Drew Gomez (left) and John Pagoto opened Central Baking Company next door to their Dilemma Hair Salon on Central Avenue, just south of Camelback Road, on Valentine’s Day. (Photo: Jennifer Delgado)

Drew Gomez (left) and John Pagoto opened Central Baking Company next door to their Dilemma Hair Salon on Central Avenue, just south of Camelback Road, on Valentine’s Day. (Photo: Jennifer Delgado)

It all started when…

A new bakery on Central Avenue aims to follow the longtime success of its sister business – a hair salon next door.

Rather than cool ‘dos, fresh cuts and alluring highlights, however, the plan is to wow with freshly baked croissants, super moist muffins and cookies kissed with just the right touch of sugar.

John Pagoto and Drew Gomez opened Central Baking Company on Valentine’s Day next to their other business, Dilemma Hair Salon, on Central just south of Camelback. They recently hired award-winning pastry chef Tracy DeWitt, who has participated in two Food Network Challenge competitions, to helm the kitchen.

Gomez told his longtime client Laura’s Gourmet Granola founder Laura Gail Briscoe that he wanted to sell her granola in the bakery. Briscoe suggested they reach out to DeWitt and the connection was formed.

“Some of our hair clients come in early because they know (the bakery is) here,” Gomez said.

Menu highlights include:

  • Pineapple upside down cupcake ($2.50).

  • Chocolate croissant ($3).

  • Ham and Swiss cheese croissant ($3.50).

  • Lemon bar ($3).

  • Pistachio cannoli ($3.25).

  • Bacon and cheese scone ($3.50).

  • Chocolate cherry scone ($3).

Gomez and Pagoto’s favorite is the uber fudgy plain brownie ($3) made with bittersweet chocolate and finished with ganache icing.

Any leftovers at closing time are donated to St. Mary’s Food Bank.

Giving the people a place to eat…

Over the years, Pagoto and Gomez saw a cell phone repair shop, catering business, a hot dog eatery and others come and go next door. The space was often vacant.

Pagoto and Gomez were the constant presence. They also had clients coming in on their lunch breaks, constantly mentioning they were famished. The seed was planted. Or rather, batter was primed for baking.

“We kind of have a built-in clientele. People are always coming in saying, ‘I’m hungry,’” Gomez said. “In this area, there are not a lot of bakeries.”

Pagoto added, “We thought that we could create something to give people they wanted – something to eat.”  

The 1,200-square-foot bakery is cozy with four cafe tables that grant patrons respite while enjoying their coffee and muffin while reading the paper. The space is open and airy, and customers can also watch the light rail go by. The open concept applies to the kitchen as visitors can watch DeWitt work her magic.

“It’s very bright. It’s not the run-of-the-mill rustic, dark café,” Pagoto said.

The color scheme exudes optimism with school bus yellow furnishings, lavender accents and walls painted in a color called Lemon Chiffon Pie.

“We thought it was very fitting,” Pagoto said.

c2880b48-ba38-4efc-b12e-672ae174a248-CBC2.jpg

“We’ve been blessed”

Gomez opened Dilemma in 1993. Nine years later, he and Pagoto began dating. Soon after, Pagoto joined Gomez as his partner in business as well as in love and life.

Since joining forces, the Dilemma co-owners have styled hair for the Emmy Awards and Golden Globes and have been featured on network television.

“When someone buys a red velvet cupcake and they take a bite before they leave and they give that eye roll toward the back of their head...”

Owner John Pagoto on Central Baking Company customers' instant gratification

While their primary passion remains helping clients look great on the outside, both agree that their new bakery has given them a special boost by providing others with a little something that makes their bellies happy.

“There’s even more instant gratification from customers,” Pagoto said. “When someone buys a red velvet cupcake and they take a bite before they leave and they give that eye roll toward the back of their head …”

Gomez has a number of children clients who are not happy to be getting their hair cut. Having the bakery next door gives them something to look forward to.

“They can be crying in my chair but they’re happy as a lark when they eat that cookie or Snickerdoodle,” he said. “We’ve been blessed and I felt like we could put something here that could make other people happy. And food does it.”