Food & Drink

New baker in Cornelius is putting her lessons to work

Ansley Shay Dodson started her baking business as a sideline while she was a student at UNCC.
Ansley Shay Dodson started her baking business as a sideline while she was a student at UNCC. Joan Dodson

A brand-new degree in marketing from UNC Charlotte is already coming in handy for the newest shop owner in Cornelius’ historic downtown, called Old Town.

Ansley Shay Dodson, 23, started baking as a sideline while she was still a student and managed to graduate with honors despite juggling a busy baking schedule. On Saturday, she’s holding the grand opening of her own bakery, The Little Baker, 20052 Zion Ave.

Ansley Dodson’s colorful cookies caught on while she was still a student at UNCC. Courtesy of The Little Baker

Dodson started baking her sophomore year when she was working as a nanny, when a young girl she took care of wanted a birthday cake that showed Olaf, from “Frozen.” While Dodson liked to bake, she says, she hadn’t thought about decorating. The cake turned out so cute that other people started asking her for cakes. Working out of her small student-living apartment near the campus, she started turning out orders.

What really took off, though, were her cookies, with elaborate royal icing decorations. By her senior year, she was running a busy cookie business while keeping up with a demanding class schedule.

“It was very challenging,” she admits. “I was very school-focused.”

After graduation, with help from her family, Dodson decided to go pro, with a baking business. The Little Baker will have breakfast options, including warm cinnamon rolls, warm cookies, decorated cookies and cakes. In January, she’s also planning to add rolled ice cream.

Getting the chance to spread out in an early 20th century building will be a big change from her “tiny, little apartment.” Built in 1904, it has original hardwood floors and brick. The building used to be a shoe repair shop, and she thinks it may have been part of a livery operation when it was originally built.

Ansley Dodson’s shop, The Little Baker, is in a 1904 building in Cornelius’ Old Town district. Joan Dodson

Getting the store open has been a big challenge, she says. Working on a small budget, her longtime boyfriend and family helped with the wiring and building counters, but it’s taken several months longer than planned. She had hoped to open late in the summer.

Her biggest lesson in real-world business versus her studies?

“Nothing ever, ever, ever goes as planned. You just have to plan around it.”

The grand opening Saturday is from 2 to 8 p.m., then the store will be open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday through December, although she may adjust the hours after that. Find prices and examples of her work at

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis