Unadilla native Paula Youngs-Fitch is making something sweet out of her lifelong passion.
Youngs-Fitch, 50, said that although the business went official during and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been in the kitchen for decades.
“My first job was at the Unadilla Diner, at the bakery, when I was 18,” she said. “The baker at the time left unannounced and I took the job, taught myself and used what she had taught me along the way. So, I’ve had this passion for a very long time, but it really started to grow in my grandmother’s kitchen. She cooked everything, which led me to that first job, and I’ve been baking ever since.
“But (the business) really started to come into full swing last year, in April,” continued Youngs-Fitch, a longtime employee of ACCO Brands in Sidney. “I went on leave, and it really scared me; I was unemployed for the first time in 25 years, so I decided to take my passion and position myself where, if anything were to happen, I would have my bakery. It’s funny, it exploded. Literally, every night I cook; I leave my office at 5 a.m., and by 5:30 a.m. my ovens are on and I bake until 1 or 2 a.m. every night, seven days a week.
Youngs-Fitch said his company, Tootie and Bugs, offers “pretty much anything baked good.”
“These are specialty cakes – I do a lot of wedding cakes and catering dessert tables – cupcakes, cannolis, cream puffs, cookies, confections. It’s pretty much all you would walk into a bakery and see,” she said. “(The most popular) would probably be my cakes and cupcakes and now cookies, with the most popular chocolate and peanut butter flavors, and my DIY cookies (kits). And I try to make it there is no minimum, so if anyone wants cookies for their kids or just wants to try the cannolis, I accept all orders.
Youngs-Fitch said she offers local delivery whenever possible, often in costume, depending on the holiday.
She said customers near and far were lovely with her sweets.
“I go anywhere,” she said. “I went to Pennsylvania and took all my supplies with me and baked cupcakes and a wedding cake, so it was like a take-out bakery. I’ve ordered cakes here that travel to New York, which is cool, and I have people picking up orders. It’s cool to be a home bakery, because I can personalize every order that comes through the door.
“(The clientele) is everywhere,” Youngs-Fitch continued. “Everyone loves fresh baked goods; there’s no age to like baked goods, so demographics are really everywhere – anyone and everyone. And I make gluten-free and sugar-free cakes and I really put a lot of time into my research. We try to accommodate anyone.
That support, Youngs-Fitch said, is mutual.
“I was born and raised here and I live in a house right across from the house I grew up in,” she said. “I have local roots here with the community and local business owners. It’s my dream and without my community I wouldn’t be where I am today. Gavin’s in Sidney and the Sidney Federal Credit Union have been big supporters – I just made 200 gingerbread cookies for them – so it’s not just individuals and consumers but also businesses. And I always follow up with each client to see how their experience went. I know what I’m doing well, but it’s important to hear their perspective and ordering experience. My business card says, “Tootie and Bugs: Your Neighborhood Bakery,” and that’s what I want to be known for.
Youngs-Fitch said she plans to build on that momentum.
“I hope there will be a showcase soon,” she said, noting that such a site would “absolutely” stay local. “With my home bakery license there are some restrictions, so hopefully they will be lifted as soon as I have a (showcase). We have things in the works… for a brick and mortar, hopefully in 2022. It’s my passion and it’s not just about making money. When I see a little kid’s whole face light up at something I deliver…or a bride walks out and sees this beautiful cake, it’s literally the topping on the cake. That’s why I do it.
For more information or to place an order, find “Tootie and Bugs” on Facebook, follow @tootandbugs on Instagram, call 607-643-3460 or stop at 835 County Highway 2 in Unadilla.