By Sarah Einselen News editor Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Ind.
Phyllis Rossi freely admits she's addicted to Pinterest.
"It's like reading a novel. You don't get off of it," the local bakery owner said.
Founder and longtime owner of The Dessert Haus Bake Shoppe on North Sixth Street, Rossi has saved 1,901 "pins," or photos with descriptions, to 42 boards -- akin to file folders -- on the digital sharing site.
"And most of them are food," she said.
Like a number of other Logansport residents, Rossi collects recipes, decorating ideas and do-it-yourself cleaning tips via the site. But she's also turned it into a tool alongside traditional cookbooks and recipe magazines like "Taste of Home" to broaden her business's collection of recipes.
Rossi had been decorating cakes for two decades before she opened The Dessert Haus in 1997 in a building built specifically for the bakery and resembling the half-timbered historic architecture seen throughout Germany.
She uses mixes for her cakes -- for the most part, anyway -- but looked for new cookie ideas regularly. "I collect cookbooks like somebody collects marbles," she said.
Then, one day last year, her daughter established a Pinterest account on Rossi's behalf. Rossi didn't have a picture of herself readily available, so her daughter uploaded a picture of a koala bear as her profile picture. "I like koalas," Rossi said, shrugging her shoulders and smiling.
Rossi isn't the only area resident to be on Pinterest. Back in 2012, the PewResearch Internet Project found almost a fifth of U.S. women used the site, which statistics indicate is used overwhelmingly by women. Several fans of the Pharos-Tribune's Facebook page said they used it for planning various parties, finding hair styles, collecting new dinner recipes and finding ideas for craft projects.
"It's almost like having this big gigantic encyclopedia," Rossi noted.
One reader pointed out that using Pinterest cut down on the number of magazines she purchased. Rossi said she's changed her habits, too, getting new recipes online now more often than from cookbooks or magazines.
"I think they're almost outdated now," Rossi said of cookbooks. "Pinterest doesn't take up room."
That is, not much room. She has one notebook devoted to recipes she's found on Pinterest, with perhaps 60 or 70 different cookie recipes inside along with a few specialty cake recipes, like tiramisu. That's just a drop in the bucket compared to the 500-plus recipes she has all told.
It's not unusual for business owners like Rossi to become active on the social image-sharing site. A number of Monty Henderson's clients with the Indiana Small Business Development Center use it as a marketing tool.
"What these clients [mostly female entrepreneurs] tell me is that the 'craft' industry is very active on this platform, foods included," said Henderson, an ISBDC business adviser. "So, pictures and recipes from a baker 'hit home' with those who appreciate baking as a hobby. It's a way for a business to develop a reputation and credentials online."
He's sure business owners also get ideas from the site, like Rossi does.
Rossi collected many of the Pinterest recipes over the winter, when business was slower and she couldn't spend as much time outside.
"It's just like learning anything new. ... I took off on that like learning to ride a bike," Rossi said.
Then she started trying out a couple of new recipes about once every other week -- more during Christmastime -- and has gotten through around two dozen so far.
Among them was a "baby bump" cake she made for a customer who had seen the cake style on Pinterest. A new spring-themed basket of cookies she posted to the Facebook page also came out of a Pinerest pin, she said, and ended up being a popular item.
"We got so many orders off of that. I was surprised," Rossi said.
That's when she knows a Pinterest recipe is a keeper. Other times, she'll try a recipe for a week or two and it will flop. Then instead of staying in the notebook, it heads to the circular file.
Even if she keeps a recipe, Rossi will often change the name of a sweet treat she's found via Pinterest if she doesn't care for the title a Pinterest user gave it. But one title she kept was for the "Better than Crack Brownies" she says are a huge hit among her customers.
At one point, she even started labeling sweets with the Pinterest logo if she'd found the recipe on the site. But many of her customers -- elderly people who aren't familiar with the site -- mistook that to mean that they weren't made by her at all. They thought Pinterest was a brand, Rossi said, so she stopped labeling the sweets with the logo.
If you ask her, though, she can point to every cookie on display that she used Pinterest for.
"I just want to see what kind of cookies people are making for Halloween or Valentine's Day or whatever," she said. "After doing the same [recipes] over and over again for years, it's nice to get some new ideas."