Highland Park resident Sam Castillo is raising money and raising expectations for an entrepreneurial enterprise that will rise – literally – to the occasion of satisfying a great need for a kneaded product and needed business in her hometown.
Social media is buzzing about Sam Castillo’s Go-Fund-Me site to support her effort to open a high-quality local bakeshop called the Cook & the Carpenter Bakeshop. Many people in town have been among the lucky ones who are familiar with Sam’s pies, breads, cookies and pastries and eagerly await the day when the smells and tastes of from fresh baked goods permeate Highland Park’s downtown.
“I would like to give Highland Park something that it has been missing – a small hometown bakeshop, The Cook & The Carpenter Bakeshop…..People always say ‘do what you love’ and the thing I have always loved is baking,” said Sam who has lived in town for 20 years.
Trained as a scratch baker in high school, she landed a job as a baker and pastry chef in a big hotel, then baked throughout the time she was getting an undergraduate degree at Rutgers. She baked incessantly in college – even on days she should have been studying for her final exams.
“For over eight years I was a cook/waitress in town at The Dish Cafe. I watched your kids grow up and go off to school, couples that were just going on their first dates—now married with kids, regulars that I was so happy to see and talk with every day. I made some amazing friends, connections for jobs and even met my wife while I was waiting tables at The Dish. My wife, Lucky Jo the carpenter, has worked in many of your homes throughout town and probably knows more people than I do now….
“When I started working at a larger company, I felt less connected to the community and all the people I had grown to know over the years. One of the things I love about Highland Park is that it is a town of neighbors.”
After a number of years of working in the corporate world, she found herself at a crossroads. She could continue to sit at a desk where she would get a paycheck or follow her passion and open a bakeshop – a far more delectable, albeit fiscally risky, road to follow.
She has been testing her breads and pies with local friends for months now and all have said the same thing—‘When are you opening a shop?’
Her goal is to open in September to capture the back-to-school business at Rutgers and the holiday season of fall and winter. The plan initially is to sell artisan breads, small hand-pies and some pastries. The “carpenter” in the team will help bring the shop to life – and create an engaging community space for meeting, greeting, and indulging in superb baked goods.
“Growing up, my family moved around a lot, and I never was able to call one place home. For over two decades, Highland Park has been my home. I love the sense of community and how passionate people are about the town. I have been baking for years for friends and family all asking the same question, ‘When are you selling your bread?’ I feel like with all the awesome food options we have in town that a real bread bakery is one of the things missing. I want to open a bakery here so that the love I have for bread and pastries can be shared by everyone. I believe food is how we show love and I want to share that love with the community.”
Some background on Sam’s initiative can be found here: