Quick Chat With Victory Rolls And Baked Goods
With a darling vintage bakery and a nostalgic deli already to her name, it’s any wonder what budding entrepreneur Amy Norcross will cook up next.
After forays into the business world and social work, Amy Norcross quit everything last summer to pursue her longtime dream of opening a ‘40s-themed bakery with delivery service. A year later, the vivacious Norcross, who still uses her grandmother’s pie crust recipe, is sweetening up the locals—and the occasional happy puppy—at her colorful throwback pastry shop on Main Street Beech Grove, and she just opened a deli in downtown Martinsville that hearkens back to turn-of-the-century sandwich shops.
IM: Where did you get the baking bug?
AN: My grandmother was a prolific baker who won most of her appliances in baking competitions. She won the Pillsbury Bake-Off, as well as a State Fair blue ribbon, with her snickerdoodle recipe. Back then, the prize wasn’t so big, but she had a stand mixer before almost anyone did. It was in her kitchen that I first learned how to cut butter into flour for pastry dough, and I still use her recipe for pie crust for my version of a toaster pastry. She also taught me the importance of salt in baking and gave me so many of the techniques that I use in my baking today.
IM: Did you ever dream that you would be able to make a business out of baking?
AN: I was a foreign exchange student in San Luis Potosi, and I went to pastry school at a community college while I was there. So that got me started in professional baking. I worked for years a BuffaLouie’s in Bloomington, and I was a business major in college. More recently, I worked as the chief operating officer with an international baker in Indianapolis. So nobody was surprised, really, when I decided to open my own bakery.
IM: Why did you locate it in Beech Grove?
AN: From the start, the bakery was always supposed to be about delivery. There aren’t really any local bakeries that deliver a full line of pastries to offices and homes around the city. We looked at so many places, including a wonderful building at 10th and Rural. But there was no access to the interstate. Beech Grove had just renovated several buildings in its downtown to attract more businesses, and the distance and location were right. I couldn’t turn it down. It took us a few months to start our delivery business, but we started in early June delivering from 7 to 9 a.m. We also have chicken salad and old-fashioned bologna sandwiches on homemade bread. We always sell out of those!
IM: Where did you get your love of all things vintage?
AN: I love old things, and I’m always reading history books. I don’t watch TV unless it’s a documentary about some historical topic. I also love old cookbooks, especially ones by Mabel Claire and Fannie Merritt Farmer. When I went to redecorate the Beech Grove bakery, which was most recently a clothing boutique, I didn’t really have to do much research. I knew that I would use the bolder colors of the late ’40s and ‘50s. But the shop owners then couldn’t always cover everything in chrome, so I wanted just accent of that—and to keep things simple. I sew many of my staff outfits, and I keep a rack of old dresses and a dressing room in the bakery. We have Hawaiian shirts for anyone who doesn’t want to wear a dress. My new deli in Martinsville will feature Victorian costumes and all things from the turn of the 20th Century.
IM: Obviously, you have to pay attention to contemporary trends. How have you done that?
AN: Well, for starters, we had the business going on Instagram and Facebook long before we opened. That following really helped to ensure that we’d succeed once we opened. And I have lots of options for gluten free items and over 40 keto options, including our popular pistachio or lemon shortbread, which we can’t keep on the shelves. We use monk fruit and almond flour for these items. And we even offer some “pup cakes” made of peanut butter and pumpkin for our four-legged customers.
IM: What are you proudest about with your businesses?
AN: For so many years and in so many positions, I didn’t feel as though I fit in. I’m tall, I’m boisterous, and I’m annoyingly creative. I never really felt like I fit in at jobs where women were pigeonholed into certain rolls. I wanted to create my own snow globe where everything inside is me. I’m proud of making a work environment that is just about being creative. It’s a happy, engaged place. I give people sweets. I know most of my customers by their first names.
IM: How long does it take you to do your hair?
I’ve got it down to about three minutes now. At first, when we were doing the classic Victory Rolls (the WWII-era hairstyle from which the bakery and its signature pastry take their names), it took some practice—at least a half an hour. But with practice, I can do it in no time. We’ve even done it for a few little kids in the shop.