them with the community. I also love helping other entrepreneurs achieve their goals of opening their own business or making their businesses more sustainable. I think what is unique about TBSP is that we now occupy the former Kullman’s Bakery, which served its baked goods and confectionery treats out of the Mt. Oliver borough for more than 60 years. It seemed like destiny to serve the community again from a place that had such a significant impact on it.

What is something you want people to know about The Bakery Society Pittsburgh?

The Bakery Society Pittsburgh is not just a bakery. TBSP is a community kitchen where folks can rent out the facility to make wedding cookies for our beloved Pittsburgh Cookie Tables, a unique age-old tradition that is baked into Pittsburgh’s culture. A wedding is not complete without a table full of either homemade cookies or cookies provided by local bakeries. Children can also get a head start on their cooking and baking skills, businesses can learn and get the support they need to be sustainable and succeed, and the community can come and reminisce about old memories while making new ones.

TBSP also has a Bakers-in-Residence flagship program for future bakers. Working in a full-time position in this program, bakers undergo an intensive 18-month incubation period to refine not only their technical skills, but also holistically develop themselves as leaders in the culinary field. Throughout this process, bakers are guided by TBSP staff and partners as they receive ongoing training. In the end, the goal is to obtain the marketing and financial skills necessary to create their own businesses throughout the region.

Even if someone isn’t interested in participating in our Bakers-in-Residence program, our Tenant Baker position offers the opportunity to work with experienced bakers to advertise their product in the South Hills. In a partnership with TBSP, bakers provide a well-conceptualized product to be sold and receive a percentage of the profit.

What makes you proud to be a Pennsylvania maker?

Infrastructure, people, and community are strong in Pennsylvania. We have benefited from redevelopment of our industrial legacy infrastructure, and our customers are shocked by the low rates we pay for manufacturing space, which has allowed us to rapidly expand. Our area is historically known as Tool City USA, and over 25% of our workforce is still employed in manufacturing, so we have a broad workforce and great regional schools to partner with and draw talent from. Finally, our community here is largely rural, and everybody knows everybody else and looks out for each other. We shop at the same stores and eat at the same restaurants. We can’t go anywhere in town without seeing five people we know. We root for each other and work hard to achieve goals. I genuinely wish success to all the other makers in our area.

 

Each month, the #PAProud blog offers a behind-the-scenes look at the experiences of real Pennsylvanians who work as manufacturers and makers. These testimonials showcase how diverse, exciting, and fulfilling it is to make in the Keystone State.

Visit our website to learn more about our growing manufacturing industry, and discover what it means to say #IMakeInPA.

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