What was once JSR Jewelry in downtown Waterloo now houses Perfectly Pastry, a family owned and operated bakery.
Aside from providing plenty of options for customers with dietary restrictions, Perfectly Pastry at 201 N. Main Street sets itself apart from competitors in another way – it aims to give back.
Often, those with dietary restrictions are greeted with one or two options at bakeries, if any. Sisters and owners Lacey Brooks and Lindsey Meske and Chris Phillips, their mom and baker, change the game by offering a variety of keto-friendly and vegan-friendly treats, along with gluten free options.
“We just want to make sure that we offer at least something for everyone so that everyone can come in and enjoy and not feel left out when part of their family is able to come in and they can’t have a tasty treat with them,” Brooks said.
Phillips has personal experience with this. She has diabetes.
Other members of her family also have dietary restrictions. Once Meske learned Phillips could benefit from a keto diet, which is low carb so it often uses alternative sugar options, Phillips began experimenting with alternative ingredients to tailor recipes to special diets. At first this proved difficult, as Phillips not only had to use alternative flours and sugars, but other ingredients as well.
“For example, cornstarch is actually really high in carbs so we can’t use that (in keto-friendly treats), which is something that you use in cheesecake. So, we had to find an alternative for our cheesecake,” Meske explained. “It’s like finding all these weird balances between things so that we can get it right. Once we started getting the hang of it though, then it was like, ‘All right, now we know what we need to do to be able to tweak these recipes,’ so now we can pull a normal recipe and be like ‘Here are the things we can do to make this keto so that it works better for whatever product we happen to be baking.’”
Brooks said people often assume alternative options will not taste the same as the original, but once patrons try Perfectly Pastry’s special items, they often choose them over standard versions. She said this is often the case with their vegan carrot cake.
“We have a lot of people who enjoy it once they taste it,” Brooks said of their specialty diet options. “Some people see the words (vegan or keto) and they’re like ‘err’ … but once you taste it, it’s like, ‘OK, I can get behind this!’”
Meske considers Perfectly Pastry to consist of three parts: the storefront, wholesale and resources it provides to other businesses. The second is true to the bakery’s early days, as Perfectly Pastry laid its roots in selling wholesale to various restaurants and cafes. They still sell wholesale today; Have a Cow in St. Louis, Common Grounds in St. Genevieve, Mo., and Villainous Grounds in Perryville, Mo., are some frequent customers.
However, the family had sights set on Waterloo since it began looking for a storefront. Brooks, whose husband works in Valmeyer, fell in love with the town as soon as she discovered it. Even though Meske lives in Florida, she has still seen the town and the storefront and believes it’s the perfect place for Perfectly Pastry.
“COVID hit and we were like, ‘Let’s open a storefront!’” Meske said with a laugh. “There wasn’t really anything available in Waterloo that we would be able to launch into, so we just kept our eye out in Waterloo. Since we were already baking in the commercial kitchen part of Urban Eats when they said, ‘Hey, we have a spot opening up, do you guys want to be a vendor out front?’ we were like, ‘Yes, let’s do that.’”
As Phillips was completing final paperwork for her new apartment in Waterloo, she and Brooks continued scouring the city for the storefront. They were on their way to see another potential space when they noticed a “For Lease” sign in the former jewelry store’s window.
“It’s like fate,” Meske said. “It all lined up perfectly. We kept saying that’s where we wanted to be, and it finally just all lined up. It was like, ‘Here, come in. Waterloo is ready for you!’”
It took a lot of research to get to this point – not just on Phillips’ end, but on the business end as well. While Meske easily found information on how to start up other types of businesses, relating that to bakeries was lacking. From the beginning, Meske shared what she found worked for her business with other bakers on the internet.
“There’s not really a place to turn to when somebody is like ‘How do you do your social media for a bakery?’ If you Google that, you’re not going to find a lot of answers, so you just kind of wing it,” Meske said. “That was really hard, so we just started creating a bunch of materials for people so that they could grow their own business.”
The resources Meske compiled cover everything from social media strategy to how to price baked goods. She shares them on her blog (found on Perfectly Pastry’s website), the business’s podcast, Facebook Live and her YouTube channel. The bakery also created a Facebook group called Bakery Business Boss Babes (B4) for other bakeries to learn from their experiences.
The bakery gives back in other ways, too. It’s “Fight Like a Girl” cupcake is more than just a decadent vanilla cupcake with white chocolate ganache and amaretto-infused icing. It also helps knock out breast cancer.
“Our stepmom was diagnosed with cancer and we really wanted to help them with some of the costs associated with doing all of her treatments, and so we started a GoFundMe page for her and my mom created a cupcake just for my stepmom with a lot of her favorite flavors and called it ‘Fight Like a Girl.’ For every cupcake that’s sold in the shop, we give 50 cents back to her treatments. At the end of the month, we’re taking that out of rotation until October, and we’re going to bring it out every year for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the proceeds will go to help… charities like that,” Neske said.
For information on Perfectly Pastry, visit perfectlypastry.com or call 636-422-3299.