\WEST CAPE MAY — Michael Riederer’s family told him there was a need for a bakery in Cape May, so when he graduated from college, he opened one there with his uncle.
Turned out they were right. Over the next 33 years, Riederer saw his business — and his own family — take root, evolve and grow.
Riederer said he had no baking experience when he started. Now “he does 70 percent of the baking, and I do the other 30 percent,” said his wife, Lynnda.
Cape May Bakers got its start with a retail outlet in Cape May before moving to its present location on West Perry Street here. The Riederers marriage also got its start there.
“I met him walking on the Cape May Promenade,” she said, adding that she didn’t start working at the business until “I had my first child and didn’t want to work outside the home. We were lucky … we could bring them to work every day.”
Regular customers watched her children grow up there.
“I still have people come in and ask where the little girl is. They’re stunned to find out she’s married,” Lynnda Riederer said.
The creations at Cape May Bakers have matured at the same time.
She said pastries were the primary thing in the ovens in the beginning, soon being joined by desserts and later breads.
One big trend has been the booming wedding business in Cape May the past couple of decades, creating substantial demand for wedding cakes with “seashell-related themes — very beachy, but still very elegant.”
Wedding cakes are the single biggest segment of the diverse business “and probably the single best money-maker,” she said.
Another strong trend lately is toward healthier options and meeting dietary restrictions, such as avoiding gluten and eating vegetarian or even vegan.
“Vegan is very easy in baking. Gluten-free is a little harder but necessary because so many people need it,” Lynnda Riederer said.
Along those lines, the shop offers vegetable quiches, European-style pastries and tarts with vegetables and cheese — “pick-up-and-eat food” — quinoa salads and fruit parfaits with yogurt.
These supplement the expected pastries, cinnamon buns, scones, cookies and brownies.
“Even though people come primarily for the sweets, they will be health conscious as well,” she said.
In a similar vein, beverages include organic teas, fresh fruit lemonade and organic fair-trade coffee from Grounds for Change — “good coffee that also makes you feel good” because it benefits families in Third World coffee-growing regions.
Another piece of the business — there are more ingredients to a successful bakery business than there are to a cake — is wholesale bread and desserts for area restaurants.
“Every bread he makes he hand rolls,” she said. “Sometimes he does hundreds and hundreds of rolls by hand, which is unusual. Most people use machinery, but the rolls are more rustic this way.”
In Atlantic and Cape May counties, the bakery segment has bounced back from the recession. After retail bakeries fell from 19 in 2001 to just 11 in 2008, they climbed back to 19 in 2011, says the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cape May Bakers is open daily during the season, and weekends in the off-season, when the Riederers travel, look for new items to make and create new recipes.
“We have customers who have been coming in for three decades, so we want to make sure they’re always surprised by some of the things we make,” she said.
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