GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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November 19, 2012

25 years of baking

'Bagel Jim' Santo still savors his craft two decades later

GLOUCESTER — When Jim Santo set up his first doughnut shop in town 25 years ago, he quickly became known as Doughnut Jim.

Eighteen years and a new shop name later, his nickname turned to Bagel Jim. But this time of year, one could just as aptly dub him Pie Jim.

With just three days left before the turkey holiday, Jim bustled around the back end of his Jim’s Bagel and Bake Shoppe on Railroad Avenue Monday, using a white rag to wipe down a cake decorating table while talking pies over the phone. The sugary aroma reveals trays of billowing blueberry, apple and pumpkin pies just around the corner.

Santo hung up the phone and wiped his hands on a white apron tied around his waist to hang over his jeans. He’ll ship out about 750 pies by the time Thanksgiving arrives.

Santo said the secret to selling so many Thanksgiving treats is creating all the baked goods from scratch.

”It’s not just baked here, but made here, too,” Santo said.

It was in 1987 that Jim — a year out of college, with a degree in economics from University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and working as a stockbroker for about a year —decided to drop everything and open a doughnut shop in Gloucester, a city in which he and his family had summered over the years.

”(Stockbrokering) was a compromise of morality. I was selling products I couldn’t guarantee,” Santo said. “Now I control what I’m selling. I can say all right if something goes wrong, I can take the blame for it.”

Before opening shop, Santo needed to learn how to bake. So he bought a building on Washington Street, secured a day job, and drove to Manchester, N.H., each evening to work in the only bake shop he could find where the owner would hire him, and more importantly, teach him to bake.

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