Baking hobby blooms into sweet opportunity for former teacher

As the number of small businesses continues to rise, there is plenty to do in Port Huron, but no matter your reason for being in the city, there is ALWAYS room for dessert.

A new option for sweet treats opened its doors in December and has been a hit with the community.

Betsy's Bakes opened Dec. 16 at what used to be Allen's Grocery Store, 901 Erie St., and offers a variety of confections thatBetsy Selepack makes sure each custom cake order is fun and vibrant. change daily. There are savory breads and brioche buns along with an array of grab-and-go sweets: brownies, cinnamon rolls, blueberry squares, lemon poppyseed muffins, cherry chip cupcakes, and butterscotch pretzel cookies to name a sampling.

It was a long-awaited opening. Owner Betsy Selepack bought the building at the end of 2015, but the bakery's first official day wasn't until two years later.

Remodeling the 1890s building close to where Selepack was raised took time, and Blue Water area residents eagerly inquired about when the shop would be ready to go. It was not even up to code when purchased.

"The building needed more work than I thought, but it's nice to be able to say that I did it. With the help of amazing friends, we tore down and rebuilt the building. I would say I'm pretty handy now," the self-taught baker says.

Once it was, the community jumped on board. Betsy's Bakes has rave reviews online and has already racked up 1,789 "likes" on Facebook. People cannot get enough.

While remodeling, Selepack updated her personal Facebook page asking about power washers she was looking to borrow, or informing her friends that she was cleaning at the shop. "If you want to help, come on over. I'll be here!" one post read.

Monna Selepack, LeeAnn Hillis, Betsy Selepack and David Carpa at Betsy's Bakes.A few days before Christmas, David Carpa of Fort Gratiot spent some time at the shop and paid for half of Selepack's customers' bills. She was already getting help running the bakery that day from her mother-in-law, Monna Selepack, and friend, LeeAnn Hillis.

Truly a community effort and supported by the public's enthusiasm, the bakery gives back to the neighborhood, too. Not only did it fill an apparently much needed opportunity for baked goods, proven by the number of interested customers, but Selepack donates leftovers to local charities and churches.

Selepack was already well-known in the area for her custom cakes, cookies, pies, and other desserts. Her sweets are moist, flavorful, and intricately decorated. She has created giant Oreo cakes; a mermaid cake with deep blue and vibrant teal scales on the side, complete with part of a purple tail flipping past on top; personalized baby shower cookies with iced rattles, onesies with hand-swirled designs, and tiaras; and a woodland creature cake with friendly fox, raccoon, and squirrel faces, to name a few.

She still takes custom orders, but figuring out the storefront is a completely different task.

Betsy's Bakes is definitely the opposite of big business. Selepack has had to put in constant work and time to start this herself. With customers and orders pouring in, a brick-and-mortar store is a labor of love.

"From the moment I get to the bakery until even after the doors are closed, I am working on something for the bakery. Baking, contacting clients, checking and shopping for supplies, managing staff, talking to potential clients, researching recipes and design ideas for special orders," she says.

Amongst all of the business, the pastry-maker has a home life that is extremely important to her, too. Family is the reason that she and her husband, Matt, left Orlando to move back to their hometown of Port Huron in 2010. The bakery is closed on Sundays and Mondays; Sundays for family, and Mondays to get a head start on the week's baking. Aside from that, it is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Selepack says her children, Tova, 7, and Coen, 3, husband, and parents, Pat and Mary Gale McPharlin have been her biggest supporters. Even though work is busy, she tries to stay involved in the morning routine at home and make it back for dinner. She also has a small staff of four employees.

"I originally thought that I could run the bakery with myself and one other, but I was very wrong," she says. "This place could be running 24/7, and we would still need more time and help."

Owning a bakery is not the life she and her family envisioned. Selepack had a career as a teacher; she has a master's degreBetsy Selepack and her family outside the storefront the day it was purchased in 2015.e in education. When a lull in job openings led her to work at Kate's Downtown, she baked for their special events on occasion. Baking was a hobby that started with making Christmastime sugar cookies with neighbors, a common tradition, but it stuck with her.

"I get bored doing the same thing, and I was doing the stay-at-home mom thing and substituting from time to time, but I hadn't challenged myself in a few years, and this seemed like something I wanted to try," she says.

Now, she says her biggest struggle is "keeping the display cases filled." While Selepack was not expecting opening her own place would be a cakewalk, all of its responsibilities have come on faster than planned. It is worth the hard work to see the last two years of her dream become a reality.

"Work is enjoyable! Customers are great, and my staff is productive yet very fun!," she says.

With absolutely every mention of the challenging work, Selepack throws in words of gratefulness.

On Dec. 20, she wrote on social media: "It's only been three days of my doors open, and my heart is full of joy from all the support I have received. Friends have been stopping in to give a hand or two from time to time, and oh my, the customers!...Port Huron, you are amazing! I love my hometown."

These first few months of Betsy's Bakes will be used to find out what customers want and what businesses need before a menu is established. Fuel, Lake Fx, Raven Café, and The Exquisite Corpse are all in talks to use some of Selepack's baked goods.

For now, stop by Betsy's Bakes to check out the variety and give your advice for which treats should stick.

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