By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- A destination for satisfying a sweet tooth has opened in Woodstock.
The new bakery, Sweet Blessings Bakery/Catering, located at 135 Lora Drive, Woodstock, sells desserts, pastries and coffee. It offers catering for weddings, birthdays and parties. Breakfast and lunch meals are also popular with customers.
There are acting families like the Baldwins and Barrymores. There are sports families like the Mannings and Molinas. The people who run Sweet Blessings are definitely a cooking family.
Bakery owner Rhonda Dellinger churns out her crowd-favorites: apple pie, sugar cookies and peanut butter fudge, each of which earned blue ribbons at the Shenandoah County Fair. Her daughter, Faith Dellinger, can already make quiches at 7 years old. Her cousin Cody Fitchett runs his own online cake business on the side and decorates cakes and bakes treats such as whoopie pies at Sweet Blessings. Dellinger's sister, Amy Massey, serves meals to customers at the bakery. And Michelle Dugan, her friend who is practically family, volunteers by helping out "whatever needs to be done."
It's a family effort, Dellinger said. Her in-laws watch the kids, her father helps with the yardwork and her mother helps in the kitchen.
Like many girls growing up, Dellinger said she remembers baking with her grandmother Louise.
Dellinger learned how to make whoopie pies, a snack created from a layer of cream filling sandwiched in between two pieces of chocolate cake. She was responsible for baking the cake for the family's Sunday dinner. At 12 years old, she discovered her culinary talent.
"I did the baking and she [grandmother Louise] washed the dishes," Dellinger said. "So I got to bake all of it and she had to clean up. That kind of got me started."
Dellinger once cooked at Community Christian School as well as for the Meals on Wheels program at the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging. She was getting so many requests for dinners and pies that she decided to open her own bakery and catering company.
When she began scouting locations for the bakery in January, she said she wanted it to be just like her grandma's kitchen.
In fact, that almost turned out to be the name of the bakery: Just Like Grandma's. "Every time someone takes a bite out of my sugar cookies or my apple pie, they're like 'This is just like my grandma's,'" Dellinger said. "That's kind of my motto."
Her other grandmother, Pauline Fitchett, is no stranger to the kitchen either. At 87 years old, she still loves baking apple, cherry and chocolate pies at home. Dellinger said she has the same passion for baking as her grandmother.
On Tuesday, one day after the opening, Cody Fitchett placed whoopie pies in the oven and handled the cash register. An incoming senior at Central High School, Cody Fitchett also takes a culinary class at Triplett Tech and said he's planning to attend culinary school for pastry or baking.
"I don't play sports," he said. "Everybody else was playing sports and I was in the kitchen." Ironically, a movie about balancing baseball and cooking, "Eddie's Million Dollar Cook-Off," is what ignited his passion for cooking.
Dellinger said she chose the name, "Sweet Blessings," because she wanted her food to act as a way for people to bless others, by taking a meal to someone who's ill or just had a baby.
Her strong Christian faith plays a large part in her bakery. It's almost like an ingredient in her cooking. "I'm trying to show God's love through food," she said.
"It's her ministry," Dugan said. "God has given her this gift of baking and reaching out to others. She has the biggest heart out of any of my friends, I kid you not." The bakery's helping hand, Dugan, said the best thing off the menu is the homemade quiche.
Customers, hearing about the bakery either through its Facebook page or word of mouth, have supported the new local business. Dellinger said approximately 75 people came in on its first day on Monday and more than 40 people came by the bakery by lunch on Tuesday.
She said she's seen the town manager, police officers and county deputies in her bakery. The mayor of Woodstock even entered Dellinger's apple pie into a pie contest on Thursday.
Dellinger said she plans to makes the bakery more visible through signage and flyers. Eventually, she wants to make frozen meals for the elderly who are not able to cook.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com