Cassopolis woman turns pandemic hobby into bakery business

CASSOPOLIS — When Laura Mallane started baking breads to help people during the COVID-19 shutdown, she never thought her hobby would rise into a full-fledged business.

Mallane is the driving force behind O’Keefe Creations, a bakery she and her family run out of the kitchen in their Cassopolis home. Though Mallane started her business in 2020, this summer, she started bringing her business on the road, selling at farmer’s markets and in area shops.

“I have always had good memories with baking,” Mallane said. “It takes me back to my childhood.”

Though Mallane has always found joy in baking, it was not always her main focus.

“I was an engineer for 10 years,” she said. “Ever since I started baking every day, it has put a smile on my face.”

When Mallane decided to get back into the kitchen, started with her simple plain white bread recipe. Now, she makes a handful of different types, with banana bread being the top seller.

It did not take long for her business to grow. In 2020, she estimates she baked roughly 30 loaves of bread a week. Today, she bakes 50 or more per week.

“I never would have thought the baking would have turned into this,” she said. “Baking for people is very rewarding.”

Mallane and her family moved to the Cassopolis area three years ago. Since then, Mallane said the community has taken them in, and has helped her business grown through face-to-face interactions.

“The community feel is great in Cassopolis,” she said. “There has been lots of support and interest from the people of the community.”

Going to local farmers markets in both Cassopolis and Niles has helped expand the business. Selling out of breads is becoming a regular occurrence at the farmer markets.

Though she travels around to different farmer’s markets, Mallane still has her regulars in the community, and she makes sure that people are always able to get a loaf of bread.

“I have people that order every week,” she said. “They come and pick up right off of my front porch.”

For the business to take the next step, Mallane needs to move from her home kitchen into a commercial kitchen. As of right now, she cannot have businesses or restaurants sell her products. She is also looking to expand from breads into bagels and croissants, saying that trying new recipes and flavors is something she has valued since day one.

“I want to take the business to the next level,” Mallane said. “I have to get a commercial kitchen. I have people and businesses that want to sell my bread.”

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