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SANDY'S BAKE SHOPPE BACK IN BUSINESS

BY JOHN LOVETT // TIMES RECORD

Handcrafted breads, pastries and desserts are back on the rack for a Fort Smith family who took a 17-year hiatus from the baking business.

Sandy's Bake Shoppe reopened Friday at 5441 S. 24th St. in a 3,000-square-foot space near the Zero Street Walmart. Sandy Smith has revived her passion for baking a plethora of pastries and party cakes after the business closed in 2000 due to a family illness.

"Retirement is not really for me," Smith said Tuesday from behind the glass display counter filled with colorful sweets.

The family's first bakery opened in 1981 near the corner of Jenny Lind and Phoenix Avenue with Sandy and Mike Smith using skills learned from old masters. There were five bakeries in Fort Smith at the time, she said. They later moved to a bakery at the corner of Dallas and Jenny Lind across from Ramsey Junior High school. Mike Smith began his apprenticeship at the age of 12 with Virgil Sellers at Grand Bakery in Fort Smith, she added.

With her husband and their two sons, Sandy's Bake Shoppe became a Fort Smith institution known for "the $5 quarter sheet cake," eclairs, cream horns and Danish pastries. Bobby Miller also learned the baker's trade from Mike Smith and became a part of the family business.

The $5 quarter sheet cake, due to inflation, now goes for about $20. But cupcakes made on site from scratch are just $1.25. Other prices can be found at the bakery's new website, sandysbakeshoppe.com. Call-in orders can also be made at the website.

Many Fort Smith natives may recall a visit to the former Sandy's Bake Shoppe as a child in elementary school. Sandy said she intends to again provide tours of the bakery to schoolchildren in May.

Sandy's Bake Shoppe store hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, offering donuts, French pastries, gourmet muffins, breads and assorted cakes. They are closed Sunday."All the gadgets have a purpose," Sandy said.What they'll find is a world where science meets art and old-fashioned hard work. The three bakers start the day at 1 a.m., moving through the paces and "working like bees," Sandy said, weighing out the ingredients, mixing and kneading, baking, cooling and decorating all before the 6 a.m. opening. They'll also find massive dough mixers, a variety of industrial antique gadgets and plenty of new shiny stainless steel.