Blog

Kathleen King Honored at Through Farms & Fields 2017

Profile
Event
August 7, 2017

By Yvette DeBow-Salsedo

Kathleen King

As the founder of Tate’s Bake Shop, Kathleen and her beloved chocolate chip cookies have become an important ingredient of East End homes, gatherings and celebrations – and has expanded worldwide with a little bit of Southampton reaching far and wide.

 
Starting at the age of 11 in a kitchen of her family’s home at North Sea Farm, Kathleen’s cookies were introduced at the family’s farm stand in the mid-1970s – with her parents, Richard and Millie, proudly looking on. Kathleen is the definition of perseverance and quality – building a successful business and providing unwavering support to the East End community through many charitable endeavors – and we are thankful to her support of the Peconic Land Trust in so many ways, continuing a family tradition that started with her parents. The King family has been a part of the Trust’s development from the start, including her brother Richard who was a founding board member in 1983. 
 
In an article in Edible East End in 2005, Kathleen’s father, Richard “Tate” King said: “I’ve always told my kids to go out of your way for other people and help them every way you can. If you can get along with people and you’ve got ambition, you’ve got it 95 percent made.” Kathleen’s commitment to the community has been true to her father’s words. 
 
Kathleen credits her parents for instilling in her, and her siblings, a work ethic and dedication to the community that knew no boundaries: “Even though I grew up in the 60s, I had a mother who was ahead of her time. When we grew up, we didn’t have any roles. It was all about that there was this much work that needed to be done before the day was over. Inside or outside the house.” 
 
The cookie baking actually started with her sister Karin and her friend Jill who would bake cookies, brownies and bread … but when Karin turned 14 she decided she wanted a job outside the house, at the local ice cream parlor — The Fling in North Sea. Kathleen took on the cookie baking more to satisfy her own sweet tooth than as an ambition. “I baked because my mother wouldn’t bring “junk food” in the home. It wasn’t a health thing, but economics — there were no extras at the farm. With four kids and all our friends having an “open refrigerator” policy at our house, that was how it was.” 

In the beginning, Kathleen’s dad had an agreement with her: he would buy the ingredients and she could keep the money. Running back and forth between the kitchen and the farmstand where she was helping customers, she would often say, “I’ll be right back, have to check the cookies,” creating instant customers for her ginormous “farm” cookies. “I sold 6 large cookies for 59 cents,” Kathleen adds. The pricing inspiration coming from her dad. And they literally flew off the shelf. Within a short time, “my dad said we have to change our plan and you have to start buying the ingredients now because you are costing me too much money — but you can have free eggs,” she said with a laugh. And until she turned 16 and had her drivers’ permit, her mother always did the shopping. “But if she came home with the wrong ingredients, I wouldn’t use them — I was a food snob from an early age.” 

 
Growing up in Southampton, Kathleen’s love for the area comes from her lifetime experience — spending time at the bay, riding her bike along the curvy roads by Big Fresh Pond, picking strawberries at the Green Thumb. Her love of her hometown has been the impetus for her support of conservation. The Trust and its work has been a part of her family since the organization’s founding, but the demands of growing a business had her focus in the 80s, 90s and into the early part of the 2000s. When she took a breath and looked around she noticed that what she has always loved about the East End — the views of the water, the open fields and the closeness of neighbors — was starting to disappear. “As a kid, to me this place in summer was all about sandy feet, bar-b-ques and bathing suits all day. It was a real simplicity that was lovely, and I started to feel like it was going away. So I began to think, what can I do?”
 
“When John first approached me for a donation of baked goods for Through Farms and Fields back in 2008, I was like sure … and can I come? My experience that evening, with my parents along, was an eye opener.  It was also at Whitecap Farm, which I love. The message that night really hit home for me, that we should all do what we can to help conserve and hold onto what is important to us. Donate, volunteer, work … we can all do something to make a difference.”