Bethel Bakery had its company picnic Sunday in South Park. John and Chris Walsh served an unexpectedly sweet treat.
The owners of the iconic Bethel Park shop announced they were expanding their footprint into the next county. They are going to open a second location – a retail operation – in North Strabane Towne Center, meaning more jobs, more opportunities, more goodies.
Following discussions with Barb Cyprowski, owner of Country Confections Chocolates, the two sides agreed to essentially share space in a building currently occupied by the on-site maker of gourmet apples and candy.
Talk about a sugar shack.
“It will definitely be a sweet stop,” John Walsh said. “A location along Route 19 will be more accessible to our loyal customers, and to new ones, in Peters Township, Canonsburg, Southpointe and the Washington areas.”
Walsh does not have a specific target date, but is pushing hard for a pre-holiday launch.
All Bethel Bakery items will be produced at the Bethel Park site, where, according to Walsh, “we have all of the equipment and processes in place.” They will then be transported to North Strabane across the Allegheny-Washington county line. Finishing touches, in some instances, may be applied at the Route 19 shop.
This certainly will be an opportunity for the bakery. Yet, when completed, the dual operation is expected to benefit both businesses.
“Our products complement each other, and while Bethel Bakery speaks for itself, our area is in desperate need of a bakery,” Cyprowski said. “Country Confections Chocolates is our deal. But for years, we’ve wanted to add to our game. We feel this is the time to do it.”
There is some remodeling ahead, though, as the owners want to have separate stores and storefronts. Cyprowski said work has begun inside her business, while Walsh said, “We’re still in the design stage.” They are planning an interior entryway between the shops.
When the redo is completed, Bethel Bakery will be to the right of CCC, as viewed from Washington Road. The bakery will occupy about 2,000 square feet – 1,000 of it for retail. Country Confections will retain the other 2,300.
Cyprowski’s endeavor will undergo another transition – in name. Starting in September, the business will be recognized as “Cyprowski Candy Co., Country Confections Chocolates.”
The agreement among owners has been serendipitous from the start. Walsh said he and his wife had considered a second location “for a while,” and that thought intensified in the spring. At about that time, he said, a customer called the store with an order and added, “If the owner ever wants another place, I’m in real estate.”
Walsh called and asked the agent whether she knew the Country Confections owner. “She said, ‘Yes, she’s a friend,’ and texted me contact information.”
Walsh and Cyprowski talked for 45 minutes.
“I decided I have to see this place,” he said. “Barbara told me in five years, she didn’t need 4,300 square feet to do her business. She was going to downsize, and downsizing meant creating another storeroom.”
“We were at the end of our lease,” Cyprowski said, “and we didn’t need all that space. His ears perked up and he said, ‘Maybe we’ll take the other side.’ That’s where we are today.”
The location of North Strabane Towne Center, off Route 19 and near Weavertown Road, is palatable to Walsh. North Strabane continues to grow, neighboring Peters Township has a substantial population base, and the new shop will be “directionally friendly” to Interstate 79. The shopping center isn’t far from the mother ship, either.
John Walsh has directed that ship for 25 1/2 years. He is a second-generation owner, the youngest of Morris and Anna Walsh’s seven children, who took over New Year’s Day 1991. His parents, retired and living in Bethel Park, started Bethel Bakery in August 1955 on South Park Road and stayed there for three years, before relocating to the current spot on Brightwood.
Like the thousands of specialty cakes it has baked over 61 years, Bethel Bakery has risen. There are 85 employees, full or part-time, headed by retail manager Anthony Tomaino and production manager Lisa Gump. Walsh said the second site will afford part-timers the opportunity to increase their hours, possibly working at both locales. He anticipates adding 10 employees for the North Strabane shop.
Hours at the new store will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. A 61-year tradition – closed on Sunday – will remain intact.
For the Walshes, and for Cyprowski, the new arrangement could be a cherry on top.