UNION SPRINGS | A bell jingles, the front door opens. Karen Luziani is just pulling out a large tray of chocolate chip and walnut cookies from the oven.
The air is filled with a baked mixed of warm, sweet scents. It's late in the day Wednesday afternoon, and the smells serve as atmospheric reminders of the culinary creations concocted throughout the day.
The fruits — or, rather, treats — of her labor are readily apparent after entering Luziani's bakery in Union Springs, Karen's Country Confections. This month, the 61-year-old is celebrating one year of professionally pursuing one of her longtime joys: baking.
"I make everything from scratch," she said. "I don't use any mixes, and I like to use as much local stuff as I can. My stuff doesn't taste like it's mass-produced. When I make cookies, I'll make three dozen, not 300."
Karen's Country Confections, located at 147 Main St., has seen quite a bit of customer traffic through Facebook and word of mouth, Luziani said. A one-woman show, she posts on Facebook to showcase what she's cooking on any given day.
She has seen many people from the Cayuga County area, particularly Mackenzie-Childs consumers, come through, especially since Luziani's bakery is one of the stops on the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail.
"The publicity I get from (the trail) is fantastic," she said.
Luziani said her enterprising bakery started last year on May 17 — just a few months after she found herself without a job.
Like a mix of ingredients, Luziani tossed around the idea of opening her own baking business. The concept was one she had considered for quite a while as part of a natural evolution for her tasty talents.
Indeed, the Union Springs resident said she's baked plenty of times for social and familial engagements like weddings, first communions and graduation parties. She had also sold her baked goods at village farmers markets.
Plus, Luziani saw an opportunity after a spot opened up on Main Street — a spot, she said, that served for roughly four years as a bakery before the owners decided to move on.
So after consulting with Onondaga Community College's Small Business Development Center and Auburn chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, Karen's Country Confections was up and running with a three-year lease on the property.
The bakery serves homemade favorites like cookies, cinnamon rolls, muffins, pies and granola. On the weekends, Luziani whips together a breakfast special — an on-the-go assortment of eggs, bacon, cheese and green onions, with a breakfast cookie.
In particular, Luziani said she's found her Cayuga Lake Croutons, made from leftovers of Italian bread, as a particularly popular snack.
For her first year, Luziani's business, she said, was mostly fantastic through summer, fall and early winter, right up to Christmas. The recent harsh winter, however, put a damper on the momentum.
With many of her seasonal customers enjoying southern climates as snow and harsh temperatures pounded Cayuga County, Luziani said she may close through those wintry months in her second year.
"It was a hard winter," she said. "Now I know, looking back, to maybe sock a little money aside maybe, if I want to be closed for the month of January."
A second season will also bring a slight expansion to Luziani's menu.
Last winter, she served hot soups every Thursday, which was a popular seller. Starting in June, Luziani said, she will be serving sandwiches on homemade rolls with a cookie.
A small dining space within her bakery presently serves to seat patrons looking to enjoy their food indoors. That space may soon be used for programming means, such as cupcake decorating parties for children or similar events, Luziani said.
No matter what direction she goes in, Luziani is hoping to make her business a profitable enterprise this year. After establishing herself last May, Luziani said she managed to break even financially.
Now, the goal is to build on her strengths.
"I'm my own boss," she said. "That's the dream. For 40 years, I sat behind a desk. Now I'm on my feet for 12, 13 hours a day — and that's okay. I'm my own boss and I answer to me."