Nancy Kouris, founder of Blue Duck Bakery, is being honored by the East End Women’s Network with its Woman of the Year award.
Since she and her husband, Keith, opened their bakery in Southampton 19 years ago, it has expanded to three additional locations, in Greenport, Southold and Riverhead. She now serves as president of the company; Kouris is the master baker.
“We are thrilled to have Nancy Kouris as our 2018 Woman of the Year,” said Megan Heckman, vice president for the board of the East End Women’s Network. “Nancy is a strong business leader and community service advocate who has earned the respect of her employees, community members and, of course, East End Women’s Network members.”
The East End Women’s Network was founded in 1981 and has over 150 members.
The Kourises were high school sweethearts who married at 19 and later had three children, along with dreams of owning their own business. They were no stranger to entrepreneurship when they opened Blue Duck Bakery in 1999, having had three previous businesses.
First, the couple bought Bellacicco in 1980, a bread delivery route that served the South Fork. Then, in 1982, they owned Kouris International Deli in Huntington. They lost their lease there after a few years and moved on in 1985 to operate Ye Highland Bake Shoppe in Lindenhurst, but Hurricane Gloria ended that business.
“After three businesses falling through, we decided that was it, we were done being entrepreneurs,” Ms. Kouris said.
She had a 21-year career in personal training and gym management and her husband worked as a baker at King Kullen, where he learned skills from many mentors. After Mr. Kouris attended a culinary institute to learn to make artisan breads, the couple decided to dip their toes back into the business world.
“Here we are, 19 years later, and we have four bakeries,” she said. “It’s a family business. My daughter Christina is my office manager.”
Her other two children help with farmers markets and baking when they have time off from their day jobs.
Ms. Kouris has won other awards for efforts to bring the East End community together. For example, she hosted the Red Dress Dinner for Heart Disease Awareness, an effort she started in 2005.
“It started as a dinner for 35 people, and now it holds over 300 people,” Ms. Kouris said.
Blue Duck Bakery also bakes puzzle cookies and cupcakes to benefit Flying Point Foundation for Autism and donates a wedding cake each year for Brecknock Hall’s wedding giveaway for a veteran. In addition, the business gives leftover breads to soup kitchens and pantries and supports many charities with gift cards and baked goods, including Taste of Tuckahoe and Riverhead Rotary Uncorked.
“Nancy’s generosity, love of family and involvement in making the communities she serves a better place are all qualities we can appreciate,” Ms. Heckman said. “We look forward to a great celebration on May 30 and all are welcome to attend.”
“It’s a very nice award to get,” Ms. Kouris said. “The East End Women’s Network is a wonderful group of professional women and we share a lot of stories and challenges.”
The dinner in Ms. Kouris’ honor will be held at the Birchwood of Polish Town in Riverhead Wednesday, May 30, starting at 5:30. Tickets are $45 for EEWN members and $50 for non-members. Those interested can register at eewn.org.
Photo caption: Nancy Kouris (Courtesy photo)