Bella Rose Bakery and Café in Kingsburg
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Sweet NostalgiaOctober/November 2014
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Christy Canafax
Oh, nostalgia. There’s nothing quite like it. Such a wildly random experience brought on by some sight, sound or scent where present, past and future commingle in a wave of warm fuzzies. If only it could be bottled up. Impossible, you say? Well, tell that to Paula Coelho, because she has the recipe to turn nostalgia into a commodity, and it’s as easy as pie. Well, actually, it is pie.
And it’s so very many pies – banana cream, pumpkin, apple and peach, chocolate cream and coconut. You can find all those pies and more in Kingsburg, at Bella Rose bakery and café, which celebrates its third anniversary this December.
There’s something about the little white house with black shutters, its comfortable and cozy garden and indoor seating, and the aroma of baked goods that has the power to take you back to days gone by. Yes, there’s something about Bella Rose, and it’s more than just a good pie.
Before Bella Rose, there was Paula’s Catering, a small business that Coelho started to raise extra money for her kids’ braces. She ran the business for 10 years, until she felt it had run its course. “The business got to be really busy, and I had lost both of my parents, and I was taking care of grandmother and then she passed away too,” says Coelho. “And I didn’t know how to do anything except to take care of people and cook.”
When her youngest daughter started high school, Coelho found herself asking, “What do I do now?” She was flipping through a magazine, praying, wondering whether she should quit catering altogether when “I turned the page of the magazine and there was a picture of this house, Bella Rose.” That same day, Coelho took her daughter to dance class, where she ran into the owner of the house – “and he was never there,” she says, expressing her sense of serendipity. “I’m sure I told him everything,” laughs Coelho, about the picture in the magazine, about the plan to start a bakery. At the very moment when Coelho felt most uncertain about the future, everything changed with the flip of a page. Everything came together, the owner agreed to sell the house “and the rest was history,” says Coelho. “It was definitely a God thing.”
If Bella Rose was indirectly the result of losing her parents and grandmother, Coelho has used the bakery as a way to bring her family closer together. A day at work sounds like a family reunion: husband, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother, aunt and uncle; her oldest daughter is a full-time baker, her son helps when home from college, and her youngest daughter, a high school senior, helps … sometimes.
Even the name of the bakery pays homage to her grandmothers – Bella and Rose. But their real contribution goes deeper than their names. Before Bella Rose, before the catering, and back to a childhood in Selma, Coelho learned from her grandmothers how to bake. So all those pies at Bella Rose? You can thank Grandma Bella for the fruit pies, and you can thank Grandma Rose for the cream pies. That doesn’t mean Coelho rests on her grandmothers’ laurels, though. She’s still coming up with new recipes. “But the crust is still my Grandma Bella’s,” says Coelho.
So why do her grandmothers’ recipes make such great pies? “For me,” says Coelho, “it’s the love they put into them, but it’s also the flakiness.” Still, even after years of baking with their recipes, Coelho feels she falls short. For starters, her grandmothers never used exact measurements. But what’s missing isn’t exactly an ingredient. “Even now, when you make them with the exact same recipe,” says Coelho, “it’s just a little bit different.” That’s because Coelho can’t duplicate her experience as a child, of her grandmother in an apron, talking while she cooked.
“I can’t explain that feeling,” says Coelho, “but my kids will never get what I had growing up, because their grandparents have been gone so long.” But if Coelho can’t duplicate that exact feeling for her children, she can provide them – and the Kingsburg community – with new and equally nostalgia-worthy feelings, through her own baked goods.
So if you’re ever hankering for a slice of homemade, wholesome goodness, the kind of pie that only your grandma could bake, then Bella Rose might be your best bet. And if pie’s not your thing, stop for their homemade soups, salads, sandwiches or coffees. And if you can’t make it to Kingsburg, you’re in luck: they’re working out the details for a pie of the month club, so you can get their homemade pies, cookies, and cupcakes shipped directly to your home. So maybe you can bottle up nostalgia and sell it. Just don’t expect Paula to share the recipe anytime soon. •
Bella Rose Bakery & Cafe • 1537 Lincoln St., Kingsburg
(559) 419-9054 • www.facebook.com/bellarosebakery