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Patty's Cakes Are Keeping Baker's Business in Orders

January 25, 1988|HERBERT J. VIDA

When Patricia W. Peirce was filing for her business license, she'd forgotten that she'd need a store name. But she remembered a friend who had a shop called "something of Los Angeles," as she put it.

So Peirce named her Anaheim store "Patty of California."

"I was born in (Los Angeles) California," she reasoned.

Peirce wondered if it was a fitting name, since she baked cakes.

That was in 1962. Today, thousands of wedding and birthday cakes later--including one 15-foot-high creation for Disneyland's 25th birthday and another for a Glendale hospital that fed 2,000 people--she's so successful that you need an appointment to see her.

Not that Peirce has gone high hat, but demand is so great, she said, "there would be a line 20 deep." And all things considered, "I'd rather be fishing off the end of a pier," said Peirce, 60, who raised two children while running the business.

Her success comes through word of mouth, since she hardly advertises.

Now, besides filling a monstrous order list of cakes, custom catering, designing bridal veils and conducting baking classes, she raises Chihuahuas and collects miniature troll statues and German beer mugs.

In her younger days, Pierce played a blue-eyed Indian in the 1951 Burt Lancaster movie "Jim Thorpe, All-American." She once operated a weaving shop at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles.

"When I retire, I'm going to drag the loom out and start weaving all over again," she said.

Pierce loved cooking and baking so much that even when she worked as an executive secretary, "I made the coffee because I wanted to."

Today, her Anaheim home sits next to her bake shop, a former barn, and her living room furniture is authentic Ming dynasty. "I'm living the kind of life I want to," she said.

She has never been to a beauty shop, wears her never-cut hair in a braided ponytail and shuns makeup. For fun, she said, she rifles through trash bins in back of stores with her daughter.

Peirce said she attended UCLA and had planned to teach Spanish before she was sidetracked into the cake-making and decorating business.

"I think I'm really good," she said, not intending it as a boast. "It's like people who take my classes. Some people just have the touch, and that's what I have."

Daughter Patricia (Patsy) A. Peirce, 24, will soon join her in the business.

"She's really good," her mother said. "And as soon as we get things in order, I'm going to head out to the end of the pier and do some serious fishing."

It was nice when 1981 Sonora High graduate Stacy Smith came back to help her school at a fund-raising concert on the La Habra campus.

Known professionally as Acacia and singing with partner Jaz in their group called Bardeux, they attracted 300 students and raised $2,000 to help buy uniforms for the athletic department.

Among the 300 spectators was Smith's brother, Brent Smith, a student and baseball pitcher at Sonora.

Now that's nice, too.

For years Felicia (Fay) Smith, 78, and Herman Smith, 76, worked as professional librarians throughout the Southland, and he once spent a year in London restoring old manuscripts.

Well, the couple retired and ended up at Freedom Village, a life-care community in El Toro--and wouldn't you know they'd establish a library there?

A welcome mistake?

"I let fall the information that Fay and I were both professional librarians," said Herman Smith, who is writing a book of his life experiences. He is calling it "Puttering Among the Paste Pots."

The couple, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, have embraced the library work in a big way.

They helped form a support group called The Friends of the Freedom Village Library, worked on a home tour to raise funds and plan to buy large print books and other equipment for the 2,000-book library.

But retirement life is not all library work either.

The Smiths are world travelers--and why not? He also works for Laguna Hills travel agency.

Acknowledgments--Mary Wagner of Newport Beach, boating journalist for several Southland newspapers and boating publications, won the Yacht Racing Union of Southern California's 1987 Yachting Service Excellence Award.

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