Ashleigh Luna of Grain Valley grew up watching the Food Network. By the time she was 9 years old, she was helping her mom whip up such items as crab and goat cheese empanadas.
“Everything kind of centered on what we were going to have for dinner, what the dessert would be,” she said. “It was always about getting everyone around the table. We are a small family, but we are a close family.”
She graduated from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg in 2012 and then earned a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University in Denver in 2013. She has been working full time at Pryde’s Old Westport, a kitchen and housewares store, while testing recipes and figuring out her next career move.
Then the little bakery space in the back of Pryde’s became available.
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Luna, 25, had already plied her boss and owner of Pryde’s, Louise Meyers, with her baked goods.
“I had several other people inquire about the space, but I knew Ashleigh’s culinary capabilities and she has a tremendous work ethic. And she has been a delight to work with,” Meyers said.
Luna’s father, Charles Luna, became her business partner, and they opened Ashleigh’s Bake Shop earlier this month in Pryde’s at 115 Westport Road. Currently, the shop sells apple, cherry and coconut cream pies; malted milk chocolate s’mores tarts; and brown butter banana bars. But she also is adding specials, such as blueberry pie bars, as well as taking suggestions from her new customers, who are asking for quiche and more pie flavors.
“I love making something with my hands that puts a smile on people’s faces,” she said.
The Upper Crust pie bakery had previously operated in the spot. Upper Crust started selling its pies in the Overland Park Farmers Market before opening in Pryde’s in late 2005. About three years ago, it took a storefront at 7943 Santa Fe Drive in downtown Overland Park and will concentrate on that location.
“As much as we loved Westport and Pryde’s, the space is super small,” said Jan Knobel, partner with her sister, Elaine Van Buskirk, in Upper Crust. “It is great for startup businesses. But our business has grown so much, and we are also doing more wholesale now.”