Carina De Castri, Ricky Podsialdo and Travis Stern are all smiles as they hustle around after hours in the back of the Heritage Bakery in Glen Cove. Every Thursday, they spend their evenings crafting and baking delicious treats, fulfilling the orders received on their online bakery, Pudgy Owl, which officially opened for business on May 23.
The company sells a variety of cookies and brownies, all of which are made from scratch and never frozen. De Castri serves as Pudgy Owl’s lead baker, crafting hundreds of delicacies by hand each week using minimal ingredients to create maximum flavor. After everything is baked and cooled, the three package their products and personally deliver them to their customers’ doors the next day.
De Castri and Podsialdo came up with the idea for an online bakery in early 2017, enlisting Stern to help them out from time to time. A special education teacher in Queens by trade, De Castri has always loved to cook and bake, helping her mother and grandmother in the kitchen throughout her childhood. She carried this passion into her adult years, bringing an assortment of cookies and brownies to social functions.
“Being Italian, we like to feed each other and ‘mangia,’” De Castri explained. “[We’ve] always got a good appetite, so I like to feed people and make them happy.”
The two business partners met when De Castri was dating Podsialdo’s brother. Whenever she would bring her baked goods to parties, they would always be gobbled up immediately. Podsialdo, who works in cyber-security and owns a collection of businesses, took notice and eventually suggested she sell them.
Combining Podsialdo’s business background and De Castri’s baking abilities, the two formed Pudgy Owl in May of 2017. The name came from Podsialdo’s lifelong love for owls and months of throwing around various adjectives that they felt could properly represent their product. They decided on “pudgy” thanks to the word’s informal, humorous way of describing indulgence in food that isn’t exactly diet-friendly.
With their business in its infancy, De Castri and Podsialdo said they are still working out the kinks and learning more about the baking industry as they go along. De Castri is looking to add to Pudgy Owl’s menu, with her current mission centering around bringing her homemade caramel brownies out of her kitchen and into the bakery. On the business end, Podsialdo is using the experience he has gained over the last two months to gauge things such as the best possible price for their products.
“My whole thing is you can sit down and plan, do margins and this, that and the other thing, “Podsialdo said, “but at the end of the day, just doing it is what really pushes you farther.”
Currently, individual batches of 36 cookies or 32 brownies cost between $35 and $40. Batches of 12 thumbprint cookies or chocolate cherry bomb cookies run for $22.
According to Podsialdo, an average week will see Pudgy Owl bake around eight batches of goods for its customers. However, he said that more people find out about the company every day thanks heavily to social media, and its customer base is steadily growing. De Castri said she is thrilled that orders come in from people outside of their friends and family, with local residents and businesses expressing interest in their products.
One of those customers is Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke, who raved about Pudgy Owl’s treats. “They make some of the best brownies and cookies I’ve ever tasted,” he said. “My only fear is that they start sending cookies or brownies to City Hall because, as big as I am, I’ll be twice the size.”
As this customer base grows, Podsialdo said, he and De Castri will have a better understanding of the demand for their product. This, in turn, will help them determine how to best manage Pudgy Owl’s future and to satisfy more and more people from Glen Cove and beyond.
“We’re a small business that makes things with love,” he said. “We’re really passionate about it, we try to use the best ingredients that we can, and when people try our product, we really want to make them feel happy and good about it.”
For more information on Pudgy Owl and how to order from its menu of delicious baked goods, visit www.pudgyowl.com.