From Banking to Baking at Goodies Cookies
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The Sweet Life
By Jordan Venema
Photo: Brittany Wilbur
When Natalie Fronczek was still in the mortgage business, she was a loyal customer at Visalia’s Goodies Cookies – so much that their goods were practically essential to her business. “I would send people cookies when the loan was approved,” she says, “and I loooooved their cookies.”
In fact, Fronczek was so loyal a customer that when the previous owner decided to sell the bakery, Fronczek was given notice.
“She called me and told me that it was for sale,” says Fronczek, who recalls thinking, “I could make that business grow.” And just like that, Fronczek turned from the banking to the baking industry, and for the first time in her life began a career in retail.
“You should have seen my husband’s face,” she says with a laugh, recalling his response when she told him that she planned to buy Goodies Cookies. They had already been married 19 years, so perhaps he wasn’t surprised by her impetuosity, but that probably didn’t stop him from putting the question to her: Natalie, just how long have you been baking again?
“I’ve never baked in my life,” she says. “How’s that for a story?”
In 2005, Fronczek took over Goodies Cookies, purchasing the store and recipes, and keeping on its original baker.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” says Fronczek, who learned the ropes from her baker. “I was like her shadow.”
It wasn’t long before the store expanded its name to Goodies Cookies and Cakes, building upon its repertoire of recipes.
“When I first bought it, it was only cookies, and then we went into cakes, and then dessert bars, cupcakes,” says Fronczek. Now she would like to expand her store even more. “This year I’d like to break into morning pastries.”
Much of Goodies’ ability to grow can be credited with Fronczek’s baker and business partner, Sandy Gaalswkyk. “She keeps me organized,” says Fronczek. “I couldn’t do it without her.”
Though she began without retail or baking experience, it wasn’t long before Fronczek began making her fair share of dough, doubling her profits with her first two years of ownership. And though she had learned how to bake, she prefers sticking to the front of the store, as the face of Goodies, interacting with customers. That, she says, is where the real fun is anyway.
“You know what I love about this business? Everybody is happy,” says Fronczek. “I went through mortgages and those are very stressful, but here, it’s pretty much happy, because people walk in and the smell of the store, it almost gives them a high.”
Plus, she says, “we’ve got a great staff, and we rarely make a mistake.” But even if they did, she says with a laugh, “it’s not like I’m killing anybody like at a pharmaceutical or something.” Also, whatever rare mistakes they do make, always prove an easy fix. They’ve remade cakes when necessary, and if anything, that just means more desserts entering the world.
Because if there is one thing that is sure, it is that people will never complain about more sweets. Just a couple years after she began turning a profit and the recession hit, “we climbed our way out of that too,” says Fronczek. “This is what they say – there are three things that go up during a recession: chocolate sales, crime and alcohol sales. So of course my girls were like, ‘Let’s sell beer with the cookies,’” she says, though she ultimately nixed the idea.
Because even when hard times hit, “people still get married, still have birthdays,” and they are still going to want cookies.
So whether its Goodies’ apricot amaretto cookie, “which is something that I have to force feed people just to taste,” Fronczek says, adding that once they try it they fall in love with it; or their five-layer brownie made with cream cheese, toasted marshmallows, brownie, chocolate chips and fudge, you can be sure that there will always be plenty of good things at Goodies Cookies and Cakes. •
Goodies Cookies and Cakes
1631 E. Noble Ave., Visalia • (559) 625-4663
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am – 5:30pm; Saturday, 10am – 5pm