Bakers hope for sweet success in Bryson City
Gianna Carson stood behind the bakery register helping two young women decide which of her treats they wanted to taste. On the wall overhead hang black and white photos of her children, niece and nephew posing with one of her cupcakes.
The new Bryson City bakery, La Dolce Vita, is empty except for the two women, but not for long. Within five minutes, a mom and her two children pop their heads in for a bite. In another five minutes, more customers come in, and inside of 20 minutes, the once calm bakery is full of friends and Swain County residents looking for mid-afternoon snacks. One minute the shop on Everett Street is dead, the next co-owner Carson can’t work fast enough to fill all the orders.
“That’s how it’s been almost everyday,” said Carson, a former middle school teacher who runs the shop with her mom, Pat Tagliarini. “I’d rather be busy then sitting here with a lot of stuff baked,” Carson said, adding that the customers have been “sweet and generous.”
The pair opened the storefront about a month ago, but they have worked from home making custom cupcakes and cakes under the name La Dolce Vita for a year.
All the goods are baked from scratch and offer a mixture of traditional flavor combinations like peanut butter and chocolate as well as unique flavors created by Carson and Tagliarini, such as strawberry champagne cupcakes and the Elvis cupcakes, peanut butter icing topped with bacon.
“I keep playing around with (flavors) until I get it right,” Carson said.
Carson is fiddling with the idea of baking a cupcake using kudzu. The invasive weed, the bane of many farmers and gardeners, flowers with a grape-tasting bloom that is sometimes used to make jelly.
As much as they can, Carson and Tagliarini try to use locally grown products. The strawberries are bought from nearby Darnell Farms, and if Carson can get the right certification, she hopes to use the eggs her chickens produce.
Although both mom and daughter have baked for most of their lives, a friend’s suggestion is what pushed them to start their business.
Custom cupcakes and decorative cakes are in the spotlight now with television shows like Cake Boss and Cupcake Wars, which Carson watched during her summer breaks. After insistence from a friend, she tried her hand at creating her own piece de resistence.
“I loved doing it,” Carson said. “It was so fun.”
Not too long after, she saw a for-sale sign in the window of the new bakery and decided to chance it.
“I have kind of always wanted to do something like this, and it was now or never,” Carson said.
La Dolce Vita is parked across the street from the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Depot — a perfect place to attract visitors with a sweet tooth and penchant for trains. But, Carson did not start the business with a focus on securing her own slice of the tourism pie. She felt the town lacked a bakery where area residents could grab specialty baked goods and decorative cakes. Another Bryson City establishment, Cork and Bean, offers an assortment of locally made pastries but is best known for its delectable crepes, both sweet and savory.