Prospering Company: Sweet and Savory Bake Shop

There are those who take leaps of faith, and those who get a running start and hurl themselves into the unknown.

Put Debra Meyers and Scott Eschelbach into the latter category.

Seven years ago, the two were working as pastry chefs at Holiday Market
in Royal Oak when they decided to suddenly shift course.

“We quit our jobs on the same day,” says Meyers, “and three weeks later we opened this place.”

This place is Sweet and Savory Bake Shop of Oxford, which has been
keeping the Oakland County region sweet for nearly a decade thanks to
the dedication of Meyers and Eschelbach. Both are pastry chefs with 20
years experience: Meyers worked for 12 years in California’s Bay Area
and started her career working under renowned chef and author Alice
Medrich, while Eschelbach attended the culinary arts program at Oakland
Community College and honed his artistic flair under the mentorship of
Yvonne Uhlianuk.

The shop opened in
late October 2002 because Meyers and Eschelbach wanted to be sure to
catch the holiday crowd (“Everybody goes on a diet in January,” says
Meyers.), and it soon won the Oxford Chamber of Commerce’s New Business
of the Year Award.

Meyers notes the
unorthodox foray into the small-business world gave them a singular determination to make it work. “We didn’t have any choice but to
succeed,” she says.

And succeed they
did. Out of their single cozy location in downtown Oxford, Meyers and Eschelbach don’t so much make desserts as they do dreams dipped in
sugar — offering a wide variety of cakes and pastries for weddings and
other special events.

Want a cake
depicting Detroit landmarks? How about a wedding cake that could be in
an art museum? Sweet and Savory Bake Shop continue to gain
word-of-mouth praise and renown.

“Word-of-mouth is very important for us,” says Meyers. “We’ve built a really good reputation.”

It’s a reputation that’s endured a prolonged Michigan recession, a fact
Meyers credits to quality and integrity. “The quality of our product,
quality of our ingredients and the quality of our work is what really
makes us exceptional,” she says.

Two years ago, Meyers and Eschelbach took the Venture Forward program,
a 10-week series of training sessions offered by the Oakland County
Business Center. It helps existing entrepreneurs grow their businesses
by developing sound business practices and action plans.

Meyers says the Venture Forward program helped them reevaluate their
business and direct energies to what things make them stand out and be
profitable, “rather than trying to be everything to everybody.”

The two owners strike an important balance with their respective
strengths. Meyers is the pragmatic businesswoman; Eschelbach is the
artist who, as Meyers puts it, is an expert at “painting in
buttercream.”

If Meyers and
Eschelbach are stepping up their business model, they’re stepping up
their community presence as well. They have donated to local
fund-raisers for a local food bank and the Michigan AIDS Coalition.
They have also raised $5,000 for Heifer International and The Water
Project with the help of customers and donations.

Future plans include finding a bigger building space and to develop a
wholesale business, two goals that weren’t even on the horizon when the
two found themselves unemployed seven years ago.

Meyers isn’t exactly surprised by the outcome, always having faith in
her dream. It’s advice she would give to someone just starting out in
the business world.

“Really just
believe in what you do,” she advises, adding that hard work and
integrity are also tantamount to success. “Treat people who work for
you like diamonds, because they’re valuable.”

Finally, it helps to have someone more experienced in the field to help
guide your way, says Meyers. “Find a mentor and try to live up to the
standards set by the person you most admire in your field.”

Sweet
and Savory Bake Shop is located at 9 S. Washington in Oxford. Hours are
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
For more information call (248) 628-4210 or visit the Web site at www.sweetandsavoryonline.com.