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Bakery gives Austintown man new life

April 3, 2019
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

A few weeks ago, the Smith family of Austintown opened a new bakery at 4954 Mahoning Ave. The business was actually the result of a new direction in Bill Smith's life that allows him to enjoy his hobby of baking.

Three years ago, Smith was on a different path in life. He was a full-time manager at Dick's Sporting Goods in Niles. He had put in 30 years in the retail industry. On Jan. 5, 2016, that all changed after he made the drive from his Austintown home to Niles.

"I walked into the store and everything literally went black," Smith said.

Article Photos

Abigail’s Bakery Creations baker Bill Smith shows off one of his latest custom creations, a pistachio cake.

He said all of his eyesight was gone in a split second. He went to the emergency room and followed up with doctors, but no one had an answer as to what his problem was. He returned to work only to find himself in real danger one more time.

"Jan. 12, 2016 was the last time I drove a car," he said. "I was going to work on the 7-11 (freeway) and both eyes went black. I slammed on the brakes and prayed."

He said remarkably no one struck him during the morning rush hour. He again sought medical help and the cause was still unknown. He had all the symptoms of having a stroke without having one. His normal pulse should be 65-70, but when he wakes in the morning it is 100-150. He suffers extreme vertigo that has him walking with a cane. Some eyesight came back, but still left his vision impaired. His sight never came back to normal and it left him without a career.

"I was literally standing around doing nothing," Smith said. "I started baking as a way to relieve stress."

Smith started making cookies. He would bake dozens from scratch and end up giving the cookies away to relatives, neighbors and friends. After a short time, he was told to start charging for the cookies to help recoup the cost of ingredients.

"On May 1, 2017, I started Abigail's Bakery out of my house, named after my daughter who is seven. She is my official egg cracker," Smith said. "Last year I expanded and started taking orders for pies and cakes. Pretty much, God had said he was done with me in the retail business and he had other plans for me."

He had some requests for the Greek delicacy baklava, and he gave it a try. Today he is known for it.

On Facebook, he has 2,000 followers and his orders continued to grow. A few weeks ago, the operation was moved from his home into a small shop on Mahoning Avenue. Since the move, he has been kept busy with customers who are flocking to the new location.

Last week, Chris Yambar, a Fitch Class of '78 graduate who now lives on the West Side, came in to purchase cupcakes.

"I made the trip to get some really good treats," Yambar said. "Bill makes great bakery items and his story is so very encouraging."

Smith has also expanded into other items such as cinnamon rolls. Every Saturday he stocks the shelves with four dozen cinnamon rolls and usually sells out in an hour and a half.

While the new bakery is in his wife's (Natalie Smith) name, it is Bill who staffs it from Wednesday through Saturday. He said right now the four days a week are keeping him busy. He opens from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, then from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. He said when a person starts small, they can always grow. He still does special orders by calling 724-931-0044.

One other interesting fact, Smith has still not been diagnosed for his situation. Doctors say it has been like a person having a stroke, without having one. He has lost feeling in one arm, but not use. He has also lost his taste buds, which is hard for a baker.

"I have never tasted my own food," he said. "It was one of the other side effects of my situation."



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