More Than Just a Bakery with an Award-Winning Cookie
    Nancy B’s Bakery owners Nancy Bertram and her son, Mike Runco.

    Nancy B’s Bakery owners Nancy Bertram and her son, Mike Runco.

    I was excited when asked to write about Nancy B’s Bakery in West Homestead. Really—who wouldn’t want to describe cookies, especially with the holidays being the season of baking? In all honesty, though, I was more moved to write about the owners, Nancy Bertram and her son, Mike Runco, whom I have known for quite a while.

    Many readers may be familiar with Nancy B’s Bakery from the publicity over the years about their award-winning chocolate chip cookies. This variety of cookie is often voted as the “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie” in the ’Burgh by news-organization polls—and by just about anyone else who has ever enjoyed this decadent, ginormous treat. The top-selling cookie and many other goodies aren’t all that Nancy B’s is known for. Nancy and Mike, along with their staff, offer much more to military men and women abroad, donating many delicious items to those who serve.

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    The bakery, albeit with a small storefront, is tucked away on a side street in what, believe it or not, used to be a motorcycle-repair shop many years ago. It’s where you’ll find the hard-working owners and small staff who are big on friendliness and kindness toward customers, who are treated like family.

    Actually, baking cookies at Nancy B’s is really all about “making people happy,” says Mike, who feels like a bartender of sorts. He and Nancy love talking with people and seeing their instant joy. “It’s very important to us that customers are happy, and cookies always help.”

    Customers do seem to be pleased, as many have become friends with the owners and even help them out by offering to pick items up and make deliveries. Some even work at the bakery now.

    Also close to the hearts of both Nancy and Mike are the troops. “We started sending cookies overseas more than 20 years ago when I had friends in the military and wanted to give them something to remind them of home,” says Mike. Since then, they have sent many, many cookies overseas—to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and elsewhere. Photos of military men and women enjoying Nancy B’s cookies adorn the bakery, and many recipients have written letters thanking the bakers for their kindness. Nancy and Mike feel it’s the least they can do. Customers, too, have gotten more involved once they learned that all the tips received are used to help pay for shipping. The bakery’s goal? To increase the amount of cookies shipped overseas each year.

    Nancy B’s customers can help send cookies to the troops. When visiting the store offer a tip to contribute to shipping costs. Or, Nancy B’s will accept donations via mail. And to specify a recipient: Call or visit the store with the name of a family member or someone you know who is serving. Make sure to have the unit number and the specific address. They send to military bases—mostly overseas—and to ships at sea, too.

    A photographic display of some of the military recipients of donated Nancy B’s cookies.

    A photographic display of some of the military recipients of donated Nancy B’s cookies.

    Here are some things to keep in mind if purchasing cookies before the holidays. For holiday parties/events it’s best to place an order in advance for selection and availability. They make all the popular holiday cookies:  pumpkin rolls, nut rolls, lady locks, buckeyes, Hershey kiss cookies, and much more. If you’re planning on randomly stopping into the bakery it’s best to call ahead to see if your selection is in—especially for the chocolate chip cookie, which often sells out before lunch.

    If cookies are needed for a wedding or big function, then one should call as soon as the date is secured. Mike offers tips on preparing cookies on trays and more for the specific venue the baked goods will be taken to, as he is familiar with all the various local venues’ requirements.

    If you plan to visit the bakery (415 West Seventh Ave., West Homestead, 412-462-6222; nancybsbakery.com), Nancy B’s busiest days are Thursdays and Fridays, so it’s best to go on a Monday or Tuesday (9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.); they’re closed weekends.

    Denise S. Artman is a Pittsburgh-area freelance photographer and writer; she regularly photographs, and conducts interviews, for The Strip! magazine.