Christina Benton ’02 has always been two things: an entrepreneur and a baker.
So as she held the official grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for her bakery and business “Just Pizzelles” yesterday in Cortland, a lot of dreams came full circle.
Located at 204 W. Main St., Just Pizzelles is exactly what it sounds like: a bakery that sells only pizzelles – an Italian cookie resembling a flat waffle.
These cookies were just one of many items Benton, a Weekend College graduate, grew up baking. As she got older, she began taking orders for wedding cakes and other desserts from friends and relatives. Pizzelles became her focus after filling an order from one of her aunts, who told her they were something special
“She said, ‘I don’t know what you do so differently, but yours are the best I’ve had,’” Benton said. “She had a retail background and said, ‘You need to go into business selling these.’”
But her friends weren’t so sure. Pizzelles are traditionally made with anise, and many of them didn’t like the flavor. So Benton decided she didn’t have to stick with just one flavor.
In fact, she now has nearly 65 flavors for sale – everything from margarita to white chocolate raspberry. Her pizzelles aren’t just the traditional wafers; many have toppings like powdered sugar or chocolate drizzle. Some are even different colors.
It’s been three years since “Just Pizzelles” has been in business, but only recently, it’s become a full time job. Benton said she originally planned to use her Hiram degree in business management to go further in the financial field, where she was already working, but it’s served her in numerous ways as she’s built “Just Pizzelles” to the point it is at today.
“When I was younger, I was very shy,” she said. “I think going to Hiram helped me in that because I met so many people from different ages and different backgrounds … that you didn’t have the option to just sit there by yourself.”
The Weekend College was especially rewarding, she said, because of the interaction she had with other students and professors.
“I was already working and had a little bit of a business background,” she said. “I got to meet people in the field, hear what they came across. That really helped me to develop ideas more.”
To meet students who worked at large companies like Nestle and to have professors who had been top executives at Fortune 500 companies made her classroom experience a true discussion of real-world ideas.
Her advice for anyone with big dreams like her own is one word: persistence.
She certainly knows what that’s all about. Her own persistence has gotten her pizzelles featured as the snack of the day on the Rachael Ray Show, and in swag bags at the Academy Awards. And next, she plans to put together a corporate holiday catalog that will go out to 1,500 companies, and hit the fundraising market hard this fall, targeting schools, charities and churches.
“Persistence is a huge word for me,” she said. “It’s not taking no for an answer, trying different avenues.”
Benton has not yet set normal business hours, but “Just Pizzelles” can be reached at 330-240-2257, and orders can be placed online, as well as in store, at www.justpizzelles.com.
For more photos, please visit Hiram College on Flickr.