In November, Bethany Mitidieri and her husband, Rick, opened Cutie Pies Bake Shop at 62 Cuna St. in St. Augustine. The shop has been a lifelong dream for Mitidieri who, after a successful career in education and with the help of her husband and son, launched the bakery.
Tell me about Cutie Pies Bake Shop.
We are a from-scratch bakery. We specialize in pies and treats.
We want to use the best ingredients. Kind of pay tribute to the old-fashioned way, where people didn’t take shortcuts. So, we make everything from scratch every day. We don’t use any pre-made ingredients.
We do catering for special events, and our catering kind of specializes in lunch and brunch, because we do quiche and hand pies. So, we do baby showers, wedding showers. We also do offer afternoon and high tea for people that are interested in that.
Tell me about your background.
I have kind of an interesting story. I’m a self-taught pastry chef. I’ve been honing my craft for about 25 years.
I was an elementary school principal for 15 years and an educator for 30. And then this past July , I decided to retire from education and pursue this lifelong dream of opening a pastry shop of my own.
My husband and I used to own and operate an organic farm in Live Oak, Florida. And we did a lot of catering and things with that. That’s kind of where my passion for real food and organic and quality ingredients comes from.
I also was really inspired by my mother-in-law. She really taught me a lot about baking and how to make bread and how to make things from scratch. So, she was really an inspiration for me.
Tell me more about this transition from education to baking.
I used to kid people and talk about that baking was my “love language.” So, even with my staff, if they had a baby or they had a party or they got married, I was always making the groom’s cakes or deciding what kind of dessert they’d like for their birthday.
So, I’d always done that for my staff. I think I come at life from sort of a servant-leadership perspective, where I feel like we’re here to serve others.
And for 30 years I served other people in that capacity at the school. Most of my career was spent in Title I schools, working with underserved youth, and that’s really very much a passion of mine still.
When I turned 50 a year ago, I just wanted to do this and see what it would be like. My first job was in a bakery, so I’ve had experience working in bakeries. So, I just kind of decided that I didn’t want to look back in regret that I had never given it a shot.
I always taught underserved kids to chase their dreams and to never give up and all of those things. And I felt like to some degree, I’d not done that myself.
So, this was an opportunity, I think, for me to kind of practice what I preach.
One of the things I’m proud of is I still work with at-risk kids. This summer, I have two interns from St. Johns Technical High School and I’m on the board of their culinary program.
I’m also in the process of opening another business to teach cooking classes to kids, with a partner. So, that’ll be exciting, too, to kind of have an opportunity, because that’s the part I would say that I miss the most is the interaction with the kids.
I understand that you donate a portion of your proceeds to teachers and youth.
We give discounts to teachers, because I feel like teaching is the most important career on the planet.
And then, I’ve donated to the special education program for their transition meetings. I always take at least 20% off or try to do it at cost if I can. I’ve done things at cost for Safe Harbor, which is an organization in St. Augustine that deals with homeless youth.
So, I just really feel like teachers in general maybe are undervalued, and I want to give them an opportunity to kind of shine.
I’m hopeful as business increases and my revenue increases that I’d like to set up a fund with the Education Foundation for at-risk kids to go to culinary school.
What do you like most about what you do?
I feel like baking is a kind of art. It’s a really creative outlet for me to kind of experiment with flavors and to experiment with design. I just love when people say, “This is the best … whatever … I’ve ever had.”
I’m proud that in our eight months we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. That’s been really good.
What do you like most about living in St. Augustine?
We’ve lived here for 16 years. I feel like St. Augustine has a little bit of everything.
We have the beach. We have rural. We have the downtown area. So it kind of has a little of everything.
I’m also super grateful to have raised my child here and feel like he had opportunities here that he wouldn’t have had before.
I think the schools definitely are a big part of why this county is as prosperous as it is. So, I’m happy about that.
But I just love living here. I love the vibe. And having spent more time in the last eight months downtown, that’s been really fun, too.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I love the beach. I’m definitely a little bit of a homebody. I love to just relax. I have two giant Greek Pyrenees dogs that I love very much. I love to take them for walks. I love to hang out with my husband.
I’m pretty simple, as a general rule. I’m not like super-duper exciting. [Laughs]
How can people find out more about your business?
They could go to our website, which is www.cutiepiesstaug.com. Or they could call the shop and we’d be glad to talk with them and set up a consultation. (904-217-8341)