After a brief hiatus, Mary Plummer of Mary Plummer's Italian Cookies and Catering is once more doing what she loves to do – creating her homemade food and cookies to help make any event more memorable and yes, very tasteful.
For nearly 20 years, the name Plummer and the word cookie has been synonymous in Oswego county.
When asked how she got her start, she usually responds, "My brother made me do it."
She loves to explain how her brother, Ralph Pauldine, owner of Oswego Supply, had an elaborate kitchen display at an Oswego Home Show.
"He asked me to make some cookies for him," Plummer explained. "He thought it would be nice to be able to serve coffee and cookies at the show."
Plummer's cookies only lasted one day of the two-day show. She made more cookies for the next day and the sales manager of Oswego Supply informed Plummer that people were asking who made the cookies and how they might be able to order more. He told her he wrote her name down on the back of his business card. As a result, Plummer's phone began ringing and people were asking her for pricing, varieties and if she delivered.
The following summer, Plummer sold her cookies at the Oswego Farmers' Market and she said the response was wonderful. Next, she began taking orders for wedding trays and then holiday orders.
Plummer said her second season at the Farmers' Market was almost a weekly sell-out and she began thinking that she had a viable business. She signed up for the Mico-Enterprise Training Program administered in part by the city's Community Development Office.
After completion, she received a low interest loan to help her start up her business, then called Aunt Mary's Italian Cookies and Catering. She and her husband, Kevin, renovated part of their home to include a separate kitchen which is fully licensed, insured and inspected.
Plummer worked from her home for several years until she had the opportunity to open a small cafe in
Canal Commons, which was so successful she quickly outgrew it. The other downfall of that particular location, she said, was that although the kitchen had a refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven and hot plate, it had no stove.
Plummer was forced to cook at home and then unload and carry heavy bins of food up a flight of stairs every day into the cafe.
"When the food was gone, it was gone and there was no way to cook more," she explained.
Plummer said when her brother purchased storefront next to the commons, she jumped on the chance to have a real kitchen and larger seating space. She said the additional expense of a larger restaurant did not worry her.
"We already had an established business and had proven ourselves," Plummer said. "I knew with the capability of cooking on site and putting out more food, I could really do some serious business."
Her track record easily got her a business loan from Pathfinder Bank, allowing her to renovate the space, build her kitchen and buy everything she needed from oven to counters to dishes.
The summer nights of the farmer's market, Plummer said, were fantastic and with all of the new equipment, she said she was totally self-contained for off-site catering to help in the lean months when the restaurant business slowed down.
"We catered family reunions in the middle of the woods with no power," Plummer recalled. "We even
catered Bill Wadsworth wedding in the middle of his grandparents' apple orchard, which was just beautiful."
In the end, however, although she loved being downtown and intermingling with all of the people, the commitment of running a restaurant came at the expense of quality time with her family.
"It was really nice to work out of your home, when you are busy you are busy and when you are not – you can close the doors and go to your grandchild's ball game," Plummer said.
Rather than close the doors of a successful restaurant, however, she decided to sell her business, which, without Plummer at the helm, ultimately did end up closing.
She said the decision to sell not only her restaurant, but her name, was difficult and emotional for her. But, one day, she said she began baking Babka and she could feel herself beginning to heal. She soon felt she was ready to start anew.
Plummer said she has re-opened her home kitchen and is looking forward to serving the community once more at events, parties and weddings. And, although cookies are Plummer's primary offerings, she also caters brunch, lunch, dinners and hors d'oeuvres. Recently, she has been busy baking turkeys and turkey dinners for the holidays.
"My food is all home-style with authentic Italian recipes from both sides of the family – grandparents, aunts and other relatives – and as much as possible is made from scratch," Plummer said. "My cookies are each hand rolled and hand glazed and are never mass produced."
Over the years, not only her baking, but her cooking, has received numerous accolades and awards, including her award-winning lasagna and The Palladium-Times "Reader's Choice" award for Best Desserts.
At this particular time of her life, she said, she is looking forward to doing events, parties and weddings, which are scheduled functions.
"I think I am ready for things that are a little more predictable," Plummer said.
This decision has allowed Plummer to do what she loves best – cooking and baking – yet still affords her time to babysit her grandchildren, attend family activities and spend quality time with her husband. She even volunteers at the Oswego Community Christian School, giving cooking lessons and working in the school store.
One of the things she said she is really looking forward to is the farmers' market where she will be able to visit and reconnect with people, which is what she loves the most.
"I feel like I have been given another chance." Plummer said. "I get to have the contact with people I love and have it in a more manageable way. I'm ready to roll."
For more information and to discover all Mary Plummer's Cookies and Catering has to offer, go to AuntMarysItalianCookies.com or call 312-0381.