The economy, of late, has been unkind to small businesses, and Sheri Deerhake's is no exception.
Making wedding cakes hasn't been quite as sweet an enterprise since the recession hit, Deerhake found out.
The Northland resident, owner since 2002 of Delicacies by Sheri in Clintonville, said last week that she was very close to bottoming out and having to give up on a shop that's been in existence since 1992. But she managed to tap into some federal stimulus money to stay afloat.
Then, the Central Ohio Transit Authority proposed purchasing the strip center with Deerhake's business and five others five storefronts to make room for a facility to permit buses to turn around.
The Northland home Sheri and Steve Deerhake share, the store at 5320 N. High St. and the equipment it contains — ovens and stoves and display cases and a walk-in cooler and a freezer — were put up as collateral to obtain the stimulus funding.
Hoping against hope that she would not be forced to relocate, Deerhake said that she's been looking at other places for Delicacies by Sheri, but the minimum cost of moving the entire enterprise and setting it all up again is $50,000.
The figure seemed insurmountable, the consequences of not being able to raise it too unpleasant to contemplate. Deerhake dropped out of college after starting in the restaurant trade, where she gained her baking prowess.
"This is my passion," she said last week. "I have no idea what I would do."
Now she may continue doing what she does.
At a special meeting of the COTA board of directors last week, the proposed purchase was rejected by a vote of 10-0.
Delicacies by Sheri may not be entirely out of the woods, but definitely dodged this bullet, and owner Deerhake said that she was very grateful to all in the Clintonville community who unified to fight the COTA proposal.
Sheri Beaverson was born and grew up in and around the Logan County village of Belle Center. She worked in an ice cream parlor back home, but also showed a talent for playing the saxophone.
"As soon as I hit 18, I got out," she said.
The future Mrs. Deerhake attended Ohio Northern University on a music scholarship for a year before switching to Ohio State University where she changed her major to English.
"I ended up not finishing," she said.
That's because Deerhake's first "real restaurant training" took place while she was still a student. It was at the Refectory Restaurant and Bistro on Bethel Road. She started out as a hostess but eventually worked every position in the place, finally settling in the kitchen in the late 1980s and early '90s. There she rose to the position of assistant French pastry chef before moving on to the now-defunct Déjà vu Café. Deerhake started out making desserts but eventually became the chef.
After a bout with lupus in her early 20s made restaurant work too exhausting, Deerhake found a job 18 years ago in the same place where she's doing business today. It was called simply Delicacies back then, and Deerhake found making wedding cakes and other goodies suited her nicely.
"It just allowed me to be more artistic than I could in a restaurant," she said.
The "by Sheri" part of the store's name was added in 2002 when Deerhake took over as sole proprietor.
Deerhake especially enjoys the challenge of listening to some future bride's idea of the perfect wedding cake, and then sketching out precisely what they had been thinking about.
"We custom-design everything," Deerhake said.
Recently, one of her customers was a woman in her 60s who had never been married. The good-natured ribbing from family members inquiring about when she was going to wed invariably brought the response, "When pigs fly." After meeting a widower a year and a half ago and the two falling in love, the woman wanted just the right cake for the ceremony.
Deerhake created one that shows a pig in the cockpit of an airplane.
Deerhake's smile at this memory faded as she once again contemplated the new reality regarding the future for her shop. Not only does she not see any way she can afford the move – other locations in the Clintonville area where she wants to stay have rents two and three times as high as she is currently paying – but also Deerhake has no desire to go anywhere. She likes the location.
"It's good," she said. "The walk-in traffic has gotten better since Graceland (was redeveloped). It's good because it's centrally located. Everybody can find it."
Delicacies by Sheri has eight employees, including the owner. She also often has students from the Graham School working there, and was recently given the school's Mentor of the Year Award.
"It's not just a bakery," Deerhake said. "We're a family, and we do community outreach, too."