Trying new foods paid off handsomely for Kathy Schriner.
It was more than 20 years ago when her late friend Tim Baciak had her try a kolacke based on his Polish grandmother’s recipe.
“I thought that was the best thing I ever had in my entire life,” she recalled.
Schriner, who loved to bake, was soon selling homemade kolackes based on Baciak’s recipe to her coworkers at United Airlines.
“That’s when I decided to open my own bakery because everyone liked them so much,” she said.
That bakery, Kathy’s Kolacke and Pastry Shop, has turned into a Westlake institution that’s about to mark its 20th anniversary.
Schriner, who had no formal culinary training, said it was scary launching a career as a small-business woman. Nevertheless, she signed a three-year lease for a small Center Ridge Road store, where the bakery remained for 13 years.
In the early 1990s, Schriner used to go door to door to Westlake businesses, selling kolackes and cinnamon buns out of a basket she carried.
“That’s how I got people to know about the shop,” she said.
About seven years ago, she outgrew her Center Ridge Road shop and moved to her current location at 24961 Detroit Road. Located across from the Pat O’Brien Chevrolet dealership, the bakery is more visible and in a location with more traffic, which has improved business, she said.
In addition to Schriner, the store employs one full-time and one part-time baker. Schriner’s mother, Mary Jane, recently retired after working with her daughter for 19 years.
Kolackes are the most popular item, Schriner said. But when she opened in 1991, few people in the western suburbs knew what a kolacke was, she said.
These days, the bakery’s daily supply of freshly made kolackes usually sells out by noon or 1 p.m., she said. She addressed that problem by making kolackes, freezing them, and selling them in packages that customers can bake at home.
In November, Gordon Food Service began selling Schriner’s packages of frozen kolackes in its area stores. The first order was for more than 700 packages of 14 kolackes.
While Shriner has thought about opening a second location, today she’s focusing her efforts at selling her frozen kolackes at other grocery chains.
Schriner also ships kolackes and other products around the country through her website, kathyspastryshop.com. The site takes between five and 20 orders a day, she said.
Other popular products include butter cookies, brownies, nut and poppyseed rolls, cinnamon buns and cakes. The store also sells frozen lazania and chicken paprikash dishes.
Schriner frequently prepares new recipes to add to the bakery’s menu.
“That’s what my friends come in handy for,” she said of the taste testing process.
The menu’s newest addition is brown sugar oat biscotti.
Bay Village resident Karen Murray was one of a steady stream of customers Saturday afternoon. She came to buy a pastry party tray for her niece’s wedding shower. She plans to buy several party trays and drive with them to the actual wedding in Washington, D.C. this June.
“They don’t make kolackes in Washington, D.C.,” explained Murray, who has been a customer of Schriner for 10 years. “If you want good pastry, you have to know where to get it.”