She Takes the Cake

Freeport Bakery decorator bids fond farewell

By Susan Bitar
February 2020

Little did she know as a student at McClatchy High School, Carol Clevenger would spend the next 32 years of her life just a few blocks away.

As the head decorator at Freeport Bakery in Land Park, Clevenger rejoined the team in 1988, not quite a year after Marlene and Walter Goetzeler bought the bakery (Clevenger also worked for the previous owner). Three decades later, she’ll hand over her spatula this month.

In this real-estate-small, yet high-production neighborhood bakery, Carol Clevenger has experienced it all—from “Can you draw a picture of my dog on a cake?” to “Can you make the cake into the shape of my dog?” Which they can do! Cake shaping had been one of the biggest changes Carol Clevenger has experienced at Freeport Bakery. “A cake can be (almost) anything you can imagine,” Clevenger says.

When Carol Clevenger started at Freeport Bakery, there were six employees. They handwashed dishes and had residential-size refrigerators. Now there are 70 employees, four people who wash dishes (loading high-speed dishwashers) and multiple walk-in refrigerators.

Another measurement of growth can be in whipping cream. According to Clevenger, when she started the bakery used one batch of whipping cream a day. Now it uses eight.

It’s not as if Clevenger dreamed of being a decorator. But she fell in love with Freeport Bakery, and found that working for the Goetzelers was her calling. Together, they worked six days a week, “but it felt like it was nothing,” says Clevenger, wearing her signature magenta headband. To this day, she loves every minute of it and finds inspiration daily among her colleagues and customers.

In college, Clevenger studied music at University of California, Santa Cruz. From there she worked in many roles in the restaurant industry, including as a dishwasher.
“Carol has been on the roof, she knows what to do when the lights are out, and she is able to fix just about anything,” Marlene says.

In her rapid rise of responsibility and leadership at the bakery, Clevenger has trained and mentored dozens of decorators and has compiled a talented team who will fill her role when she officially retires.

“Carol is a natural and talented decorator, and provides valuable insight on the baking side of the business,” Walter says. “She is by far one of the most humble and hard-working people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.”

“The bakery is what it is in large part due to Carol,” Marlene adds. “We could have never done what we’ve done without her.”

Susan Bitar can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.


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