Mary Kathryn Whatley said she’s been baking as long as she can remember.
Her first foray into the kitchen was after learning how to bake her mother’s most popular recipe, and ever since then she’s had a knack for creating baked goods for people to enjoy.
She is kind of known around here for her poundcake,” Whatley said of her mother, “and that was the first thing I learned how to make.”
However, it wasn’t until recently that Whatley decided to try out baking to earn her living. Once an accountant by profession, she is now a baker – and business owner.
“I enjoyed baking growing up, but I didn’t consider opening a bakery,” Whatley said. “It wasn’t a passion way back then, but it slowly built over time.”
Her bakery, Tart & Tartan, on South Eighth Street in downtown Opelika, celebrated its grand opening last weekend and bakes cookies, fudge, brownies, cupcakes, cakes, casseroles and more for residents to enjoy.
“I started doing more and more baking while I worked in Atlanta as an accountant,” Whatley said, “and I just started bringing in desserts for everybody’s birthdays, and there were a lot of people in the office so I was baking a lot, and people started saying, ‘Oh, this is so good, you should open a bakery.’”
After all of the positive feedback from her coworkers, Whatley decided to leave the accounting world behind. She took an aptitude test and discovered she had a talent for working with her hands in a team environment.
But before taking the leap of starting her own business, she began apprenticing at Sashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods in Montgomery under owner Jimmy Shashy.
“He tasted the first thing I made with his recipe,” Whatley said of Sashy, “and then realized that I was a capable baker before giving me tips and letting me run with stuff and bake in bulk.”
Whatley said the bakery, which gets its name from the plaid pants her father used to wear every Christmas, gives her the chance to provide happiness to people’s lives and celebrations through the food she makes and sells.
“People ask me what my favorite part of the baking process is, and I don’t know exactly,” Whatley said. “I enjoy doing the work, getting to put ‘Happy Birthday, Honey’ or something on a cake, and just knowing that the family is going to take it and have a celebration together and knowing I was a part of making that enjoyable.”