By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications
Editor’s Note: This story is part of a month-long series called the 25 Days of Downtown Christmas that highlights the fantastic selection of retailers in downtown Garden City.
After making custom cakes to order for several years out of her home, Lisa Loving took the plunge a little more than three years ago to set up a bricks and mortar bakery business in downtown Garden City.
Loving’s Cakes opened in March 2014 at 210 E. Spruce St., about a half-block east of Stevens Park. Her exposure to the bakery business came early. Loving and her sister, Christina Roth, when they were younger lived with their uncle Bart Gero, a baker for 65 years who owned the Sugar Pots bakery in Dover, N.J.
After their aunt passed away, Uncle Bart came to Garden when they first opened and is back here now.
“He’s given us his secrets and lots of his recipes. He’s full blood Italian, so we do a lot of Italian cookies and cakes and stuff like that. Pastries,” Loving said.
Southwest Kansas Cake Boss
Loving, who was working as sergeant at the Finney County Jail at the time, got interested in opening her own business in 2010 when her sister asked her not to get her any “stuff” for Christina’s birthday.
“I was watching TV and I saw The Cake Boss, so I thought I’d make her a cake. About $300 later, I made my first cake, which was a topsy-turvy cake. It just snowballed from there,” Loving said. “I was doing cakes for free, then for the cost of ingredients, and then I started charging for my time. I finally said, you know what, if I’m going to do this, let’s do it right.”
From there, Loving created a business plan and found the building available for lease on Spruce. Her husband, Rodney, is also a co-owner of the business, and Christina is essentially her right-hand in keeping it going.
“We technically opened the business to be a custom cake bakery. All of the cookies and pastries and stuff like that is an afterthought. We weren’t going to have a storefront, we were just going to be able to have people come in and order cakes,” she said.
But more and more people came in wanting cupcakes and cookies. The business now offers cakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, turnovers, fruit rolls, scones, cupcakes, fudge and candy, and gift boxes of goodies.
“We’re famous for our sugar cookies,” Loving said while surrounded by freshly baked cookies decorated as Santa. “It took me over a year to perfect the recipe. Our sugar cookies are amazing.
“You’re not going to find any other sugar cookies that taste as good. Of course, I’m biased,” she said with a laugh.
Loving said baking is a fine art, largely dependent on temperature, mixing length, when you start mixing, how you take it out of the oven, etc., and if you waver one little bit you won’t be consistent.
“We’re pretty proud of our cakes. It’s more than just the looks. It’s the flavor,” she said.
Custom cakes are still Loving’s top seller. The bakery makes all kinds, everything from huge cakes that take a team of four to deliver, to cakes for weddings, quinceaneras and birthdays. They deliver locally and have made deliveries to other states including Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Colorado.
Christmas is the busiest time of year for cookies, Loving said. For cakes, it’s wedding season which is typically spring and summer though nowadays weddings go on throughout the year. Other busy times during the year are graduations and mother’s day events.
The time to prepare a cake depends on the complexity of the design and decoration, as well as the cost. For bigger cakes, Loving consults with the customer to discuss design ideas before the cake is made.
“That’s why we’re custom cakes, because I won’t copy anyone else’s work,” she said. “I’ll get close if someone brings something in to show a certain design. But I won’t even copy my own creations exactly because when I make you a cake, that’s your cake.”
Loving said it’s a challenge turning a design into reality and working with cakes has really allowed her to use her artistic ability. She said her sixth grade art teacher told her she’d do something artistic someday and be very good at it.
An Army brat, Loving grew up all over the place in various places. She wishes her father, a Vietnam veteran who died in 2009, would have lived to see the business she created because he would have loved it.
“It can be overwhelming at times, but very rewarding,” she said. “My favorite part about this whole business is to see a bride’s face … when they see the cake, or the look on a little child’s face, boy or girl, when mom brings them in to pick up their cake. The amazement on their face. That’s what makes it worth it to me.”
Downtown’s homey, family feel
Loving enjoys being downtown but would love to move closer to the heart of the district, into a building on Main Street, both for the increased visibility and for the added space. The store on Spruce is quite cramped for six people working in close quarters.
“I love the downtown feel. I love the atmosphere. It needs more food places and more shopping places, honestly, but I’ve always wanted to be downtown. Especially during the holiday time, with the lights and music. It’s really awesome. But I feel like we’re off the beaten path here, a block away, and we miss out on some of the good stuff,” she said.
Loving’s has a Facebook page where people can take a look at their cake creations and other pastries available at the store.
Loving’s hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. This Saturday, Loving’s may stay open a bit longer to accommodate customers stocking up on Christmas goodies.