New business extends coffee shop’s mastery of good taste.
Even before Penny’s Bakery opened in April, customers were already calling and knocking on the door. If there’s one thing Penny Romero knows how to do, it’s please a crowd with tasty treats. And once again, she’s discovered a winning recipe.
“It feels overwhelming, but even more exciting,” says Romero, smiling from ear to ear next to the neon ‘Bakery’ sign in the window. “Everyone’s been so supportive and I’m grateful for how warmly we’ve been received by the Martin City community.”
Romero has become a familiar face after launching popular Martin City Coffee nearly four years ago on Holmes Road along with co-owner Rick Ramsey, and personally working to fine tune the operation. Ramsey and Romero’s latest entrepreneurial effort is right next door, wonderfully paired with the coffee shop, and quickly rising to similar fame. Penny’s Bakery is open 6am-2pm every day except Sunday. The daily menu is fresh, original, and extraordinary, so you shouldn’t wait too late to swing by.
“If we sell out before 2pm, that’s it until tomorrow,” says Romero, polishing a glass display case bursting with color and variety. “The earlier you get here, the better!”
Morning customers are certainly finding the trip well worth it. Donuts, muffins, danishes, cinnamon rolls, cookies, scones — all of it made from scratch in the true tradition of a hometown bakery, with delightful oven-fresh scents filling the air as proof. Step inside, have a bite, and watch bakers work their magic right there behind the counter. You’ll immediately get a sense of the success that’s lifting Romero’s expanding Martin City culinary brand to new heights.
A Business Baked to Perfection.
Penny’s Bakery replaces Ramsey’s Burgers, a casualty of restaurant labor shortages and a myriad of other problems brought on by the pandemic. Shutting down the burger joint was painful for Ramsey and Romero after all the work they put into developing the land, extending utility connections beneath Holmes Road, and constructing the building itself. Burgers were a good idea, it’s just that the timing was bad. However, the silver lining of the restaurant’s demise turned out to be good timing for the birth of an even better idea: a bakery.
“I developed the unique savory menu at Martin City Coffee,” says Romero, a food artisan influenced by Venezuelan, Dominican, and Puerto Rican ancestry. “But I am not a baker. That’s not my strength. We had a feeling a bakery was the right idea for replacing the burger restaurant, but there was no question we were going to need help.”
Word of mouth led Ramsey to a baking pro who just happened to be available, and Romero’s eye for talent and deep devotion to uncompromising standards confirmed the choice. Brittany Brittin was hired faster than you can ice a cupcake. Formally trained as a pastry chef in San Francisco with a resume including the Intercontinental Hotel in Kansas City, Brittin couldn’t be better matched for the job.
“I had taken a long break from baking to start a family,” says Brittin. “Recently I had gone back into the workforce to make some extra money working as a paraprofessional with special education students at a middle school. It allowed me to stay on the same schedule with my own kids. But my heart has always been with baking.”
And baking runs especially deep in her heart. Brittin obviously loves the work and her experience speaks for itself. But stepping into the top role at Penny’s Bakery allows her to achieve something even more meaningful. It’s a promise fulfilled.
“When I was six years old, I asked my grandmother to teach me how to make apple pie. She really tried, but I was too young and failed over and over again. So I told her that when I grow up I’m going to have my own bakery to make sure she’ll be able to taste my first apple pie done right,” recalls Brittin, pausing for a moment to temper her emotions. “Unfortunately, I lost my grandmother before Penny’s Bakery came along. But in my own way, I’m still delivering on that promise. This work means everything to me in so many ways. It’s a dream come true.”
A good business idea, the perfect baker, and then suddenly, all the right equipment. Just as Penny’s Bakery began to take shape, a donut shop down the road in Kansas City went under. All the equipment came up for auction and Romero says she won it in a competitive bidding war.
“Most everything here came from the auction. It’s just great equipment. The mixers, the display cases, all of it. Just amazing! First I get lucky with an expert baker and then the donut shop auction comes along. The timing of everything is still hard to believe.”
Get the feeling Penny’s Bakery is meant to be? If all the good fortune during the startup journey doesn’t convince you, consider connections to the name.
“Penny’s Bakery isn’t just about me,” says Penny Romero. “Brittany has a little girl named Penelope. Can you believe it?”
Two Great Businesses. One Smart Relationship.
Martin City Coffee and Penny’s Bakery are a match made in foodie heaven. Each business plays a distinct role in the daily routines of discriminating customers. Martin City Coffee is known for world-class coffee and an eclectic mix of savory menu items.
“It’s more of a restaurant,” says Romero. “You can get breakfast and other food that’s great any time of the day. Breakfast burritos, avocado toast, specialty sandwiches. And it’s made from scratch.”
Just like Martin City Coffee, Penny’s Bakery products are also made from scratch. But unlike the coffee shop, the bakery is all-in on the sweet side. You can expect a wide variety of donuts from yeast to cake. Muffins, danishes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and breads will also be regular offerings. Look for creative seasonal highlights too, drawing on fruits and other ingredients at their peak. Plus, gluten free and vegan options. And if scones are your thing, have a taste of nirvana.
“I make a killer scone,” says Brittin with wide eyes. “I can turn anybody who’s not a sweet person into a scone person. I’m always creating new scone flavors and I love suggestions. Got an idea? Let’s try it!”
You won’t find coffee at Penny’s Bakery, but there are a few grab and go bottled beverage options. And Brittin says special bakery requests are welcome. “Need to order a dozen donuts in advance? Maybe a custom cake for a special occasion? Just call us or reach out to us online. And you can swing by and pick it up in our drive thru.”
Shared ownership brings out the best in both businesses. Penny’s Bakery is a wholesale vendor for Martin City Coffee, supplying a daily assortment of select pastries and those trademark tortillas wrapped around every breakfast burrito. The tortillas are now available in packages for retail sale at the bakery. Martin City Coffee is also the perfect venue for trying out new bakery recipes.
“Our coffee shop customers love giving us feedback and we really encourage it,” says Romero. “We’ll deliver a direct pipeline of sampling research back to the bakery. It’s just one more advantage built into the relationship.”
Together, Penny’s Bakery and Martin City Coffee represent more than an expanding enterprise in our community. They’re emblematic of the family-owned tradition behind so many Martin City businesses, and the special culture that sweetens it.
“I was treated as more than an employee from day one,” says Brittin, collecting donuts in a box for a waiting customer. “I immediately felt like I was part of a family. Everybody helps everybody across both businesses. We share resources. We even share staff. Whatever it takes to get things done. We’re all in this together and we love it that way.”
Looking down the road, where is all of this going? Romero says her businesses and her team are hungry for a bigger bite of success. “Our goal is to grow and go as far we can go, and Martin City is the right neighborhood to make it happen. Everyone has been so wonderful. It’s our home.”
Thanks for investing in Martin City’s future, Penny! We’re grateful for what you’ve built from scratch near the train tracks in one of the tastiest neighborhoods in all of Kansas City.