Faith, Family, and Fruitcake. A Closer Walk with Mike Cinotti Part 2

Mike Cinotti and his wife Doodle have worked hard to build their business into the renowned fixture that it is today.  In this week’s post, we’re talking with Mike about his life in the bakery he loves so much.

Describe your typical day.

Mike Cinotti, Legends Interview, Hait, Mission, Carries

Mike at the school he and his wife, Doodle helped build in Plaisance, Haiti

My alarm goes off about 3:00 a.m.  I get here about 3:25 a.m. and unless I have something pressing, I use the early morning for my quiet time, my prayer time.  About 4:00 a.m. I get in there and get rolling.  My primary job in the morning is baking the numerous racks of breads and cookies and pies and cakes that the other guys are producing at the other end of the shop. I enjoy it because it’s a challenge because of the hundreds of pans that must be baked.  Some are breads that have to be proofed, some don’t and there’s two different ovens back here, so it’s a lot. I enjoy it because it challenges my mind and that’s important to me.  I still enjoy seeing the product when it comes out.  And smelling it too.

My afternoons, I spend a lot of time doing things at our church or missions trips.  We leave in a few days to go back to Haiti on our first trip of this year.  We missed getting over there in February, so I’m looking forward to next week.  One of these days, I wanna do some fishing again.

Please note: At the time of this posting, Mike and Doodle had just returned from their Haiti trip where they rebuilt homes and spread God’s message to those in the village of Carries, Haiti. Mike often preaches a sermon or two to the congregation.

Was there ever a technique you wish you’d mastered?

Let me tell you about that. I remember as a young kid, watching my dad bagging out eclairs. His were perfect- like everyone of them! He just ‘zoom’ ‘zoom’ ‘zoomed’, everyone of them-perfect.  And, when I tried to do it, mine looked like- well, I can’t even describe. They looked like they’d been in an accident.  But, then after about thirty years, something clicked. And, for the past twenty years, mine look nearly perfect like his.

I’ve been doing this a long time and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on most things by now.  There is one item, I’ve been trying recently.  That’s the Lobster tail.  My wife loves them, and I’ve never made them. So, for her, it’s an item I’m working on.

How do you stay abreast to current trends?

That’s what my daughters are for!  Staying involved in organizations, attending workshops are a great way to connect. Social media and TV shows have really enhanced the craft of the baker.

What are the advantages of running your own place as opposed to the bigger stores?

We can create something special for our customers that bigger companies cannot.  Some of these stores have such strict corporate rules that don’t allow tweaking. If the product doesn’t come out of the box the way the customer wants it, they can’t make it.  We can do whatever we want within our moral and legal code.

What are the disadvantages?

Employee benefits, I wish I could provide our staff with all the bells and whistles bigger companies offer.  Buying power, we certainly buy a lot, however, we pay more for ingredients than bigger companies.  Traffic flow is another disadvantage because we are more of a destination than a convenience. Facilities maintenance is another big one.

Mike Cinotti, Legends Interview, vintage Cinotti's Bakery, Jacksonville Beach

Mike and his wife, Doodle in the bakery in the 90’s

In terms of running your business, what aspects are most rewarding?

We have built up a very good name in this community.  Part of that is our product, part of that is how we run our business.  When I hear of the impact this business is making on the community or meet people I would never have met outside this bakery, it fills my heart.

We’re able to provide livings for over 30 employees working here.  We’re able to pay our staff a decent salary.  The financial impact we have on people’s lives is healthy.

With our younger staff, we’re able to mold them into great workers later in life. The work ethic we instill in them here is helpful in so many aspects of their future.

How would you say the baking industry has changed over the course of your life?

Back in the day, breads didn’t last a week. It used to be, early in the morning, ladies would come to the bakery, get product, and head back home to their families. Now, our speed of life is so busy, everything is fast food. Because of this, some people say our industry is dying, I’m here to say, no, I don’t think so. On the upside, however, social media and TV shows have put such a spotlight on our industry and craft, they see what goes into making a cake.  It allows people to appreciate what we do more.

“Some people say our industry is dying, I’m here to say, no, I don’t think so.”

What period of your life has been your favorite?

The past 20 years, absolutely. I enjoyed my childhood and got to spend quality time with my parents. Life is hard, but it’s good. When you’ve got your eternity wrapped up, it makes this pain of life a little easier. When  God got a hold of me 20 years ago, I became a different person.

I’ve fallen deeper in love with my wife. I work with my kids every day. I see my grandchildren. I love my church. I go on mission’s trips Haiti multiple times a year. Twenty years ago, I was hard; more of a vocal corrector rather than a loving corrector. Now, I’m a better listener, I live my life right.  My relationship with Jesus has changed me.

“Life is hard, but it’s good.  When you’ve got your eternity wrapped up, it makes this pain of life a little easier.”

Was there a time you wanted to give it all up?

There’s been a couple times when I wasn’t sure this was what I’m supposed to do.  It’ll wear you down, you get tired, but I don’t know that I ever wanted to give it up.

If you didn’t bake, what would you do?

Well, if I had the money, I’d be doing full time ministry.

If you could go back in time to give yourself advice, what would it be?

I’d tell myself to get in the bible earlier.  I’ve made wiser decisions when I seek God’s word first.

Do you have any knowledgeable nuggets for newcomers to the industry?

My dad used to tell me, ‘A good baker with a solid skill set can get a job anywhere in the world.’ I encourage those looking to get into this industry to work for several different places to learn different techniques and procedures.  Listen to others. You never know what little nuggets you’ll pick up.

“A good baker with a solid skill set can get a job anywhere in the world.”

Mike is clearly a man in love with his wife, family, faith, and business. Getting a deeper look into the man who’s worked hard for over 50 years has been such a treat. In part 3 of this Legend’s interview, we’ll take a look into the bakery’s most popular items and what inspired Mike and his team to create them.

If you’d like to inquire about Mike and Doodle’s efforts in Carries, Haiti or would like to donate goods to their cause, you can find information here: