Pastry chef Anthony Leberto, 57, and former restaurateur and food- and wine-marketing executive Ross Wassermann,* 61, are blending their culinary know-how to cook up something sweet in Sharon Springs.
The pair launched Brimstone Bakery at 922 Chestnut St. in 2019. Though they began by producing proprietary goods for the Beekman 1802 brand in September 2018, Wassermann said, in February 2019 the Brimstone website launched and, in April, the bakery’s takeaway window opened for curbside pickup.
“I had just gotten married … and we were planning the next chapter of our lives,” Leberto, who previously worked in New York City, said. “I’d always, in the back of my head, wanted to do an affordable café and do my craft, but have a kitchen.”
Leberto said he met Wassermann through a real estate agent while visiting Sharon Springs to view properties.
“We didn’t even know each other before we’d concocted a genius business plan,” he said.
Wassermann, also previously of New York City, said his family summered in the Schoharie County village, maintaining a home since the 1880s.
Brimstone’s offerings, Leberto said, developed from connections in the community and his and Wassermann’s experience.
“I’m a baker and Ross had extensive restaurant experience; that’s the world we navigated for 30 years,” he said. “So, we thought to have the cafe, but … we wanted a business that was multifaceted, with different revenue streams.
“We bought the business from a woman who worked for Beekman, producing jams and jellies,” he said. “That’s not my forte, but we bought this business that included a space and professional kitchen and equipment, so we started producing products for Beekman, then introducing new products and then our own products. The ideas were cookies and baked goods that I’d been doing for years and stuff Ross had been doing for years.”
The work, Leberto and Wassermann said, evolved to include a website for the direct consumer as well as several regional wholesale accounts. The latter, they said, generates the lion’s share of Brimstone’s business.
Today, they said, online offerings and curbside sweets, a prelude to a brick-and-mortar cafe menu, are generating buzz.
“Our biscotti have really become our calling card,” Wassermann said. “We don’t have a single account that doesn’t sell them and there are three different flavors and no consensus about the favorite. That’s our signature item.
“At the window, people are pretty wild about our sticky buns,” he said. “They tend to sell out every Saturday. And we have three different brownies that we love.”
“We also do terrific scones,” Leberto said. “I’ve been doing scones for 30 years. You’d call them an English scone, but they’re much lighter. We do those with wild dried blueberries and lemon and they are very popular … and we had a call to do something savory, so we developed a ham, cheddar and rosemary scone.”
Their combined decades of knowledge, Wassermann and Leberto said, helped refine Brimstone’s fare.
“As we’ve developed the business, certain things that may not have been working have fallen by the wayside,” Wassermann said. “So, we can honestly say everything we do is pretty popular, because it’s the things that work. Neither one of us is young, so we’re doing this because it’s something we love and what we love about it is the quality. It’s more important that it be good than it be a lot.
“While we’re not ever going to be in competition with Price Chopper when it comes to price, we are determined to give people value for their money,” he said. “The product is very good and people seem to appreciate that.”
“I’ve been very specific as a chef about how we want things to be,” Leberto said. “We’re very focused and we’ve learned from our past mistakes. We’re both very focused and we really want to try to grow this brand and make it something special. I think it is and people seem to really like it.
“It’s a pretty elevated product,” he said. “We use Ghirardelli cocoa and Ghirardelli chocolate … and things are not super-sweet, they’re well tested and tasted, so the demographic is a little more sophisticated.”
That demographic, Wassermann said, represents a “real cross section,” including customers from “Oneonta, Albany and Utica.”
“We get everybody,” Leberto said. “We have all sorts of people, which we’re really grateful for. We get a lot of support from the local community, the more they find out about us, and we have Park Avenue clients, so that range is pretty wide-sweeping.”
Wassermann and Leberto said, as Brimstone continues establishing itself, they hope to grow.
“We have our (curbside) window, but the next step will be a physical retail shop and cafe,” Leberto said. “How the cafe evolves remains to be seen, but we’re definitely looking at a retail space relatively soon … and we are doing a lot of research and development with other companies.”
“If we can, we’d like to expand,” Wassermann said. “We’re still a very small operation, but we would love to expand from being a once-a-week window to longer hours or other days and add outdoor seating. Growth is definitely on the horizon.”
The Brimstone Bakery window is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, though Leberto and Wassermann said special orders are welcome any time.
For more information or to place an order, visit brimstonebake.com, find “Brimstone Bakery” on Facebook, follow @brimstonebakery on Instagram or call 518-416-4159.
*changed at 11 a.m. July 4 to correct name.