Savannahians love nothing more than to eat. Food culture runs deep in the South and it’s nowhere more apparent than in the deep love locals have for treats and treasures from A Squad Bake Shop.
In the land where Krispy Kreme allegiances run strong, Natasha Gaskill has created a similar cult following around her unique donuts and pastries. Full disclosure, we serve them during our ATDC coffee hour on Fridays at Bull Street Labs and they run out before the hour is even over. More importantly, Gaskill has created her tasty empire all while working out of her 10-foot by 16-foot baking cottage located in her backyard. Starting at 4 a.m each day, Gaskill creates desserts for other Savannah foodie favorites like Perc, Smith Brother’s Butcher Shop, The Atlantic, Bull Street Labs, Bull Street Taco – the list grows each day.
We were lucky to catch Natasha while making some pie crusts for some seasonal flavors like pumpkin, piggy pecan and an apple pie that is out of this world.
The Creative Coast: So talk to us about how you started A Squad Bake Shop.
Natasha Gaskill: I used to be the pastry chef at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar for about three and a half years. We shared a kitchen with, Minette Rushing, who’s like a nationally renowned wedding cake maker. I started like taking classes from her, started doing wedding cakes and at some point, really wanted to stop working restaurant hours. So my husband and I, we built an industrial kitchen in the backyard so that I could set up my own hours. I was just doing wedding cakes for about a year and half, two years, and then I started doing restaurants, and now I only do restaurants around Savannah.
CC: Which restaurants?
NG: You can find A Squad goods at Perc, Smith Brother’s Butcher Shop, The Atlantic, Bull Street Labs, Bull Street Taco, a few more. I’ll sometimes fill voids if people are in between pastry chefs, which is what I did for The Grey last summer.
CC: Why did you chose to run your business out of your backyard, as opposed to open up a brick and mortar spot?
NG: Well, at first it was as simple as I had small kids. Chefs and anyone working in a restaurant, they have bonkers schedule. On top of that, my husband works for the Fire Department, and he also has a bonkers schedule where he works 24 on and 48 off. So when he’s gone, and he’s gone for the full 24- I’d have to be available to like drop kids at school, take kids to practice, all of those kind of things and it didn’t really work otherwise. Nobody wants to hire somebody who has to work such off hours.
But I kind of wanted everything. I wanted to see the kids and work and set my own hours and make money doing what I love. That was the driving point-that I had to create what would work for me.
That’s the best thing about being in business for yourself versus working for somebody else. Just the flexibility.I don’t feel like the rules about business are like the same as like when our parents running their businesses. My mom and my grandmother own their own business, and, it was just like you had to- you had to be open during these hours, you had to do it this way. Like there was all these really hard and fast rules that you had to do. And I just don’t think that’s the case anymore.
CC: Can you talk about why you think Savannah is an opportune place to open a business?
NG: So downtown Savannah is really different now. We moved here sixteen hears ago, seventeen years ago and downtown was a great place where there were lots of local people that owned businesses and now it doesn’t feel like that anymore. Which is fine, it’s different businesses that cater to tourists, but locals were like hmmm, what next?
But what happened is that all these great districts started popping, places that are really servicing locals and immediate neighborhoods, breathing different life into them and bringing people in.
CC: Any thoughts for folks who are from Savannah and thinking about opening their own business?
NG: I don’t think the person who is going to open a business here in Savannah is the same person who wants to be like in the hustle and bustle of Atlanta or New York, you know?
I feel like it’s a more intimate experience here in Savannah. Especially if it does get to be like where you really are servicing neighbors. There are some perks to Savannah that are so great, of, you know of not being from here, of having this combination of having it being a small- it’s literally the biggest small town I’ve ever lived in. And I love it. I love having my business here, because people understand what I do. And they support it.
Which for me, that’s the ultimate reason why. People in Savannah rally behind you and your dream.
To find out more about A Squad Bake Shop, visit their Facebook page here.