ASHLAND – Julianna Hritz recently discovered an elementary school relic as she was cleaning out her parents’ house. In fourth grade, she wrote a journal entry declaring she would own a bakery one day.
“It was sort of a revelatory moment. This is something that has been ingrained in me since I was a really little kid,’” Hritz said. “I didn't honestly remember that was a specific thing I claimed I wanted to do.”
As she grew up, Hritz (pronounced like the Ritz cracker) decided to pursue a more straightforward career path. She went to Ashland University to study education and planned to teach family and consumer sciences, formerly known as 比特币交易app哪个好home ec.
Hritz eventually realized educating in a classroom was not her greatest passion. After graduation, she took a leap of faith and began selling baked goods at the Ashland Farmers Market. Soon, Vines Bakery was born.
This year, the pandemic could easily have devastated Hritz’s business, a small bakery and coffee shop. Instead of losing business, Hritz was reminded of the blessing of the Ashland community. It seemed as if the whole town rallied around her.
“I think that we’ve been able to make it through this year because of the support of our community that loves us so much and would reach out and do everything they could to support our bakery,” Hritz said. “People have been so understanding and respectful of all the policies that we are required to put into place, so we're very grateful for that.”
Rebecca Parillo, the director of Ashland University’s study abroad program, knew Hritz first as a student. Now, Parillo is one of Vines’ regular customers. She stops in every Friday for a special treat.
“Julianna is a great part of the Ashland community,” Parillo said. “Her smile radiates from behind her mask.”
Parillo believes the bakery is more than a business endeavor for Hritz. “It really seems like a ministry and a passion for her.”
Promoting acts of community kindness has been fundamental to Hritz’s work since opening the bakery’s doors nearly three years ago. One example is their scone wall, where anonymously purchased scones are gifted to future customers.
“People can come in and buy a little card for the cost of a scone and make it out to either a friend or someone that needs a hug or anyone (at all),” Hritz said. Customers get creative with this, like gifting a scone to “someone wearing sweatpants.”
“It’s a super fun way for people—in an age when we're all a little bit isolated and separated—to know that they're paying it forward or doing something positive for someone else, even if it's a stranger,” Hritz said.
Hritz notices customers have only become increasingly generous in 2020. “Since people aren't doing face-to-face interaction as much, I see a lot more people getting things to deliver to doorsteps,” Hritz said.
“Someone this morning said that their brother's fiancée is having such a hard time because their wedding is supposed to be in December, and all these new rules and regulations are coming about with weddings for COVID,” Hritz said. “She’s having a really hard day, and (the customer) just wanted to get her a special cookie and drop it off.”
“A woman called me the other day—she's out of state; I think she lives in New York—and her parents are a little bit older, and I guess their neighbors had been doing a lot of lawn work for them, raking leaves and doing stuff like that. She called and said, ‘I don't know their name, but I know their address.’”
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Hritz will only see close family. She empathizes with anyone missing extended family this holiday season.
“Because the holidays are pared down this year, it almost makes us pay attention to the core meaning of the holiday—what truly are we thankful for?” Hritz said. “When all those fancy table settings and all the grandiose sort of celebratory things are stripped away, what is at the heart of (the holidays)?”
Similarly, Parillo’s family of four will be celebrating Thanksgiving at 比特币交易app哪个好home this year, forgoing their normal drive to reunite with long-distance family in New York and New Hampshire. She preordered a Thanksgiving variety box from Vines for a little bit of comfort.
“I'm going to look forward to my cup of coffee in the morning and figuring out which treat I'm going to take from the box,” Parillo said. “It's a little bit of comfort when things are so hard right now."
Parillo notes she has lost 20 pounds on a weight loss program while still enjoying a Vines pastry every week. “I think it's because they’re high quality and made from scratch,” she said. “They’re definitely worth it as my treat for the week. There’s no regret.”
“Baked goods have such a special ability to offer comfort to people,” Hritz said. “I think it's something about the fact that (they’re) a frivolous item almost. It's just like an indulgence and something that is truly a treat.”
Recreating family recipes and reminiscing about past traditions can also bring comfort and make loved ones feel a little closer. “My grandma always had this tradition of making chicken noodle soup for lunch before Thanksgiving,” Hritz said. “She would start from scratch and use a whole chicken and break it down and would be boiling the broth for hours.”
“We have the same sort of casseroles and desserts every year. It brings me right back to sitting at my grandparents’ house when I was 6, and we’re still making the same things now. We have the classic midwestern collection of cheesy, rice-filled condensed soup casseroles.”
With a controversial twist to otherwise heartwarming memories, Hritz added, “I really love sweet potato casserole, and we are a pecan streusel crumble family, not a marshmallow family. I know that's heavily debated.”
Hritz’s lifelong passion for baking and her love for connecting people shines through her work at Vines. During this difficult holiday season, she will continue to use her online presence to offer humor and uplifting messages to the Ashland community while she makes decadent pastries behind the scenes.
“It’s been a hard year. I miss hugs,” Hritz said. “I often try to encourage people through our social media just to look beyond the current moment. I try to encourage our community to pay attention to their neighbors.”