Penta Career Center students Travis Wright and Reba Jennings are interns at the Cherry Tree Bakery and Cafe. They said they are learning the bakery industry as well as how to interact with customers.
It really does take a village to run a successful business these days.
The Cherry Tree Bakery and Cafe in Whitehouse depends on the support of village residents and then is able to give back to the community, said Katie Voss, who has owned the shop with her husband, Matt Jones, since November, 2011.
"There are so many people who want me to do well because they want this place for the community," Ms. Voss said.
The space itself, at 6726 Providence St., is as mixed as the side of fruit that comes with a cafe salad.
Shelves display handmade wares by local businesses with names as quaint as Bags by Mags, Bob's Wood Toyz, Sew Sandie, and glass ornament maker Hot Air by Steve.
There are natural-ingredient bath products and cleansers made by Abundant Soaps owner Karen McGilvery of Liberty Center; flower brooches from recycled pop cans made by local funeral director Angie Peinert Weber, and beaded bracelets and earrings made by bakery co-manager Brandy Berry.
"I've never had a place to showcase," said Ms. Berry, who has been making jewelry for more than a decade.
The efforts to make the Cherry Tree a community hub are intentional.
"Especially for Whitehouse, I grew up here," said Ms. Voss, a 1995 graduate of Anthony Wayne High School. "I want to give back to the community."
Students from Penta Career Center's culinary classes serve as interns at the bakery through the school's Transition to Work program. "They are really teaching them, they are not just using them to sweep the floor," said Penta job coach Jo Ann Potter.
Student intern Travis Wright, a senior from Maumee, said he gets to do everything from baking cookies and making frosting to stocking shelves and cleaning.
"There is so much opportunity," said young Wright, who wants to become a chef.
Classmate Reba Jennings said their interactions with the customers help them develop interpersonal skills.
"It teaches us how to socialize with people … to actually work in the real world," said Ms. Jennings, who has dreams of running an Italian restaurant that features musical theater.
Cherry Tree gets its vegetables, fruits, and eggs -- chicken and duck -- from local producers when possible, and the cafe space is available to anyone who may have use for it.
Ms. Voss makes a wide variety of cookies, pastries, muffins, pies, breads, and themed cakes such as full-figured shapes of Yoda, Hello Kitty, piano keyboards, or whatever a customer can imagine.
"My child is ruined for life, he's always going to expect awesome cakes," said Whitehouse resident Sue Miller.
For Ms. Miller's son J.D.'s 9th birthday party in a rock-star theme, Ms. Voss made a four-foot guitar cake complete with strings and sparkling yellow stars from leftover batter.
"The kids actually cheered" when the cake arrived, Ms. Miller said.
Cherry Tree also offers salads, sandwiches, and soup.
"I cannot praise it enough," said Marsha Crippen of Whitehouse who ordered cookies with a nautical theme for her husband's birthday.
The baked goods often find their way as donations to local charity events and fund-raisers.
The Cherry Tree Bakery and Cafe is open 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Its Web site is cherrytreebakeryandcafe.com.