When Katie Schultz and Matt Hogan told the Sugar Pine Bakery staff that they were closing the bakery to take care of Hogan's parents in New York, Jonathan and Teresa Aragon faced a difficult choice. They could either start looking for new jobs in the cooking and baking world, or they could take a risk that promised to jump-start their culinary career.
The young couple chose the latter option, and in early October the Aragons became the proud new owners of the South Shore bakery for $65,000.
"At first it didn't hit us that we should go for it. We were in the car going to Carson City one day, and we were just saying, 'Wouldn't it be awesome if we took over the bakery?'" Jonathan Aragon said.
"We're very excited and we're a little nervous. But we have a lot of support in this community. I love Tahoe, and never wanted to leave," he said.
The couple - newly wed on Aug. 31 - met when they were 5 years old growing up in South Lake Tahoe. Both attended South Tahoe High School, where Teresa Aragon got her first taste of culinary classes in the high school's Career Technical Education program. She apprenticed with Schultz at Katie Cakes for her senior project and, after graduation in 2009, she continued culinary classes with Jonathan Aragon at Lake Tahoe Community College.
Teresa Aragon saw cooking as a fun activity, not as a career, but then she began studying at LTCC and her perspective changed.
"I saw cooking as a hobby. I was working at that time in a dental office, but then I started taking the cooking classes," she said.
During one of those sessions in 2010, the class took a short field trip to Sugar Pine Bakery to learn about bread making. At the time Teresa Aragon said she had no idea the bakery and Katie Cakes shared owners, and when Schultz approached her about halfway through the session, she was surprised and excited.
Shortly after that meeting, she and Jonathan Aragon started working for Schultz and Hogan at Sugar Pine, where they learned a tremendous amount about baking and running a business from the two owners, Teresa Aragon said.
Both Teresa and Jonathan Aragon have cooking in their genes. Teresa Aragon's father worked at Harrah's Lake Tahoe as a chef, while her husband's mother cooked in a restaurant in Mexico before moving to the United States and his father as served in various kitchens around the South Shore including at Edgewood Tahoe.
Like Teresa Aragon's father, Hogan also took a turn in Harrah's kitchen, working at the casino for two decades before setting his sights on his own bakery.
The couple opened Katie Cakes in 2008, and after a year of successful business, they decided to expand by opening Sugar Pine in 2009.
In those three years, the couple served more than a dozen restaurants and wholesalers who relied on the bakery for bread, and thousands of individuals looking for fresh pastries or a warm loaf.
Now, Schultz and Hogan will leave the South Shore and move to New York to take care of Hogan's aging parents.
"It's hard to leave Tahoe because it's such a beautiful place. We enjoyed having the bakery for three years. We have a loyal following that enjoyed what we made. As far as South Lake Tahoe, it's good because someone is continuing the business. We're really excited to see it keep going because we put a lot of work into it," Hogan said.
Fresh Ketch General Manager Dan Beermann said he hasn't spoken with the new owners about continuing the restaurant's businesses with the bakery, but as a loyal local customer of Sugar Pine, personally he's happy he'll still be able to purchase the fresh bread.
"It has a big local following. That's where my wife and I buy all our bread. I think it's great they're staying in business," Beermann said.
Hogan and Schultz will leave for the East Coast on Nov. 1, at which point the next generation of bakers will take full control of Sugar Pine. It makes leaving a little easier to know that the bakery is in the hands of two excited, young owners, Schultz said.
As Jonathan Aragon headed to the kitchen on Wednesday to prepare croissants for tomorrow's customers, he smiled and shook his head.
"I'm just so happy. I can't believe that at our age we've accomplished our dream basically," he said.