Alex Garrett places pies into a display case (above) and talks with Danny Shelton (below) before  he placed his order. Shelton was the first customer served by  Garrett’s shop, Sweet P’s, 307 W. Main St., on opening day on Monday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
Alex Garrett places pies into a display case (above) and talks with Danny Shelton (below) before he placed his order. Shelton was the first customer served by Garrett’s shop, Sweet P’s, 307 W. Main St., on opening day on Monday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
Alex Garrett, owner of the new Madison bakery, Sweet P's, says if she could only bake one thing, it would be cinnamon rolls.

"Those are my sweet spot," she says with a smile. "They are what people like. It's what I like to make."

Fortunately for her customers, though, she doesn't have to limit herself to only one item.

Garrett says she didn't grow up seeing herself as a baker. "But I did grow up watching my grandmother and great-grandmother baking quite often.

"When I was recently married, maybe in my early 20s, I finally decided to ask my grandma, 'What are these recipes? How do you do this? Show me how to do it.' And it was just for sheer know-how. There was no intention of a business back then. I was just curious."

Garrett made it a goal to learn those techniques because she believes old-style, from scratch baking has become a lost art.

"Pies and cookies are break-and-bake and pre-made crusts. So I just took a fancy to learning things that will be gone eventually if we don't appreciate them and learn how to do the art. Once I developed the technique from people, I saw a need for it," she says.

Garrett said there was a desire from people, a demand from consumers, for those products that are actually made from scratch.

But what originally led Garrett to decide to take baking from a hobby to a job began as what she calls "pure mishap."

Garrett had been a marketing and operations manager for a financial assets firm when everything changed for her in 2012.

"We were up in Indianapolis, and when I lost my job, we moved back home - which now we obviously see as the biggest blessing that we received. When we got back here I was trying to see how I could make a few extra dollars," she says.

Upon her return to Madison, Garrett saw that the Farmer's Market was thriving. She called organizer Dave Adams to ask what might sell well at the market. "He told me, 'Sell some baked goods. That goes over really well.' So I made a few pies, we sold them. We kept increasing our production every week to the point where we needed to decide if we were going to make a business out of it or not."

The success was good, Garrett says, but the decision had to be made because baking for others had taken over their kitchen, their house and their life.

"So we made a decision and that's why we're here. Every experience I've had," Garrett says, "has led me exactly to where I am, from learning to bake, to gaining skills in marketing - marketing is huge for my business - I've just taken what has come in my life and used it where I am now, so there are no regrets about the old career."

While there is some repetitiveness and redundancy in baking for a business instead of for herself, Garrett says there is still a lot of joy in her kitchen.

"When I bake, I bake by myself. I'm in my kitchen. It's my time of solitude and peace."One of the best things she says she has learned in her new career is that she doesn't thrive behind a desk. "I thrive when I feel like I've accomplished something physically. When I've produced a product that you can touch and see. There are just some people who are not supposed to be pushing numbers.

"I never realized how much satisfaction I'd get out of working with my hands," she says.