Natalie Stone is a bit notorious in Medford, NJ. She’s caused quite the stir by taking parking spots meant for pregnant women and posting Youtube videos that poke fun at the typical yard sale shopper. She also works full-time, acts part-time, volunteers, and bakes constantly.
Cooking and baking have been a part of her life since she was a child helping her grandmother, Mary, in the kitchen. Stone started Bella’s Biscotti in 2011, and named the business after her youngest, Isabella.
Stone bakes biscotti in four flavors: classic anise, chocolate cherry, lemon, and vanilla pistachio cherry. She describes her biscotti as old-school traditional, using her grandmother’s recipe, which provides crunch but won’t chip teeth.
She bakes for the joy of it while maintaining her career to pay the bills and keep her lifestyle, despite encouragement to open a bakery. She’s found that the Medford area can’t sustain a bakery–and exaggerated that 92 bakeries in the area have already failed. “Locals buy all of their pastries at the supermarket, which is a shame,” said Stone.
Even if her estimation of failed bakeries is high, Stone has seen her fair share of bakeries that couldn’t stick around in the 34 years she’s lived in Medford. “All these delicious bakeries came and went like that,” she said, snapping her fingers.
Even without the full-time reliability of a brick and mortar store, Stone bakes the best product she can as often as possible. “I like my specialty goods,” she explained. “I can’t sustain a livelihood here doing that, but I do make some money doing it and I’m happy with that. I don’t want to diminish my product with soybean oil. I love butter. If there’s a sale on butter, I’m there with 32 pounds of butter in my cart. You can taste it – there’s a difference. There’s nothing better than butter. I could never be vegan.”
While others have discouraged her baking over the years, with one previous boss even telling her to give up because it provided so little money and required too much time. Stone disregarded them all. “I was able to build it over time,” she shared. “I started at home, then got too big and needed a commercial kitchen.”
No stranger to the kitchen, Stone attended The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College after high school. She completed her internship at the Ritz Carlton, and then, over the following 17 years, worked at hotels in Philadelphia such as The Rittenhouse Hotel and Condominiums, The Loews Philadelphia Hotel, and The Warwick Hotel in various food and beverage management positions. She met all living presidents, actors such as John Travolta, Kevin Costner, and Bruce Willis, Oprah, and a bunch of bands, musicians, and athletes. “It was so much fun,” Stone shared. “The most fun you can have at work is acting and the hotel business. Nothing beats a day at work.”
In 2010, Stone found herself in a place to pursue the interests that she’s had to keep on the back burner. She had been born and raised in Philadelphia until the age of 13, when her family moved to Medford. She left Medford for a few years until moving back so her youngest could attend Catholic School at St. Mary of the Lakes. Now, Stone and her husband of 12 years, Anthony, have five kids between them, a grandchild due in April, and two dogs named Vinny and Santino. Anthony provided the support Stone had been missing in her first marriage, and she quit her job to start acting. “Life got in the way,” Stone explained. “I always wanted to do it. I always wanted to perform.”
Stone immediately started getting work. “Now things are different,” Stone shared. “I have my Anthony and he’s beautiful and supportive. I love him. I’m in love with my husband. He’s truly the greatest thing since a cannoli.”
She booked Boardwalk Empire, industrial videos, infomercials, modeling gigs, a cooking show pilot, a variety of independent films, and several theater roles, including Tina’s mother in Tony and Tina’s Wedding. Stone also combined her love of acting and cooking, making it to the final casting phase of Hell’s Kitchen and snagging an episode of Rocco’s Dinner Party in 2011.
These days, with the spare time she can find, Stone volunteers for Heroin Kills New Jersey, assisting with fundraisers, and she’s active with her church, St. Mary’s of the Lakes, as a lector, while continuing to act and bake. This year alone, she worked on a series of commercials with a Mob Wives theme, airing in Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania; a film called Turkey’s Done that is seeking distribution in Los Angeles; and another independent film called Without You. “I feel like ‘I’m going to die,’ so I want to pursue everything I can,” Stone explained. “It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, it’s who you are as a person. I don’t think you can narrow me down to one thing. I want to do all the things. I want to try everything and have a good damn time doing it. And I get paid. I don’t work for free anymore. Those days are over.”
Her advice for others looking to follow their passions is similar to her own self-talk motivation. “You’re gonna die and you don’t want to die with regrets,” Stone said. “Try everything you want to do–not trying is where the failure is. You get a lot of time in a day, a week, a lifetime. Don’t spend it unwisely! I don’t know what that’s like to live without passion, to not do or not try something you want. Try different things. So many people are afraid of their own shadow or what people will say or think of them.”
When the worst does happen–well, Stone has found that it’s usually not so bad. “When trying new things, I ask myself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ With that answer, I ask myself, ‘And then what?’” Stone shared. “That question usually leads to the conclusion that the worst that can happen usually isn’t that bad and it’s worth trying. I tell my kids If you’re not squirming, you’re not growing. Make yourself uncomfortable. Go talk to that person or try that new thing. I don’t care if you have to rehearse a script before a conversation, just go have it. I don’t care if you’re the pope or the president, I’m walking up to you. He’s probably smarter, but he probably can’t act or bake. Everyone has their God-given talents and they should pursue them.”