For students living on Binghamton’s West Side, a sweeter Saturday morning might be just around the corner.
De Colores Cookies y Mas, a cottage bakery that hosts weekly pop-up sales, recently opened on 100 Leroy St. Shop owner Ely Rooney and her husband Brian Rooney, a lecturer of biology at Binghamton University, moved to Binghamton last year, originally running the business from Chenango Street. They closed on the Leroy Street house days before Porchfest 2019, which was the new location’s first day of operation.
The shop usually operates on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., offering different items each week. Rooney never makes items in bulk, and she attributes the “punch of flavor” in her treats to her commitment to baking small batches. In addition to her decorative cookies, she makes scones, bakery cookies, tarts and savory items like quiches and rolls. While she used to work in upscale Italian and French cuisine, she’s found that she also has a knack for baking.
“I was always taught that you’re either a baker or a chef, but it turns out I’m both,” she said.
Rooney has been in the food industry for nearly 20 years, studying culinary arts at the Art Institute of Houston and working as an executive sous-chef in Texas. After getting married in 2010, she moved from Houston to Georgia, where she started making custom hand-painted cookies for friends and eventually opened an Etsy shop. With four kids, three cats, a dog and a fish to look after, she said she entered the baking business so she could focus more on family life without having to “hang up the apron.”
“Food has always been in our family and has always been a way to express myself,” Rooney said. “It’s something that has always been there from the beginning and I love it so much more now because of that. There’s a lot of patience you have to have. It’s very time-consuming, but at the same time, it allows me to step away from it for a little bit and be a mom.”
Using both family and original recipes, Rooney offers unique creations like “kaleidoscope cookies” while honoring her Mexican heritage with empanadas, tres leches cake, traditional gingerbread cookies and more.
She said she infuses her Mexican pastries with warm tones by adding ingredients like citrus zest, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, drawing inspiration from tradition while also putting her own spin on recipes she finds. She said she hopes her business brings something unique to the area by offering authentic Mexican food.
“I’m from Texas, which is a big melting pot,” she said. “There are a whole lot of little shops and things that are cultural-friendly toward the Latin community, and you don’t find a lot of that here. It was something I was nostalgic for and that I missed, so I love to offer that to anybody who’s out here and willing to try it. It can be a bit daunting — they can get an empanada with ground beef and olives and cranberries and pecans and they wouldn’t think that’s delicious, but it is.”
Since moving from Chenango Street to her brightly decorated home on the West Side, Rooney said she has found both a larger base of customers and a greater sense of community. Many of her patrons live within walking distance of the shop, stopping by during Saturday morning strolls.
“There’s been a huge change,” she said. “People always came out there, but now there’s maybe five times more.”
In addition to her pop-up sales, Rooney takes custom orders, caters local events and supplies seasonal decorative cookies for Taste NY and other shops. She said that while custom cookies are not a huge seller in Binghamton, her ventures into other products have allowed her to find a niche.
“I knew we could do our bakery anywhere, and I wanted to serve the community,” she said. “It’s been a dream of ours to be involved in the community in that way and also to kind of provide that southern hospitality — it’s important for me to have that kind of connection with people.”
Rooney said the business allows her to not only hone her creativity and support her family, but also to keep her roots close to heart.
“I wanted to show people that this is part of our culture, and it’s beautiful and full of flavor and there’s a lot of family involved in it as well, and that’s what they get when they come here,” she said. “I think the beauty of having what we have right now is even if we grow, this is how it’s going to be. My family in Texas has a lot of influence in this as well, in the decor and the colors we use and everything. They are in this business every day because I’m proud of where I come from.”