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Stella Fong: Miss Gigi's Sweets knows your name

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Doughnuts bring a sense of camaraderie and comfort. These leavened fried flour doughs dusted with powdered sugar, drizzled with maple glaze or filled with custard are brought to offices to begin the day. Doughnuts provide a reason for workers to gather to grab fuel for the morning’s work.

On this rainy day, I was craving a doughnut, wanting to feel the spirit of being in an office with a group of people since I was working alone at my computer this morning. I decided to head downtown to Miss Gigi’s Sweets in Billings.

Owned by Angela Allen with her partner Brandon Miller and her uncle, Mike Todd, Miss Gigi’s Sweets opened its storefront at 2401 2nd Ave. N. in February of 2020. This family affair started two years earlier, primarily selling baked goods at the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market.

“My nephew called me Gigi instead of Angie” when Gabriel, now 20 years old, was a baby, Allen shared of the bakery’s name.

The current location of the business was once the home to Log Cabin Bakery run by Allen’s grandmother, Lorraine Evangeline and aunt, Helen Brown, until September of 2017. The space was then occupied by Matt Melvin, the owner of Rudeboys Bistro who went from serving food exclusively from his food truck to this brick-and-mortar space for a café and commercial baking in the back for Three Birds Bakery.

I hurried into the café, trying to avoid the light raindrops. After stepping in, I was immediately drawn to the glass cases filled with doughnuts, hand pies and turnovers. The name of the items was hand-written on the glass of the case. I chose a maple-glazed chocolate-drizzled old fashion doughnut, an apple filled doughnut, and the last summer berry hand pie with the name immediately wiped off the glass by Cindy Allen.

“I am a founder of this bakery,” Cindy shared as she took my money. “My daughter Angie and I both started this business. This is my legacy for her.”

As I got ready to leave, I noticed on the white board that today’s special was a “Beef Pasty” for “Pasty Wednesday.” I knew that at lunch time I would be ready for a break and told mother Allen I would be back for one of their creations reminiscent of the pastry from mining days in the 1800s. The chopped meat and vegetable package encased in a pie crust was easily transportable.

In the bakery, Richard Burton and his wife Laurie with sons Richard and Jaden were in line. “We were out shopping in Billings and I asked the family where else they would like to go,” Burton shared. The family requested a stop at Miss Gigi’s Sweets before they returned home to Laurel and left with boxes of doughnuts, turnovers and summer berry pie.

At home, after brewing up a cup of coffee, I took a bite of the dense pound cake old fashion, and then tasted the filled doughnut that oozed with diced apple. But the hand-sized summer berry pie with a crispy, flaky crust filled with blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and blackberry filling provided the most comfort.

At around 11:30 a.m. I stepped back into the bakery along with Melissa Abbey. For a couple months she had been coming in in the mornings after seeing a post on Facebook to grab a doughnut before work. Already this morning, she had been into Miss Gigi’s Sweets, grabbing a blueberry cheese danish. “I ordered my lunch ahead of time because they usually sell out,” Abbey shared of making sure to get today’s special.

At the bakery, Allen said, “For most of the baking, I am the main person. My mother makes the cookies. My dad keeps the cleaning going” while “Brandon does the sales and marketing. On a good day, I try to be in bed by 9 or 10."

She admitted to then getting up at 12:30 a.m. when most are asleep to return to the bakery to work.

Allen attended Seattle’s Le Cordon Bleu for three months. "I was the head of my class, but I had to leave the program because it was too expensive. I got through three courses,” she shared. “It was amazing experience, and I would like to go back and finish one day.” However, “out of all my classmates, I was the only one who carried out my goals of starting my own business.”

Aside from the baked sweets, Allen runs daily lunch specials. On this “Pasty Wednesday,” she featured a “Beef Pasty” that “comes with shredded sirloin, diced potato, cheese and gravy inside a flaky crust baked to perfection” while on “Barber Pole Friday” she features a “1/4 pound Nathan’s all beef hot dog wrapped in a house made sweet dough.”

When the weather cools, Allen will offer up chili served with an unfrosted cinnamon roll. Of her culinary creations, "I get hungry for this or that. The lunch special is what I want to eat.”

Allen wanted Miss Gigi’s Sweets to be, “a place that everyone knows your name.” With her mother at the front counter, “Once mom knows your name, she greets you by name.”

On this rainy day, after returning home and digging into my flaky pasty filled with chunks of meat and potatoes, I was comforted by my breaks at Miss Gigi’s Sweets where they knew me by name.

Stella Fong, author of 'Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food' hosts 'Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region' for Yellowstone Public Radio.

TheLastBestPlates.com is a digital destination that serves up Montana's tasty food, travel and culture stories … one bite at a time.

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