What began as a fun way to keep busy, provide some comfort to friends and make a little extra money for rent, has turned into a full-scale baking operation in a one-level house in Gardiner. “I’ve always dreamed of owning a bakery,” said Tanya Santos, a local mother of three, whom, like many of us, has been cooped up at home during the COVID-19 pandemic with her family trying to think of ways to stay busy and upbeat. “We were thinking of things we could do and Kaela (her eldest daughter) had rent looming, so I put a post on Facebook asking if anyone was interested in having some freshly baked cinnamon buns delivered to them and the response was unbelievable!”
In two days, the Santos family (Kaela and Abigail, a junior and freshman at Nazareth College), Omar Jr., 10 and their father, Omar (Big “O”) mixed, rolled, baked, iced and delivered approximately 870 cinnamon buns to friends, family and businesses within a 20-mile radius.
Here’s what she wrote in her social media post that just blew up with requests: “In an effort to do what I love for some good, and also to help Kaela pay her rent for off-campus housing while she lives at home during this crisis, the girls and I would like to bake, sell and deliver cinnamon rolls tomorrow and Saturday — you can order and have them delivered to someone you love or have them delivered to your home (20-mile radius of Gardiner) #socialdistanceruleswillapply. We will brainstorm over the next couple days as to how we can help locally with some of the funds raised. #bakingadifference #stircrazy #rollsforrent.”
“It was crazy! We could not believe the response,” said Tanya. “We’re overwhelmed and excited and humbled and grateful.” Because Tanya has always been a baking marvel, she had all of the fixings she needed to bake, including the aluminum foil to-go containers. “The only thing I had to run to restaurant depot for was cinnamon, but I had 20 pounds of flour in the house!” Tanya’s cinnamon buns are a well-known commodity to locals who have had the pleasure of savoring them when she would bake some for various swim team fundraisers or for “teacher appreciation day.” But having them delivered to your house? Fresh out of the oven? In the middle of a pandemic?
Here’s how it worked: A pan of seven cinnamon rolls were delivered for $15 and a tray of 20 delivered for $45. “Kaela drove, Abigail put all of the addresses into her GPS and guided Kaela. And Omar (Lil O) would run to the front door, leave the pan or tray of cinnamon buns where he had been told to, collect the money and sprint back to the car.
“I loved having a reason to get out and see people wave to us and smile and be excited to get a delivery,” said Kaela. “I’m with Abbie (her sister, also a swimmer) at college, but it was great to be with Omar when he’s not on his video games and just be driving around and singing to music and watching him have so much fun running to people’s doors and run back to the car. It felt like we were doing some thing that made people happy and we need that right now.”
On the baking end of things, they worked non-stop. “I always enjoy baking, but this time there wasn’t the same stress,” reflected Tanya. “I could never do this if I was working (she works at New Paltz High School in the guidance office, but as school is closed, she’s home). And when I’ve baked cinnamon buns in the past for different fundraisers, I had to wake up at the crack of dawn to make sure they were ready in time so that they would be fresh and hot for whatever event I was making them for. Now we could wake up and had all day to bake, which was so fun. It’s what I like doing, and we spend a lot of time in the kitchen together so it was kind of normal.”
She said that Kaela was her “good helper” in the kitchen and that Abigail was the one that “made good playlists and kept us laughing. I guess she’s like the Kitchen Jester!” Little Omar was the “taste tester” and Omar Sr. was out working a lot, but when he was home, would just laugh every time his wife would say, “this is our last batch,” because it never was.
Here’s the good news. They made enough money with their sticky buns to pay two months of Kaela’s college rent and with the leftover money they made Tanya said they’ve decided that they’re going to give it to Gardiner Liquid Mercantile that has a fund for those that can’t afford to purchase meals at this time and can get them delivered.
There were pictures floating all over social media of people with broad smiles holding their tray of cinnamon buns and leaving comments about how they “didn’t even make it past the front door” before they were eaten! “It was the way that I knew how to give back to the community during a difficult time. And we’re really humbled by the response and just how a simple thing can make people so happy.”