In the world that Karen Griffin grew up in, there weren’t many exciting job opportunities for women. Instead of pursuing baking, she decided on the “realistic” goal of becoming a teacher. After retiring and working with a few other businesses, she knew this was something she wanted to continue, “I started taking workshops at Hope & Main, not just for the baking side but because of the business side to help me figure out how I was going to start my own business.” Griffin decided to gift Rhode Island with her Jewish culture and make the delicious rugelach from her childhood.
Griffin started pursuing her goals after years of keeping them on hold. “I didn’t want to make another muffin, another cookie, because I knew I couldn’t do it better than anybody else. When I was looking for a challenge and something to do, I wanted to create a unique product that other people weren’t doing.” That’s where her rugelach came in: a sweet pastry, typically rolled and filled with a fruit or chocolate filling, originating from Jewish communities in Poland.
Griffin started her bakery in 2015 but her love for baking goes back to her teenage years. Due to Griffin’s mother being busy running her own business, Griffin and her grandmother worked together and cooked for the family. When Griffin’s grandmother passed away, she carried her memory with her, creating the name Just Like Nana’s.
Now in her 70s, she still loves her job as a baker and continues to work hard. “My children are worried I work too much.” Griffin mentioned. “Do you think you work too much?” It took her a moment to respond but she ultimately agreed with her children: “Sometimes, but I enjoy it.” Griffin heads to the bakery everyday to mix, bake, package, and deliver her pastries all over Rhode Island.
When Griffin was asked about people in her life that motivated her, she talked about how she didn’t have anyone in her corner. When asked the opposite, was there anyone that discouraged her, she laughed and shook her head. “I wouldn’t say anyone discouraged me, but my friends think I’m crazy.” She said that didn’t matter to her, she was just happy to do what she was doing, although there was one thing that did upset her: “I hate when people say it’s a hobby, because it isn’t a hobby. I put too much work into my business for it to be a hobby.”
Griffin explained that her hard work is crucial to her business, every time she finds a new place that sells rugelach she tries it and she knows when it’s authentic or not. Griffin knows rugelach can be labor intensive but also knows that it’s worth the effort.
Griffin isn’t in a rush to expand her business due to her “age” (she added air quotes as she said it), but she does have dreams of opening up a store-front bakery: one where a family could come in, have a piece of rugelach, a cup of coffee, and spend time with their children. For now, she’s happy and proud of how far she’s come and hopes to continue selling her authentic, artisanal rugelach. You can visit Karen Griffin (Just Like Nana’s) at 540 Mineral Spring Ave in Pawtucket at Lorraine Mills or if you are looking for bigger batches for celebrations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (859) 333 – 9096. To see more of the pastries offered, go to www.justlikenanas.com. You can also find her products in stores (see website for details).