Homage Bakery is a new business in the former location of Cake & Flower Shoppe at 519 Ralston St., near the corner of Ralston and Fifth streets. In addition to baked goods and coffee drinks, the bakery presents work by local artists on a rotating basis and a relaxed, homey atmosphere. Nicholle Alumbaugh is the chef and owner. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/HomageBakeryReno1.
How long have you been open?
We’ve been open for about two months now. … I was actually doing a wedding cake [for a friend from high school] at the beginning of September, and I was looking for some cake supplies. And I had seen an ad that the old Cake & Flower Shoppe was closing. They had been where we are now for 30 years. So I came in to look around for some supplies, and found out some more information about the property. I went home that night and talked to my dad and said, “Hey, this is a great opportunity, and if I don’t jump on it, somebody else will.” I came down and looked at the area. About a month later, they had an auction here, and that was the first time my mom and dad were able to actually walk in, and they told me I was a little bit crazy. And I told them, “I know.” And a couple of days after that, I signed the lease, and we opened up. I wasn’t looking, but it was a great opportunity not to pass up. And Homage is kind of a tribute to family and friend recipes. A lot of stuff, you know, you grow up on as kids and things I’ve worked on with other chefs along the way, being in the industry.
What’s your background?
I originally went to school to be a musician, did that for a long time as a performance major. I grew up in Tahoe and the Reno area. … I actually graduated from McQueen High School. Then, [University of Nevada, Reno] and [University of Nevada, Las Vegas] for music performance. I did the [Truckee Meadows Community College] culinary department with Karen Cannan. I left the area and did some seasonal stuff in Alaska. I worked up there on a line. And came in to town and worked at IGT, doing all their baking. I also worked, after that, at the Siena, ran the kitchen for a while there … worked at Charlie Palmer’s at the steak house there, and some other various places in town.
What’s on the menu as of now?
Right now, some of our popular items—we have a lemon bar. We’ve got a great carrot cake. … One of our signatures is a lemon posset. It’s a traditional European, primarily English, medicinal aid back in I believe it was the 1800s, and it developed into a dessert at mansions in about the 1900s, so it’s a popular one here. Some of our other stuff—we always have a selection of cookies and bars. Our scones are quite popular and fly off the shelves. We’re actually doing those for The Hub in the Discovery Museum as well.
You’re going to be doing music?
We’re looking at some options. We’ve got the principle harpist at the Reno Phil is interested in coming down and doing some playing. I’ve got some other local friends who are musicians who are great, and hopefully bring some of them in. Kind of a laidback, just come in and hang out and play together kind of deal. We’re not really set up for full band things, but a couple people just hanging out and playing—especially in the summertime on our porch would be a lot of fun.
Tell me about more the location. It feels like an old house.
It actually, and I’m sure you’re familiar with the name, the Mapes mansion used to be where the pharmacy is now [next door]. And where we’re at was built for Charlie Mapes’ daughter back in 1928. It was originally part of the Mapes family. Then it was sold to the family that grew up here. The two sisters still own it, and one of them opened up the Cake & Flower Shoppe with her mother back in 1980-something. So it’s got some history to it. They used to play in the Mapes mansion in the basement, before it burnt down. I’m actually trying to find some more information and maybe some old photos, but I haven’t gotten there yet.