I walk into 29 West Main St. and the first thing that I notice is the delicious smell. The smell of freshly baked cakes; a smell that immediately reminds me my grandmother’s kitchen-warm, sweet, and full of carefully crafted baked goods. The aroma captures me and I am drawn into the local bakery. The bakery is beautifully decorated with pinks and greens. It is energetic and welcoming. From that moment, I knew where I was going to do my interview: Christie’s Memorable Cakes. Christie’s Memorable Cakes is a privately owned business located in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. They craft a variety of baked goods including cupcakes, scones, cheesecakes, wedding cakes, and pastries as well as a variety of pieces baked to order. Owned by Christie Coleman, CMS takes pride in creating items from scratch and making sure that her food is “beautiful as well as delicious”. Customer satisfaction through personalization, sensitivity to food intolerance, quality, and memorable presentation all are standards that Christie meets providing services to her customers. Seeing a smile on the face of her regulars is her goal, her reward.
Still enjoying the decadent smells, I peer into the kitchen through an opening behind the coffee bar. My mind wonders through each appliance and I begin to fully appreciate all the care that goes into the food formation. Bringing my focus back to the task at hand, I sit down with Christie, who has just stepped away from her baking, and begin my inquiries. “Where did the idea for your business come from?” I ask. “Well, I had always wanted to be a chef, but somewhere along the way, I decided I wanted to bake.” She attended pastry school and took a special interest in cakes and cake decoration. From there she decided to take cake-decorating classes and began to discover a true passion.
Originally, Christie’s business was home based. She graduated from Fleetwood High School and lived in Fleetwood to begin her business. When she had the opportunity to move her business out of her home, she did. With this decision came her choice to remain local. Christie tells me how she wanted to avoid West Reading. West Reading already has a lot of cake and cupcake shops, so she wanted to be somewhere with more opportunity- somewhere where her business to bloom. Fleetwood seemed to be the right fit for her, her family, and her loyal customers.
We then begin to discuss how she chooses the ingredients for her food and where she gets the products to make them. A lot of the cakes she creates are made to order. She chooses recipes based on the clientele needs. “…some [recipes] come from school, some from requests, and some from family recipes.” Christie buys some of her bulk products from places like Sam’s Club and Sysco, but she gets a good amount of her food locally. Echo Hill is a local Mennonite store that she travels to often. They have all types of naturally constructed products available as well as gluten free options for the individualized needs of her clientele. In addition to Echo Hill, Christie purchases in season fruits from the Fairgrounds Farmers Market in Wyomissing.
As far as preservatives go – there are none. “My cakes have the same shelf life as if you would make them at home and all orders are made the week of pick up…we do not use anything frozen.” Not only is Christie conscious of the way her products are made, but she is conscious of the families enjoying them. She specializes in meeting the needs of her customers by offering gluten free, dairy free, and nut free options. All you need to do is ask!
When it comes to employees, there aren’t many. “My mom helped me open…” Christie says in reference to her shop. Enthusiastically, I ask her if her mother bakes too and she laughs. “No” she pauses and says “…she’s more the artistic one… and she handles a lot of the paperwork”. Other than her mother, Christie only has one other person help her with her business. Together they do all of the baking. Christie does lot of the wedding cake creations and designs, while her assistant does a lot of the fondant work.
From there, I shift my focus from the business to Christie herself. I ask her what her inspiration has been and where she plans to go from here. “I grew up with my grandfather. We are Italian so… a lot of sauces, meatballs, pies etc.. That is why I wanted to become a chef. I was always making creations with him and eventually I wanted to have creations of my own.” Christie explains to me how she has always wanted to open up her own restaurant.- a restaurant with good intentions that focuses on a ‘farm-to-table’ aspect. Christie would want her restaurant to receive their products strictly from local farms and markets, rather than buying them from the grocery store where they have been processed and manipulated. As a result of the new restaurant, her bakery would then specialize in mostly wedding cakes and the new business would be her main focus.
Christie’s Memorable Cakes is five years in business, with no end in sight. At the age of 25, Christie Coleman has accomplished more than many. Few can say they own their own business and even fewer at the age of 25. Christie says that the value of her food is the most important attribute of her vision. By focusing on customer satisfaction through personalization, sensitivity to food intolerance, quality, and memorable presentation, her work remains beautiful as well as tasty. With every creation she knows that “Quality is important.”