Wayne Douglass didn’t intentionally whip up a career in cheesecakes. But the way everything came together makes it seems like baking was his destiny.
“It was a Domino effect for me, falling into this situation,” said Douglass, who owns For The Love of Cheesecake inside City Market, 401 Center Ave.
Circumstances weren’t always perfect when he opened his doors and there are still a lot of challenges to owning a business, but because of the way it worked out, Douglass feels like he’s found a home in Downtown Bay City.
Douglass made his first cheesecake in hopes of impressing a woman.Douglass, 43, is just a year older than the average entrepreneur. According the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the average entrepreneur founds his or her business at 42.
He started his business a few years ago, almost by accident.
“As long as these days are and as hard as these days are, at the end of the day, I still feel much better about what I do, just because I’m doing it for the benefit of me and my family,” says Douglass.Douglass just wanted to make a desert to impress a woman. “I’ve always had an affinity for cooking,” he said, having grown up watching his grandmother, mother, aunt, and other family members in the kitchen. “The reason I made my first cheesecake was because I had a young lady coming over for dinner.”
He found that first recipe on YouTube. For several years, he experimented with different ways to perfect the recipe. Then, two years ago, he got the chance to test what he had learned.
Douglass said feels grateful for City Market and the businesses there for helping him get started.“I went to my stepmother’s birthday party, and my wife suggested a Banana Pudding Cheesecake she saw on Pinterest. I made it and it turned out great, and I realized all they did was show me what to add to my cheesecake base.”
Douglass decided the cheesecake was such a success, he would try to make a couple extra dollars on the side. At the time, he was working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, but it wasn’t long before he gave that up.
In just a year, For The Love of Cheesecake has grown from being small enough to handwrite labels on each box to supplying 6 restaurants.
“I sold my first cheesecake to a coworker in January of (2018). Then someone asked me to make a ganache just to put on it.” Douglass said the couple ate all 12 slices of cheesecake in just a couple of days. Once people knew what he could do, he was asked to do more.
“The craziest one was when my wife came to me with a bag of Kraft individually wrapped caramels and asked me to make a sauce to put on a cheesecake.”
Before opening his business, Douglass worked as a nursing assistant, a truck driver, and a salesman. He says he believes all those experiences help him today.He said he took up the challenge and soon found himself making all kinds of cheesecake flavors, including one that tastes like Superman Ice Cream. He’s also gotten pretty good at making his own salted caramel.
Even though the business seemed to fall into place, Douglass said it hasn’t been without its challenges. “It took a toll on the family,” he said, adding that his wife, Sarena, helped out at first. Soon, though, it became too much. The business keeps Douglass away from home for long hours. And the financial strain of owning a business was more than they expected.
Today, his wife focuses on her job and the couple’s family. He focuses on the cheesecake business.
Superman Ice Cream flavor cheesecake is one of the specialty flavors Douglass created.
“We had a steady income before,” Douglass said. “Now I don’t have an income. There’s money being made and there’s money being spent, but I don’t take an income – I get an allowance.”
The long hours and learning curve around business contracts, the business plan and learning the ins and outs of entrepreneurship also take their toll.
Individual slices as well as whole cheesecakes fill the shelves inside City Market.
“The strain of getting a new business running; it’s like plunging into the deepest waters when I haven’t ever seen a puddle before. There’s a lot of moving cogs and parts to this thing and you have to keep moving because if you get stagnant, you die.”
Despite the challenges, Douglass said he enjoys the work.
“I wanted to be an entrepreneur for a very long time,” he said. “I’ve always liked the idea of working for myself. As long as these days are and as hard as these days are, at the end of the day, I still feel much better about what I do, just because I’m doing it for the benefit of me and my family and not just to line someone else’s pocket.”
He said he’s also had a lot of help from the Bay City community, including Go Great Lakes Bay, his fellow marketers at City Market, and his restaurant clients.
Douglass compares running his first business to diving into deep waters when you’ve never stepped into a mud puddle.
“If it wasn’t for Greg Buzzard (That Guy’s BBQ), I would not even be at this point right now.” Douglass said he rented kitchen space from “That Guy.” He also found support from the other small businesses that fill City Market. “I couldn’t reach out and touch anyone in this facility who didn’t assist in some way.”
In just a year, he’s grown from hand-writing the labels on each box that he sold to individuals to selling whole cheesecakes to six restaurants.
He plans to grow from here.
After a successful year at City Market, Douglass said he looks forward to moving into his own kitchen eventually. He’d like to add pastries and other sweet and savory treats to his menu, but he said he won’t give up his space at the market. “These are my stomping grounds – where I cut my teeth,” he said, “It’s businesses working together and we all have the same goal.”
Having worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant, a truck driver, a salesman, and at a myriad of other jobs, Douglass said he believes all his past experiences helped him get where he is, and show him where he wants to go in the future.
Douglass experiments with flavors to create the toppings for each cheesecake.
“I feel like all the things I’ve done in my life culminated in this spot. All those experiences play a part,” he said, and the way everything For the Love of Cheesecakes fell into place, he said he’s sure this is the right spot.
“I don’t even consider myself a baker,” he said, “I consider myself a guy who knows how to play with cream cheese and I can cook a little bit.”