Regina Interview
(Grandma's Secrets)

Founded in 1995, Grandma’s Secrets was named in 1997, by The New York Daily News as Critic’s Choice for desserts in New York, and one of New York’s top bakeries by New York Magazine.
Grandma’s Secrets owner Regina has appeared on such television shows as the Food Network’s “In Food Today”, “The Today Show”, “Good Day New York”, and “Fox Five News”.
She’s created birthday cakes for B.B. King, Tommy Hilfiger, Heavy D, and Luther Van Dross.
We spoke to Regina about her background, how she got started and what her Secret of Success is.

Q – Regina- are you the only one who knows Grandma’s Secrets?
A – No. Actually my mom knows a lot of ‘em. What I didn’t learn from my grandmother I learned from my mom who of course knew from her mother, my daughter actually knows some of ‘em ‘cause I’ve passed ‘em on to her. So, I’m not the only one. But, I’m the only one here.

Q – Did you have any brothers or sisters who like to bake?
A – I have 2 brothers, but, they don’t like to bake. They like to eat my cakes. (Laughs).

Q – Is baking something you have to have a natural ability for, or can it be learned?
A – You have to have a passion for it. It’s a lot of hard work. It came very naturally to me because it was something I loved to do. It’s a dying art. Very few people can still bake from scratch. These bakeries that you go into these days are not homemade. That stuff is frozen and shipped, from the mid-west. A lot of stuff is cake mix. Very few people can actually bake from scratch. I don’t know if it comes naturally or more people would be able to do it.

Q – You don’t use preservatives, additives or animal by products in your desserts. I take it that’s kind of rare in your line of work.
A – I use some milk, eggs, and butter. So, that’s dairy. But, I don’t use lard. That’s important to a lot of people with dietary or religious restrictions. There’s no additives or preservatives because I don’t bake in advance. Everything is custom made for the customer, who orders it. And so, I don’t bake on a Monday and the cake is still sitting on the shelf on Thursday or Friday. I don’t do that. I bake specifically to order.

Q – You started this co. in 1995?
A – Yes.

Q – What were you doing prior to that?
A – I was a paralegal, working in a law firm, (Laughs), when I guess the entrepreneurial bug hit me.

Q – You would certainly understand contracts. That’s one thing you could put to use in your business.
A – Being a paralegal really helped me because I can multi-task. (Laughs). I know how to meet deadlines. I know how to work when I’m extremely tired. I know how to be very well organized. So, that background really, really helped me.

Q – How long were you a paralegal?
A – In total about 17 years.

Q – So, you were baking on the side all those years?
A – No. Only for a few months. I mean. I’ve always baked. I love to bake. But, I only baked for the holidays, for family and friends. At this particular time I had run my first New York City Marathon and they had a party for the people that belonged to the New York Road Runners Club, and we all had to bring something. So of course I brought pies ‘cause that’s what I did best. And, for the first time people outside of my normal circle of family and friends were tasting my desserts. Most people didn’t even know I baked. Everyone fell in love with the desserts, and asked me could I make them a pie. I said sure. Well, what do you charge? I don’t charge anything. What do you mean you don’t charge? You do this for free? Well, I’m not professional. I do this out of love. They couldn’t believe it. And they were like, let me give you $10 for a pie next week. Those were my first couple of orders. Then the word spread, and more and more people ordered. What I started doing was I had to bring the pies to work, ‘cause I would run in Central Park after work. People on the train were smelling cinnamon. They were handing me their phone numbers, and asking me if they could please place orders. It became a constant thing. Everyday I was bringing pies and cakes to the office. So, eventually I lost my job which was a wonderful thing. I decided I wasn’t going to go back to work. I was going to stay focused on trying to build a business. So, that was how it began. It gets harder every year. As you grow an expand it becomes more difficult. I’m still wondering when the easy part comes.

Q – Did it take quite a bit of money to get your business off the ground?
A – I had about $10. If I’d had an infusion of capital it might’ve been wonderful. When I made those pies for that party I spent about $11 in the supermarket. I took nine pies down to the party, and the people put money in my hands. It was a long time before I started shopping wholesale. Almost every dime I had went right back into buying sugar and stuff at the supermarket, and getting copies of flyers made. After about a year or so, I discovered the wholesale market and I started buying my flour and sugar wholesale, which gave me a little more of a profit margin. But, I technically started with $10.

Q – How did people like Tommy Hilfiger hear about you, word of mouth?
A – Tommy Hilfiger was actually an account, ‘cause I met his Marketing Manager at a function and he brought me the account. So, I make lots of cakes for the employees there.

Q – How about B.B. King and Luther Van Dross?
A – Just word of mouth, Internet. Yellow Pages-----when I had a Yellow Pages ad. The name kind of speaks for itself. It makes people want to buy from me. So, I get a lot of business just based on the co. name.

Q – When did you make that cake for Luther Van Dross.
A – Just before his stroke which was two years ago.

Q – Does it ever interest you to keep tabs on your competition?
A – Oh, I go onto other websites all the time, to get a feel for what’s out there, to come up with new ideas of my own, to incorporate other peoples’ ideas into cake designs. Get an idea for what prices are like in other places so I know what my prices should be comparably. I talk with other bakers all the time, and we exchange stories. It helps to know that other people have the same struggles you do. I have a network of bakers I talk to especially here in New York, so I kind of know what the competition is doing.

Official website:

© Gary James All Rights Reserved