By Christine Graf
Leah’s Cakery, located in the historic West Side General Store building at 3 Curry Street in Round Lake, opened in 2013.
Owner Leah Stein worked as a cake decorator for the Bread Basket in Saratoga Springs before owning her own shop. Prior to that, Stein worked as a park ranger and environmental educator.
When Stein made the decision to change professions, she enrolled in the culinary program at Schenectady County Community College (SCCC). The Lake George native comes from what she describes as a “culinary inspired” family, and she fell in love with baking as a young girl. It was while making custom cakes as a side job while working in environmental science that she decided to pursue baking full time.
“I grew up in a tourist town with tons of entrepreneurs around me,” she said. “A lot of people had their own businesses, and it was always something that was in the back of mind as an attainable goal.”
While still in culinary school, Stein worked part-time making custom cakes at the former Queen of Tarts bakery in Guilderland. After graduating from SCCC 2008, she taught baking courses at the college for six years.
“I tried to balance teaching with running the shop, but I went without a day off for over three years,” she said. “I love teaching and would love to get back into it some day.”
Today, Stein puts all of her energy into her business. After purchasing the 3 Curry Street property, she spent $50,000 to get her shop up and running. She hired Stein Construction of Lake George, a company owned by her brother David, to do the renovations.
“I had to completely gut the space,” she said. “Even though there were four walls, I pretty much had to build it from the ground up.”
Stein opened Leah’s with the intention of focusing on custom cakes, but she decided to supplement her income by offering coffee and a limited selection of baked goods to walk-in customers. She had no idea that would become the mainstay of her business. In 2017, she put an addition on the building for a 16-seat dining area.
“That really took off a lot stronger than I expected in the beginning. I opened up in a location that really needed that community spot. There weren’t many places to go get a cup of coffee and chat with your neighbor besides Stewart’s,” she said.
Stein has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from residents of Round Lake. She has lived in the village for the past 18 years and lives with her daughter on the second floor above the shop.
Stein started out as the bakery’s only employee but now has nine employees including two full-time technically trained bakers. She and her staff make 100 or more special order custom cakes a month. They also make non-custom cakes that can be purchased by walk in customers.
Cinnamon buns are the bakery’s most popular item, but they also sell a variety of muffins, scones, cookies, and pies. Everything at the bakery is made from scratch. Leah’s also partners with 9 Miles East to offer a variety of salads and other light meal options.
Not long after Leah’s Cakery opened, the town of Malta installed a municipal parking lot next to her shop. The parking lot provides access to the Zim Smith Trail, and foot traffic at the cakery has increased dramatically due to its use, she said.
Leah’s closed to walk-in customers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but reopened in June. While the shop was closed, Stein got an ecommerce site up and running in just a few days. The site allowed customers to place online orders for pickup.
Since reopening, Stein has continued to use her ecommerce site and has updated it to include custom cake ordering options. The bakery’s dining room remains closed and the shop itself is operating on reduced hours. She hopes to reopen the dining room in the near future. She remains optimistic that business will return to pre-COVID levels.
“No matter what is going on in economy, everyone loves cake and sweets,” she said.
Leah’s Cakery is open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Sunday 8 a.m. to noon. They are closed on Mondays. For more information or to order online, visit www.leahs-cakery.com.
By Christine Graf