One in 5000: Mr. Pagano’s Passion for Baking

The warm scent of colorful triple-layered rainbow cookies and freshly made smooth and creamy textured key lime cheesecake fills the air. As the sweet scent enters your nose, it begins to make your stomach rumble. Fat Cardinal Provisions is an establishment started by Francis Lewis’ librarian Mr. Pagano and his friends at Rockaway Beach that has been open since 2018, with unbelievable recipes and unique twists to their wide range of selective desserts.

“I personally didn’t really have a desire to bake,” librarian Mr. Pagano said. “It was a friend of mine that was interested and actually had their degree in it. I thought that would be a cool thing to go into. That’s when I got interested in the artistic aspect of baking. More so the decorating and things in that end of baking.”

In co-owner Jim Otton’s opinion, the best thing about working at Fat Cardinal Provisions is having a place where both friends and bakers come together to talk, and enjoy amazing desserts.

I’ve lived here for a really long time, so I know a lot of the people that come here to shop, so I see a lot of friends,” Otton exclaimed. “Working here is great because, being the owner, I get to interview everybody and develop a team that we all enjoy working with.”

English teacher Ms. Contino expressed her admiration for Fat Cardinal Provisions as she finds it “wonderful” due to Mr. Pagano’s passion for the establishment and his ability to have the “stamina and energy” to balance both occupations.

“I think it’s wonderful!” Ms. Contino said. “I think it’s great that he’s able to find something that he was passionate about outside of the job he was doing here, and still do well by being such a good asset to all of his students and doing such great work in the library.”

“Not to mention coming into class and still somehow having the stamina and energy on the weekends, as well as after school,” Ms. Contino added.  “To go and serve the public with something that means a lot to him, his family and that he’s passionate about, I think it’s very impressive.”

Otton shared the story behind the founding of Fat Cardinal Provisions. He and his co-owners had a “small spot in an ice cream store across the street” that eventually led to an opening of their own storefront.

“They really enjoyed baking and one of the local stores, during a food tasting week, had us do samples and we kind of took off from there,” Otton explained. “We had a small spot in the ice cream store across the street, then we eventually opened up our own site here.”

One piece of advice Mr. Pagano has for those looking to start a business is to “learn what goes into owning your own business” and learn how to be open to changes and how to adapt to them.

“Do a lot of research before you open a business,” Mr. Pagano advised. “If you have the opportunity to intern or to work in a business and learn what goes into owning your own business, that’s probably the best thing to do.”

“Someone told me, when we were thinking about opening bakeries, that sometimes you just have to do it,” Mr. Pagano added. “If you have the means to do it, sometimes it’s good to just kind of jump into it and then you learn throughout owning the business and running the business. You’re going to learn how to change things, adapt, and be open to changing while you have the business.”

Ms. Contino mentioned also discussed Fat Cardinal Provisions’ wide range of selections as she said they “feature certain other crafts and they sell coffee from different places.

“I’ve been there a few times in person and they have really a nice selection of stuff to pick from,” Ms. Contino said. “They also feature other stores local to the area. I know they feature certain other crafts and they sell coffee from different places so they do try to feature the Rockaway area entrepreneurs, which is kind of cool.”

Mr. Pagano’s motivation to start a business while continuing his teaching career stems from his desire to branch out of his comfort zone and do different things that he enjoys.

“The thing that motivates me is having a passion for more than one thing,” Mr. Pagano expressed. “It’s okay to not just stick to one thing that you like. You can branch out and do many things that you enjoy, but you have to really want to do it, in order for it to benefit you in any sort of way.”