A decade ago, Mary Kathryn Whatley, owner of Tart and Tartan, never dreamed she would be opening her own bakery.
She always experimented with new recipes but never considered making baking her full-time job, she said.
After graduating from Auburn University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting, she moved to Atlanta.
Recently, she decided it was time to come back home to Opelika, Alabama.
Whatley kept the same job but was searching for something else. She took tests to see what she was good at and “scored really high in working with my hands.”
This helped narrow down her options and is how she chose to pursue baking.
Once Whatley had made a decision, she began researching and seeking help in the industry.
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“I was calling people in the baking fields to get advice,” Whatley said.
A baker from Montgomery gave her hope with his passion for the industry, she said.
“The restaurant and baking industry can be a small profit for a lot of hard work,” Whatley said. “To hear someone who had been in the industry for 30 years so excited about baking was what made me realize I can do it.”
Reaching out to other bakers gave her inspiration to take what she learned and make it into her own.
“Even though the decision is ultimately my own, I would be foolish to not seek out others for advice,” she said.
At Tart and Tartan, she said she will have cakes, cookies, tarts and pies.
Whatley will have some standard items, like her mother’s pound cake, but will bake different goods to see what customers like.
“You can get a whole one or a slice and eat it there or take it to go,” Whatley said.
The name of Whatley’s bakery has sentimental value to her.
“My dad wore these tartan pants every Sunday in December and to every Christmas event,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what tartan is, but it’s just plaid.”
She loved the word tartan, but plaid was not in her original design.
“Adding tart to it added the bakery aspect, so now I am selling tarts,” she said.
Although Whatley said she is excited about baking, she is also excited about interacting with customers.
“I am looking forward to having people come in and getting to know regulars,” she said.
Whatley also can’t wait to have a kitchen with enough room to bake.
She said she was surprised by the amount of the planning process for her business has nothing to do with baking.
“I have loved planning for the business,” she said. “It’s not just baking. It’s designing, pricing and lots of other things too.”
She said her accounting knowledge has proven its worth throughout the process.
Tart and Tartan is expected to open during the month of December. The bakery will be open Tuesday through Saturday and will be located in Opelika at 117 S. 8th St., Suite 203.
Whatley said her advice for anyone trying something new is, “Know when to keep pushing past obstacles and when to seek an opportunity.”
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