GOBankingRates readers have cast their nominations for their favorite local businesses deserving of a Small Business Spotlight, and the business with the most nominations is Bakester’s Pastries in Willcox, Arizona. Owned by Leigha Burris, the bakery-slash-deli-style sandwich shop serves up sandwiches on fresh-made bread, as well as cinnamon rolls, cookies, and biscuits and gravy. Burris also does catering for weddings and other events and creates custom cakes as well. Here, we chat with Burris about why her bakery is a dream come true and how she feels about being the most-nominated business of 2022.
Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired you to start your business?
It’s actually a childhood dream of mine to have my own restaurant. My grandparents had a restaurant. They had two locations in Toledo [Ohio] when I was growing up. As a child, I had the opportunity to be around my grandparents before they retired and sold the business.
What did you take from past experiences or jobs that you knew you wanted to be a part of your new business?
I had been a waitress before and I also made a lot of meals for my family. When we have family gatherings, everybody comes to my house and I cook. This kind of stemmed from there. I was already doing custom cakes and making bread and cinnamon rolls, but when COVID hit, I saw a need for people being able to get what they needed, but not having to go into the store. I was making fresh bread, fresh cinnamon rolls, fresh rolls, cobbler, etc., so it kind of started in my home. I had my cottage license and I just started making things for people and doing a weekly delivery, and there was so much call for it that I couldn’t keep up. My kitchen wasn’t big enough here. So I thought, maybe I should expand. So I just put all my cards in and thought, let’s do it. So I did it!
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?
It’s the experience, the customers. My customers are a huge part of the whole reason that I do this.
The most rewarding part is knowing that I did it. I can do this, I did this. That’s huge for me.
How has inflation affected your business, if at all, and how have you been coping with it?
I have a rotating menu. I don’t keep the same items. I do breakfast sandwiches, I do lunch sandwiches, soup, salad, a lot of different things. I feel like my rotating menu has really helped me keep things fresh and I can change things, and that has been beneficial to me. If I realize that there’s a shortage on some of the items I usually use, I sit down and think, let’s try something new then. I’m trying really hard to keep the prices where my customers can still come in and enjoy our deli sandwiches, and also just try to keep balancing that margin.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Do it! It is stressful and you’re not going to make a million bucks, but if you’re in it for the right reasons, if you’re in it to have the ability to serve your community, if you’re in it to make those customer relationships, then that’s the right reason. I just feel like you should do it. Just do it.
How does it feel to be our most nominated small business?
When you said that to me I was like, no way. There are so many other businesses here whose food is out of the park or they’re just great. Our community is amazing. We have the coffee house, we have the Mexican food restaurant, we have the barbecue place, and I was just absolutely astounded when you said that. It made me tear up a little bit!
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