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Cake Artist Succeeds By Sticking To Fundamentals

Dorothy Coleman, owner Mickey's Cakes and Sweets

There’s a lot that’s new around Mickey’s Cakes and Sweets these days.

The west Little Rock company just moved into a 4,600-SF space, giving it a larger storefront, meeting space and expanded production area to handle its rapidly growing clientele. In addition to customers seeking cakes of all descriptions, Mickey’s has steadily grown its list of baked goods for consumer traffic and, more recently, food service clients. Accordingly, the staff has swelled to nearly 20 full- and part-time employees.

But what’s most significant here, and what the business revolves around, is what hasn’t changed. The bakery is co-owned by multiple family members; Dorothy Coleman, Yolanda Coleman, Marquis and Kendra Boyle. Dorothy Coleman has been baking and decorating cakes for almost 50 years, more than half of it at Mickey’s and 20 years of it as co- or sole owner. In that time, she’s been joined in the business by two daughters who’ve introduced fresh ideas and handle back-office business tasks.

When it comes to the product quality, Dorothy sets the standard high.

“We strive to never fail our customers and we succeed in meeting this goal 90 percent of the time.” Dorothy said. Cakes have come a long way since Coleman started at North Little Rock’s landmark Koehler’s Bakery in 1969.

Realizing there was a customer niche looking for more cake options than round or square, she joined her friend and future business partner Mickey Young, namesake of Mickey’s Cakes & Sweets, in 1990.

“Both [Dorothy] and Mickey were innovators in the Little Rock area,” said Yolanda Coleman, Dorothy’s daughter. “Back then, there really weren’t custom cakes and so when they decided to offer that, especially in the Little Rock area, it was something new and fresh. We’ve always led the industry from that perspective.”

Timing was perfect and business boomed, right through to today when Pinterest and reality shows like Cake Boss have made the sky practically the limit for what customers will request. Dorothy and the Mickey’s team have created two- and three-foot replicas of office buildings, configured every wedding cake imaginable and even captured the image of a beauty queen, near-life sized, in cake.

“Someone had a pageant and they wanted the cake to actually be formed like a regular person,” she said. “It stood about five feet; we had to rent a U-Haul truck to transport it to the event center.”

There are no shortcuts in Dorothy’s kitchen. Eggs are still cracked by hand, carrots are grated individually for the carrot cake and all of the frostings and fillings are made in-house. More than once she’s worked into the early morning hours to meet a deadline; even today, her staff might come in to find she’d slept in the bakery. To Dorothy it’s just part of doing business and she passes this philosophy on to employees and family alike, in word and by example.

“You must have a passion for it. That is very essential because if you do not have a passion for it, you won’t be able to last,” she said. “[Entrepreneurship] requires long hours and it requires some dedication as far as your time. There are times when you have to let that social life go in order to get the business developed and going, so stay motivated.”