You can’t beat fresh-baked. This becomes evident with a first bite into a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a handmade everything bagel that came into the world just this morning. It also becomes clear why this little bakery in downtown Angels Camp has attracted a cult-like following of regulars, braving the rain to purchase their “usual” with almost too much excitement.
Customer Cheryl Lucchesi has visited Sugar Bakery nearly every week since it opened four years ago. Today, she came in at 8 a.m. wearing a dripping wet raincoat to order her favorite scone.
“This is the best place in town,” Lucchesi said.
“I love my job because no one is unhappy when they’re getting some good sweets,” said Christine “Chris” Abusaidi, owner and baker at Sugar Bakery.
For Abusaidi, who once spent a year perfecting her scone recipe, the social scene at the bakery is equally important to the tasty treats she sells. Some of her regulars stop in each morning to share a cup of coffee and an hour of conversation.
“They’ve become my friends,” she said. “We have a good little tribe going. I feel very lucky – it’s not a job for me, it’s kind of my life.”
One of those friendships blossomed into something more when Abusaidi wooed her now-boyfriend with her pecan pie squares.
Another bond that Abusaidi formed over baked goods was with her only employee, Kathy Harden. The two met in a cooking class at Columbia College roughly five years ago and hit it off immediately.
“I was there for fun, and Chris was there for business,” Harden said while standing over a showcase displaying a colorful cherry almond bundt cake she recently crafted.
When they first partnered up in that fateful class, Abusaidi had recently been laid off from her job as an escrow coordinator and decided it was time to pursue her baking passion.
“It started as a hobby, but it got to the point where my friends were so tired of getting treats,” Abusaidi said with a laugh. “It seemed like the right time to do it, and I jumped right in.”
As an Angels Camp resident of 20 years, there was no other place in which Abusaidi would rather build her dream. She found an empty storefront on historic South Main Street and raised $12,000 on Kickstarter to install a commercial kitchen. The venture was supported by family, friends and community members who wanted a bakery in town.
Two years after Sugar Bakery opened its doors, Abusaidi asked the then-retired Harden for some help. Now, the friends work in tandem, with Abusaidi churning out most of the breakfast items in the morning and Harden baking brownies, cookies and custom cakes throughout the day.
And their friendship isn’t limited to work; in January the pair went on a Mexican vacation in search of some much-needed relaxation and inspiration to bring home.
“Kathy is irreplaceable,” Abusaidi said.
Harden, who retired from working at a Safeway bakery in 2008, truly appreciates the power of fresh-made baked goods.
“Most of the stuff at the grocery store is frozen bake-off,” Harden said. “I just prefer fresh over frozen. A lot of people want that and the smell of a bakery.”
Abusaidi agrees that it’s the quality of their products and the irreplaceable experience of visiting a bakery that keep locals and visitors alike coming back for more.
“The stuff I make is all made from scratch – not pulled out of a freezer. It’s all made by hand with good ingredients,” Abusaidi said. “I think what I make is all pretty exceptional.”
The success of Sugar Bakery in a quiet downtown that still hosts a number of empty storefronts is a testament to the effectiveness of hard work and stellar quality.
“I feel like four years is a good amount of time for a small operation like this,” Abusaidi said. “When I first started, we were open six days a week, and I was doing everything.”
The baker and business owner is liberal with her advice for anyone who’s looking to follow in her footsteps, and she hopes more eatery entrepreneurs will take the plunge and contribute to the revitalization of downtown Angels Camp.
For information and business hours, visit the Sugar Bakery Facebook page.
To recommend a business to be featured in the Enterprise, contact Dakota Morlan at firstname.lastname@example.org.