A lifelong passion for baking is about to become a second career for Jennifer Brien.
“This has been something that I always wanted to do since I was a kid,” Brien said recently, standing amid a construction zone at 2872 Delaware Ave. in Kenmore that will house Mia Dolcezza, her bakery.
Scheduled to open this week, Mia Dolcezza (My Sweetness) will be open days five days a week - including weekends. “We have had people walking in the door, asking when we’re going to open,” she said.
Brien actually has been in business since February, working long days baking cookies in her Lockport home, then delivering them to clients or participating in community events. Moving operations from her kitchen and dining room to her own shop, she also will be baking breads and pastries, serving coffee and offering light meals, such as soups.
She’s had a 30-year career in the medical field; Brien went into nursing right after high school and, since 2003, has been a physician’s assistant. The decision to pursue her passion followed the 2011 deaths of both of her parents, whom she had nursed during lengthy illnesses.
Brien found solace in baking. “I think I got through most of it from baking,” she said.
The North Buffalo native recalled how hard her parents worked. “When they retired, they both got very ill,” she said. “They never got to travel. They never got to do the things they wanted to do.”
“I thought, ‘I am going to do this,’ ” Brien said.
While maintaining her credentials as a physician’s assistant, Brien has built her other business by baking cookies, then hitting the streets to deliver samples to potential clients. She continued to fill and deliver orders, with help from her husband, Tim, throughout the long process of planning and setting up the bakery.
The space will feature a display in the front window and four tables for customers. An antique sideboard from her parents’ dining room will provide additional display space, and Brien plans to decorate the walls with family photos and the work of local photographers.
“We want it to be a nice, homey atmosphere,” she said.
Though she plans to have four part-time employees working with her, Brien will maintain her hands-on role in the business. “I make all the doughs,” she said.
The bakery is moving into a space formerly occupied by a bridal store that went out of business in 2009. It’s among the properties, between Mang Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard, bought earlier this year by homegrown real estate developer Nick Sinatra.
Sinatra & Company Real Estate has had the facades redone and has renovated vacant sites to attract new tenants, such as Brien.
“The project itself has taken longer than we anticipated,” Sinatra said. “Overall, it’s been very successful.”
Village Square Events and Catering by Sinatra’s, a banquet facility owned by the developer and his two brothers, opened several months ago in a vacant space that most recently had housed a restaurant. And work is expected to begin this week on expanding Mike’s Subs, a fixture on the block since 1956.
Bob Bolt, who has owned Mike’s Subs since 1981, said a wall is being knocked down between his shop and the neighboring space to the south. To make way for the expansion, Elliott Travel Agency moved a few doors north.
Occupancy on that block has gone from 50 to 100 percent, noted Sinatra, the landlord.
A dining room will occupy Mike’s Subs existing space, and the kitchen, which will include a pizza oven, will be relocated to the “new” side. “We’re really going to make a good quality Buffalo pizza,” Bolt said.
The front of Mike’s Subs will be boarded over as work commences on its new, double-wide facade. Customers will be directed to enter through the back door, adjacent to a municipal parking lot.
The business will close for a few days in December, when interior structural work will be done. The project should be completed by early next year, Bolt said.
Customers will enter in the middle of the new storefront. On one north side, there will be a dining counter and stools overlooking Delaware Avenue.
But the south side will look familiar. “The concept of [making] subs in the front window for 56 years – I am not going to change that,” Bolt said.