FAIRBANKS — Successful food businesses in Fairbanks often get their starts at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market and then move on to a permanent home. Marlo’s Bakery is managing to do both.
After three summers of selling delectable croissants and other baked goods at the farmers market, the bakery opened at 2304 Airport Way in March.
Each summer, customers at the farmers market asked Cathy George-Skrivanek, owner of Marlo’s, when she was going to open a real shop.
“I took some time and found a space nice enough and small enough,” she said. “I wanted to keep it just pastries and grow in baby steps.”
The cozy, cheerful shop was previously Touch of Gold, then Bishop’s Gallery and finally Vivid before it was home to Marlo’s. The store is named after George-Skrivanek’s 8-year-old daughter and it’s truly a family business. Nelia and Robert George, George-Skrivanek’s parents, help out as well as George-Skrivanek’s husband Tyler and the couple’s niece.
“My family is super supportive,” George-Skrivanek said. “They are a huge help.”
Nelia George hails from the Philippines and bakes pastries and breads from her homeland. The fare varies each day but shoppers will likely find several kinds of Filipino sweets and dinner rolls alongside the staples of croissants and brioche. The cinnamon rolls and sticky buns are popular, but the chocolate-filled croissant is the superstar.
Sometimes surprises are in store, such as pumpkin cinnamon bread; the odor is enough to draw people inside. One thing you won’t find that people come in requesting is doughnuts. “We don’t have a deep fat fryer,” George-Skrivanek said.
Marlo’s twice-baked almond croissants are heavenly concoctions and a clever way to use leftover baked goods. She dips day-old croissants into simple syrup and adds almond frangipani prior to baking them again.
George-Skrivanek strives to use local ingredients, currently incorporating rhubarb from her fellow vendors at the farmers market and adding berries as they become abundant.
She starts her day at 5 a.m. and does prep work on a rotating basis, placing dough in a proof box and continually baking it. “I can bake a lot in 15 minutes in my commercial oven.”
George-Skrivanek has enjoyed baking since she was a child. She attended the culinary program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and learned techniques she put to use in restaurant jobs. Eventually, she rented a storefront cabin at Pioneer Park, where the owners of Lavelle’s Bistro found her and brought her on board as pastry chef for 13 years.
At Lavelle’s she not only made breads and desserts, but also she helped with catering for events, which gave her freedom and flexibility to try new recipes.
She’s been surprised at how much work this new venture is. And she continues to set up her booth at the farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday all summer long, often selling out of croissants midway through the day. “It’s good outreach,” she said.
Running her business takes patience and a knowledge of timing, she explained. “I thought this would be easier, but it’s all mine. I’m putting myself in it and at the end of the day I’m happy.”
She may expand her repertoire, adding cakes and pies. “Right now we’re at the pastry stage, trying to keep up with what we have.”
Nancy Tarnai, a former News-Miner reporter, is a freelance writer living in Fairbanks. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.