Home Bake & Candy Shoppe to close after 32 years

By HASKEL BURNS,

Home Bake & Candy Shoppe opened for business in November 1985, the enterprise of a mother/daughter team with a passion for business and baking.

And for more than 32 years, Hattiesburg residents in search of cupcakes, cakes and other sweet treats knew just where to go – the little brick building with the pink trim on the corner of North 25th Avenue and West 7th Street.

But now that era is about to come to an end, as the Home Bake staff plans to close the doors for the last time on March 23.

“It was just a business decision, as far as finding a stopping point,” founder Rebecca Stanford said. “It’s been a privilege to serve Hattiesburg – we’ve been here a long time. We’ve just reached a point where we’re ready to retire.”

Stanford, along with her mother, Sue Sumrall, lived in the back of the store for a bit while they got the shop up and running. Through the years since, the business has truly remained a family affair.

“We were just two little housewives when we opened it, and now my mom is 77,” said Stanford, who lives in Lumberton.  “My son still works here, and I have a brother who works here too.

“It’s been a hard decision (to close the shop), but it’s just come to the point where we had to make some (choices), and this is one of them.”

Stanford’s love for baking began as a small child, after a bad experience with her first bakery-bought birthday cake.

“Nobody wanted to eat it, because it was so terrible,” she said. “So it kind of gave me an ambition, and my momma bought me a little cake-decorating set, and she said, ‘You can make a better cake than that.’ So that’s kind of how I got started.

“When we opened, I didn’t want to be a traditional bakery – I wanted to be an old-fashioned bakery. So all of our products are stuff like your grandmother would have made – it’s not all the pastry kind of things.”

Stanford did expand the business at one point, opening a second location at Corner Market in Oak Grove, but the nature of the business quickly necessitated the move back to one store.

“It was O.K., but it was just too much,” she said. “With the kind of product we do, it was just too much running from store to store.”

After more than three decades of supplying the community with all sorts of confectionary delights, Stanford will mostly miss the relationships she’s made with her customers and staff.

“We’ve brought smiles to peoples’ faces – we’ve had a lot of happy people walk out of the store, and that means a lot,” she said. “And all the people that have worked for me, they’ve all learned things. I’ve enjoyed teaching them, because teaching is part of it too.”

That’s the case for employee Taylor Campbell, who admitted she was pretty green when she started working at the shop about two years ago.

“When I started here, I didn’t know how to do anything – ice a cupcake or anything,” Campbell said. “Now I’m decorating cakes, and I’ve gotten to know everybody on a personal level.”

And of course, many of Home Bake’s loyal customers aren’t happy to see the shop go.

“A lot of customers are real sad,” Stanford said. “I had one in here yesterday – she used to come in here when she went to school, and she’s close to 30 now. So she had a lot of little memories to share.

“I think we had a little niche in this town, and there’s a lot of people that are going to miss us.”

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