‘Rescue’ Story

JOHNSTOWN – A revamped Grandma Millie’s Bakery at the Fulton County Airport grabbed the national spotlight Tuesday night as the subject of the TLC’s Network’s “Buddy’s Bakery Rescue” TV show.

The emotional and sometimes humorous one-hour episode was based on celebrity chef Buddy Valastro’s four-day visit last October to the bakery to give it a makeover.

In the Grandma Millie’s show, family members who run the bakery struggle with each other over the correct menu and the right amount of respect to show each other.

About 100 people attended a viewing party Tuesday night at the Moose Lodge in Johnstown, including many members of the McCormick family, which runs the bakery.

Grandma Millie’s leases space at the airport. The business is co-owned by Chauncey McCormick and her sons Jason and Scott. Jason and his wife, Ellen, who specializes in cake designs, are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. The bakery was opened in 1999, existing in downtown Johnstown and Gloversville for years before relocating to the airport a few years ago.

Before the show, Chauncey McCormick said on June 27, 2013, Grandma Millie’s received a request that her Johnstown bakery participate in a TLC show.

“We received an email from a casting company in New York City,” she said.

As explained during the show, the financially strapped business was struggling. It was $200,000 in debt. Chauncey sold her wedding ring to make payments, and her husband, Mike, contracted a rare form of multiple sclerosis.

Chauncey McCormick said the family jumped at the chance for Valastro, whom she calls “an amazing man,” to step in, sort out her struggling business and provide some good publicity.

“The number one way is to just bring attention to our community, our bakery and our family in general,” McCormick said. “The old-fashioned bakery is a dying business.”

McCormick’s stepmother, Carolyn Bennett of Caroga Lake, said having Valastro step in was a “God thing” in the way he supported the bakery.

She said her stepdaughter’s business was in “trouble” and she had an opportunity to leave the state.

But, as chronicled in the show, the business stayed at the airport, Valastro met with the family and the makeover was under way.

“It’s been an amazing, positive experience,” Chauncey McCormick said.

During the first half-hour of the show, she explained to Valastro, “There’s some days we don’t have anybody” come to the bakery.

“We have to change with the times,” chimed in Jason, who said he wanted to create “elegant desserts.”

Ellen McCormick added, “Working with family is stressful.”

During the program, Valastro – who is head baker at Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, N.J. – listened to all the family members and suggested changes.

“There’s a lot to accomplish not only in the food, but in this family and as business partners,” Valastro said.

He was unimpressed with the inside of the “dead” bakery, he said.

“It looks more like Great-Grandma Millie’s,” Valastro told the owners.

Valastro lamented the fact he couldn’t get any type of pie when he first arrived, but by the end of the show, the signature apple pie – once made by Chauncey McCormick’s business namesake grandmother – was being sold.

Valastro tasted the carrot cake, noting it had a lot of “grit,” before being told Chauncey didn’t want the recipe to change. He wouldn’t try the “autumn squares” – a cheese pumpkin dessert with an apple-topped filling.

“It looks like a cat had a bad dinner,” Valastro said.

Valastro met with family members away from the bakery in an emotional scene in which he said he felt “there’s a lot of love in this family.”

Family members vowed to treat each other with more respect.

Valastro also made some fudge and had many of the desserts brought to a downtown Johnstown festival to decide what local residents liked.

The “reveal” of the made-over bakery, with a new menu that included homemade smores on a stick and a crowd of customers, was a big part of the show.

Grandma Millie’s received a new sign off Route 67. The business also received a new new delivery vehicle featuring a bright blue color scheme and a caricature of Chauncey McCormick holding a pie while piloting a plane.

Inside, the bakery was repainted with a blue decor and aviation theme. A new kitchen with a convection oven and a new decorating area for Ellen were revealed.

Late in the airing of the show, Chauncey McCormick told the crowd during a commercial break that Twitter and social media was being used to record responses from all over the nation.

She said a producer wrote to her: “Chauncey, I think this is the best episode of the whole series.”

McCormick said she’s hoping the airing of the show will boost her business.

“It’s up and down,” she said of business lately.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.