Abbey Agan, 28, never planned on running a bakery. In fact, her degree from the University of Georgia, where she pole vaulted on the track team, was in Education with an emphasis on Sports Business.
She wanted to be a sports agent, a far cry from making cookie dough and buttercream frosting. However, when Abbey visited home on the weekends and during winter break, she started falling in love with the bakery. Maybe she couldn’t help it. Maybe it was in her blood. You see, Abbey is a third-generation baker.
Abbey’s grandparents, Pledger and Maulsie Bell Agan, opened the first in downtown Cartersville in 1961. Upon their retirement, their son Jimmy L. Agan carried on the family tradition when he purchased the building at 141 West Main St. in 1982 and began his own bakery. Today, Agan’s Bakery is operated by Jimmy’s daughter, Abbey.
Abbey grew up at the bakery and has fond memories of that time.
“When I was little my aunt worked here,” she recalled. “My mother also worked here and, of course, my dad. He spent many, many, many hours here. We had five decorators working at our big decorating table and my head barely came to the top of the table. I would walk around with my finger out and the decorators would squirt buttercream icing on it. I thought that was so fun. And licking the paddle when you’re little, for me, was like licking a 40-quart giant paddle.”
Running a bakery is a good fit for Abbey, who has endless energy.
“It keeps me busy,” she explained. “I’m multitasking, dealing with customers and employees, and other stuff too. But most of all, I enjoy helping people celebrate.”
Abbey feels it is important to stay involved in the community. Aside from running the bakery, she’s involved with the Downtown Development Authority and coaches track at . She also gives private track lessons at .
As Abbey tells it, “Coaching works out because it’s seasonal and when we are not busy during the holidays I can reach out and stay involved in the community and help kids too. Athletics are a great way to keep kids inspired and motivated in the right direction.”
Abbey can thank her athleticism for her slim figure amid a world of sweets and treats.
“Working at the bakery is more physical than people think,” she said laughing. “We make everything from scratch. Our supplies come in 50-pound bags. The girls who work here joke, ‘We work at Agan’s so we have nice buns.’”
When Abbey officially took over the bakery in 2009, her father gave her an important piece of advice. He told her that when it comes to making decisions, she should always listen to his advice but follow her heart and do what makes her happy.
“To be successful you have to do something that you’re passionate about,” she said. “When you go home at night you want to feel good about what you’re doing. Of course, Dad still checks on me and makes sure if I need anything [and] I know he’s always there.”
While the bakery remains unchanged in many ways – they still use the same recipes from 1961 – there are modern touches that reflect the new generation in charge.
“A personal goal for me is to grow the business,” Abbey explained. “I plan on continuing to grow the bakery and the clientele. I would like to see the bakery expand into the front of the Noble Street building and I would like to grow our decorating and wedding cake business. I also think there is a demand and potential for us to ship more items. That’s another direction we can go as far as growth. If we grow the business, I can offer more jobs to the community.”
Part of the effort to grow their clientele includes offering healthier options. Along with their popular Health Cookie and yeast dinner rolls, Abbey is experimenting with different kinds of breads made with whole grain flours.
“I want people to come in and be able to pick up a pie and a fresh loaf of bread for dinner,” she said.
They also have sugar-free options for diabetics including a sugar-free white cake and sugar-free buttercream frosting. The frosting allows them to fully decorate a sheet cake with borders, roses and a message so it doesn’t look like a typical a sugar-free cake.
When asked about her favorite splurge at the bakery, Abbey goes for the real deal, “The German Chocolate Brownies and our Key Lime Pie,” she said proudly.
“The Chocolate Drops are the most popular as far as cookies go. We go through 30 dozen on a slow day. The Georgie Porgie pie is the most popular pie. The Georgie Porgie has been around since 1961 at my grandparents’ bakery," Agan said. "It’s a fudge pie with a layer of white pound cake that bakes up and sits on top of the fudge. We cook German chocolate icing on a copper stove and top the pound cake with that and our homemade fudge icing. It is absolutely amazing. It’s a rich pie but I can eat a good-sized slice.”
Abbey speaks of her career as a young business owner with pride and it shows in the products she puts forth, but her father isn’t convinced people go to the bakery for her confections alone.
“When I started this business here back in 1982,” Jimmy Agan explained, “my mom would come in and help me. I always thought that half my customers came in just to get a smile from my mother. Abbey’s got the exact same character that my mom had. People like to come in here and see her. She’s got that cheery great attitude that makes you want to be around her.”
If you haven’t been to Agan’s Bakery yet, go now. If you haven’t been there in a while, go again. Not only will you discover delicious homemade confections, you’ll become a part of a family tradition.