By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
SLIPPERY ROCK —
Mouth-watering baked goods like Oreo-stuffed brownies and giant muffins grace the shelves of Confections by Christina, a bakery that opened June 1 in the heart of Slippery Rock.
"We've been steadily growing," said the owner, Christina S. Colantoni, as she and her daughter Kelsie Seybert filled orders and sold scones and cookies to customers who stopped in Friday afternoon.
Kelsie, who's almost 17, helped Mike Kramer of Slippery Rock Township and his granddaughter Alyssa Arblaster, 14, pick out blueberry and raspberry muffins and peanut blossom cookies.
"The muffins are very good," said regular customer Kramer of his favorite treat from the bakery at 116 New Castle St.
Colantoni, who first discovered her love of baking in her middle school home economics class, hasn't always been in the food business.
The Slippery Rock native and current resident, who has also lived in Pittsburgh and Meadville, used to work as a neurobiologist at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, where she performed brain surgeries and related procedures on rats and mice.
Colantino was a stay-at-home mom for a while during her time as a neurobiologist and she started baking more at home, realizing she really loved making goodies for others.
Her father and grandfather had been among her first taste-testers after that home ec class got her hooked on baking, and all the skills she has since developed have been self-taught.
"He would always fawn over them," she said of her late grandfather's love of her cookies.
Her grandparents, Bill and Joann Gress, owned a restaurant in Slippery Rock in the 1960s that served comfort food like sandwiches and burgers, and Gress was a cook in the Army, but baking was something Colantino took up on her own.
Some of her first successes were the bear claw recipe from the back of the Bisquick box and Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.
"That was my dad's favorite," she said.
Also mother to Pfc. Tyler Seybert, 19, a Marine stationed in North Carolina, and wife of Michael, Colantino continued filling orders for baked goods from home, all the while keeping an eye out for a spot to open up in Slippery Rock.
The shop is located in the Center Plaza within walking distance from the downtown Main Street corridor. That makes it a good spot for passers-by, especially Slippery Rock University students, she said.
Everything she makes is from scratch except the donuts, which she orders. Business is booming and Colantino is planning to add to her offerings by finding a building nearby that would let her have a bigger kitchen space.
"We've been steadily growing," she said, adding word-of-mouth, her website and Facebook have helped.
Those tools have attracted customers from other states, like parents who order baked goods for their children at SRU, one of the many places the bakery delivers its products.
The wedding cake part of the business is also picking up and Colantino can work with any budget, though some of the cake-decorating shows on television sometimes mistakenly lead people to believe they can get an over-the-top cake for little money.
"Everybody wants those crazy cakes they see on TV," she said.
She's capable of creating wonderful cakes since supplies like fondant icing have improved over the years, and she's always learning new techniques by searching the Internet and attending cake shows.
"There are always new things being developed," she said, adding she looks up to well-known bakers like Norman Davis and Ashley Vicos.
Her husband is an electrical engineer for General Electric, Pine Township, and he helped her with a fire truck birthday cake for a 3-year-old relative, complete with working lights.
"He loved it," said Colantino, who orders a lot of her supplies from the Internet and a restaurant supply store in Pittsburgh.
She can accommodate any number of special requests, like using a mandarin orange recipe a woman gave her to make her son's groom cake.
Her next big project is mailing cookies to her son after he gets his overseas assignment. Colantino isn't allowed to know exactly where he'll be stationed, but she'll make sure to send enough baked goods for him to share.
"I'm very picky about everything," she said of her attention to detail.
She even made her own wedding cake when she and her husband got married about three years ago; it was white with black and yellow details since they're Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
She's currently taking orders for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, birthdays, weddings and other special occasions including popular trends like gender-reveal cakes and "smash cakes," which many parents use for their child's first birthday, allowing the kid to literally smash the cake.
Some of Colantino's other offerings include caramel apples, chocolate-covered strawberries and pretzels, chocolate candy and marzipan.
Confections by Christina is at 116 New Castle St., Slippery Rock, and is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.
Contact the bakery at 724-406-0610 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The bakery can also be found on Facebook and at www.confectionsbychristina.com
Published Feb. 20, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.