Oak Park

Oak Park's Mother Hive helps keep the city sweet

In a world full of designer cakes and snack food, what is the secret to the perfect pastry? According to baker and owner of Mother Hive, Jessica Brady, the answer is bees.

"Honeybees are a gateway drug," Brady says.

Nestled in the heart of Oak Park, Brady built a small apiary in her backyard. She harvests the bees' honey and uses it in her recipes. What started as a love for hexagons while studying architecture led Brady to bees, the world's most famous hexagon builders. 

"It seemed only natural to follow my curiosity into beekeeping and establish my own apiary. Honey is a generous gift." 

That gift would lead Brady to start her own business, Mother Hive. It was the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brady had just discovered she was pregnant with her first child. As everything was changing around her, Brady turned to baking.

"I love the sense of control and predictability of baking," Brady says. "I appreciate the boundaries of a recipe. For example, when you are preparing to bake a cake, you know if you follow all the rules there will be a cake at the end."

Once Brady saw the responses to her creations she realized that baking could be more than a hobby it could become a career. Brady decided to leave her job and became a full-time baker and beekeeper. 

“I guess you could say I dove head first into butter and bees.”

The transition wasn't easy. Pandemic restrictions made it difficult to reach new clients and connect with the community. Her vision of turning Mother Hive into a parent collective stalled. Doubt set in.

"When you run your own business you only have yourself to blame. Being at home there is an extra layer of challenges. And like every business I have to deal with things like shrinkflation, and rapidly changing social media trends."

Brady stuck through with support from her partner, friends and strong word-of-mouth. As the pandemic restrictions lifted Brady was excited to get out into the city and share her sweet tooth with everyone. 

"After my first pop-up at Dog and Pony Show Brewing in Oak Park I knew I had made the right choice. It was the first time customers who were not related to me were paying real dollars for something I crafted by hand. It was a surprising and eye-opening moment in which I realized I could work for and by myself, yet satisfy the cravings of the community."

Brady is a proud Oak Park resident. She cites the support from the city as a big boon to her business.

Starting in 2014, the city created its Strategic Economic Plan. Looking to boost business and community involvement, the plan opened a lot of new doors for entrepreneurs in the area.

Oak Park began partnerships with SCORE and Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) to provide counseling and business-to-business resources for small businesses in the city.

Oak Park joined Michigan’s Redevelopment Ready Certified Community in 2018. The process helped the city provide additional business services allowing access to new opportunities for residents..

The opportunity to connect with the community is at the core of why Brady started Mother Hive. 

“Mother Hive is here for the community,” Brady says. “we are at your table helping to celebrate life’s milestones and also comfort you with sweet treats.”

Among those sweet treats are non-dairy and vegan pastries, custom cakes and her popular Pocket Challah Rolls. Mother Hive takes orders online and custom cakes start at $50. Brady enjoys the challenge of creating new and unique designs for customers. 

Brady's ultimate goal for Mother Hive is to finish turning it into a collective. Having started the business during COVID-19, Brady realized how powerful baking is at bringing people together.

“I want to circle back on Mother Hive’s original intention to be a parent collective. I would love to establish a village of talented parents and passionate people to better the balance of work, life, and parenthood. We can’t do it alone, we’re better together, together we thrive.”

All photos by Martha Mejia.
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Read more articles by Blake Woodruff.

Blake Woodruff is a feature writer based in Southeast Michigan. He believes the best way to impact is to inform.