Longtime Rehoboth baker celebrates sweet memories
Last week I had the pleasure of spending my Thanksgiving with the friendly crew at Fork & Flask. Executive Chef Sean Corea used to work at TA Farms - Delaware’s source for everything turkey, so the holiday feast was perfectly prepared and presented. There was even more of a value-added, however! Longtime baker Nancy Stout now buzzes about Fork & Flask, seating people and making sure everything runs smoothly. And here I thought all she did was make some of the best birthday cakes in town!
The aroma of freshly baked bread, cookies, muffins, pastries, cakes, doughnuts … you get the idea … brings to mind small-town bake shops populated by smiling folks eager to fulfill your every need, no matter how gooey. And indeed, Rehoboth Beach is fortunate to have talented bakers and pastry chefs who rise in the wee hours to knead, proof, frost, pipe, decorate and sprinkle their way into our hearts. Dru Tevis at SoDel Concepts, Marta Lucci at Touch of Italy and John DelVecchio of Ocean View are just three of a growing number of talented cooks who specialize in sugar, butter and all the rest. But the bakery where Nancy plies her trade is a bit different: it also sells onions. And dishwashing detergent. And antifreeze, hot sauce, flowers and greeting cards. And hams. And Popsicles. You can buy a lottery ticket, make a bank deposit and buy a dozen roses. But Nancy and the bakery crew still toil through the night to concoct personalized goodies for their loyal customers.
Journeyman baker Nancy Stout has been with Giant Food for 32 years. She grew up near Washington, D.C., and Rehoboth Beach was her perennial vacation destination. During one of those vacations she spotted a sign out on the highway: “Giant Food Coming in 1999!” With her marriage over and nothing tying her to D.C., she knew that Rehoboth Beach would be the perfect place to bring up her kids, Scarlett and Robert. When her district manager listened to his answering machine that night, Nancy’s voice anxiously inquired, “What do I have to do to get that store?!”
On January 2, she got the call. By March 1, she had sold her house, and on March 20, 1999, she stood smiling behind the bakery counter of the brand new Rehoboth Beach Giant Food. Over the years, Nancy’s love for small-town Rehoboth has translated into helping people mark special occasions. “I’ve baked christening cakes, birthday cakes, graduation cakes and wedding cakes - all for the same kids,” she coos. “I’ve made cakes for dogs, a Phantom of the Opera cake, a vegan cake (with a Hawaiian theme, yet), and even a Paint Splatter cake.” (House painters have birthdays, too. Use your imagination.)
Rehoboth being Rehoboth, Nancy has also crafted her share of festive cakes for gay and lesbian partners. With the passage of Delaware’s marriage laws, she’s made herself the go-to girl for rainbow-hued wedding and anniversary cakes for families, friends and happy couples alike - many of whom use the occasion to celebrate upwards of 50 years together.
“This may be the Giant, but it’s still a neighborhood bakery,” says Nancy. “I’m grateful to be here. How many people can say they smell great when they finish work? When I get up early and there’s a little snow on the trees, it’s like my world is sprinkled with powdered sugar.” She makes a point of telling me that she doesn’t do all this alone: District director and longtime friend Mike Long is, in her words, “one real cool dude” who keeps several Giant Food stores running smoothly. Nineteen-year Giant veteran Brenda Johnson (“she’s my rock”) makes sure that yummy creations are prepared fresh and on-time. Rehoboth Store Manager Wanda Reed has a great appreciation for baked goods, detail and appearance. Nancy quietly suggests that there’s a thin line between attention to detail and micromanagement; fortunately Wanda and Nancy are friends…
She loves to tell about the suspicious-looking guy who stared at her from out in the store as she decorated cakes. Turned out her stalker was none other than plumbing contractor Harry Caswell. Seems that the burly entrepreneur was fascinated by the mechanics of cake decorating. As an anniversary gift, his wife Lynn arranged for Nancy to give Harry a short-course in cake decorating. Turned out he was a natural. He and Lynn were thoroughly grateful for Nancy’s generosity. But Nancy says there was bad news: “He got so good that I lost a customer.”