Success stories

Yummy Delights on the Lakeshore

Muskegon, Michigan

If you need another example of how business ownership builds generational wealth, there’s one happening in Muskegon.

Yummy Delights on the Lakeshore got a small business loan from Northern Initiatives.Mari Romero owns Yummy Delights by the Lakeshore, a bakery she has nurtured for almost 10 years.

Mari’s oldest daughter Sabrina now owns her own cookie business, Lakeshore Confections, and operates out of Mari’s business. Both are flour-ishing.

Yummy Delights, which started as a home bakery specializing in custom cakes, has outgrown multiple locations over the past decade. Its new “forever home” is on Hackley Avenue and the grand opening will be held this summer.

Northern Initiatives helped Mari purchase the building using funds from the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. The new location has a “decorating room,” much to Mari’s delight, so she can continue with custom cakes, and customers can watch the magic happen through windows facing the café.

Mari believes God puts the right people in your path and early on one of those people showed up with a last-minute cake emergency order. The customer’s original baker had bailed and she contacted Mari four days before the event. Mari delivered.

That customer-turned-friend is Connie Briseño, owner of a La Casa Fierro, popular restaurant in Muskegon. She offered to let Mari use the restaurant’s kitchen during its off-hours – 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. – so she could get licensed. Mari got to work, with midnight baking sessions followed by marathon packaging and labeling sessions, followed by a full day of, well, life. “I will forever be grateful to my friend for believing in me,” Mari said.

Yummy Delights on the Lakeshore got a small business loan from Northern Initiatives.
Multiple cheesecakes including Biscoff, Pina Colada and mini-cheesecakes in Strawberry Crunch, Banana Pudding, and Oreo

From there, the bakery moved to a location that ended up being pandemic perfect, with a walkup window that frequently had lines curving around the building. Picking up yummy desserts “helped a lot with people feeling human again,” Mari said, even while wearing masks, gloves and standing six feet apart. The business didn’t just survive the pandemic, but grew to include a production facility. It continued to grow until the family realized they needed to move. The search for a larger location took more than a year.

The new building not only has that decorating room, but it has a baking room and retail space. Mari’s husband, Jorge Romero, took three weeks off from his job to make renovations. “He’s always been my right hand and has always supported all my crazy business ventures,” Mari said. It was Jorge who encouraged Mari to make the leap into business ownership and it was Jorge transporting yummy desserts between locations during the pandemic. “This had truly been a family effort,” Mari said. “My husband, both our daughters, our sons-in-law, my sister and mom have always been extremely supportive.”

Mari says one lesson she’d like to impart on other entrepreneurs is to “go the extra mile” when hiring. “Do interviews, check references, follow your gut,” she said.

Yummy Delights on the Lakeshore got a small business loan from Northern Initiatives.
Mari Romero, front, and baker Lydia Crocker in the (tiny) kitchen in her former location.

It paid off with her current staff of one, Lydia Crocker. Mari is a big proponent of the “working interview,” and had Lydia bake one of her favorite desserts – and paid her for her time. “We could see how she worked and, of course, taste her dessert,” Mari said.

Lydia, a fresh Culinary Institute of Michigan graduate who majored in baking, wasn’t really looking for a job because she was intent on moving to a bigger city. However, she quickly realized how valuable working at Yummy Delights is. She has free rein creatively while learning the ins and outs of running a small business.

“I’m seeing how hectic it can be!” she laughed. She’s learned the Point of Sale system, tracks inventory, and gets to create things like Raspberry Lemonade Blondies. “I do a lot of the baking and Mari decorates and makes everything look pretty,” she smiled.

The working relationship has freed up more of Mari’s time to develop the business. She’s adding coffee and plant-based energy drinks to the menu, working with her new neighbors on promotions, devising a class schedule for cake and cookie decorating, and planning a wholesale business.

Her business philosophy has served her well: You’ll never know until you try.

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