photos by Scott Rager
Alma’s Dragonfly Desserts advises “eat dessert first” — and who are we to argue?
Cheryl Brown, the owner and cake artist of Dragonfly Desserts, LLC, appears as quick and graceful as a dragonfly on the wing as she pounds out her fondant, frosts a cupcake or stirs up her amazing oat scones, all while visiting lightheartedly with a customer. Her skillful hands move so fast they seem to blur.
Baking carrot cakes in her home kitchen in Milford, Nebraska jump-started Cheryl into the bakery business.
“I was a stay-at-home mom and I also home schooled my children,” Cheryl said. “I wanted to figure out how to supplement our income, and my carrot cakes flew out of the kitchen as fast as I could bake and frost them.” Within a year, Cheryl had built and licensed a kitchen in the basement of their house.
“My brother joined me in the business, and within another year, we opened a coffee house in Milford that served bakery goods and coffee,” she said. They named it the Dragonfly Coffee House and managed it for two successful years.
Starting over in Alma
When her husband was offered a position in the County Sheriff’s office, the family moved to Alma and Cheryl once again started a baking business in her home while she looked for a suitable location on Alma’s Main Street.
“While I was working in my home I developed an online website, www.dragonflydesserts.com mostly for wedding cakes, and at year’s end, we realized the profits were in five figures.” She concluded that the bakery business was a commercial success and customers were plentiful in south central and southwest Nebraska.
With wonder in her voice Cheryl tells of the day she found the perfect home for her bakery.
“One day I was talking with a person whose business was located in a charming building on Main Street and to my surprise she invited me to share her space,” she said. After a year, the first business owner left the space and Cheryl expanded to incorporate a birthday party room, a licensed kitchen, and tables and chairs for customers who want to sit and visit and enjoy a luscious roll, muffin, scone or cupcake. Cheryl says, “I love the building, the shop and the counter. I bake and decorate behind the counter.”
Taking care of business
The Dragonfly Bakery is best known for wedding cakes, graduation and birthday cakes. Cheryl says, “Most of my business is in cakes, although daily we sell dozens of scones, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. Our oat scones are most popular. I make them with whole wheat flour and oatmeal.”
Cheryl is adept at managing her time and the myriad tasks that comprise the work of a baker. She says that she learned the elements of managing time and operating a business from her mother who owns a restaurant in Bereford, SD, Cheryl’s hometown.
“My mom still owns and manages a café’ and she is 75 years old. She taught me about business, knowing the costs of every item and when to seek counsel, and I learned a lot when my brother and I managed the coffee house in Milford.” Cheryl believes in starting something new slowly and keeping a low overhead. She said, “I want a steady stream of customers, and I see that happening here in Alma.”
Wedding cakes to birthday parties
Cheryl buys locally at the Alma grocery store, and orders online for baking supplies that she can’t buy in Alma. She says, “The bakery requires two or three days work every week of back ground stuff. I make our mixes, bread pudding, scones, and we clean and clean.” Cheryl prides herself on the appearance of a fresh, clean bakery complete with the traditional white paper bakery sacks.
Wedding cakes are still the most profitable segment of the business. Cheryl delivers cakes to customers in Grand Island, Hastings, and into Kansas. She says, “People find me on the internet. Recently I delivered a wedding cake to Kearney, NE that was ordered by a couple from North Carolina who were married in Kearney.”
In addition, Dragonfly Desserts hosts birthday parties for children in the birthday party room. The guests and the Birthday Boy or Girl decorate little cakes. Cheryl said, “I give each child a cake, a piping tube, frosting, decorations and no instructions except to decorate your own cake however you want. Every child and the adults who participate like doing the decorating and they tell their friends.”
If you’re in the neighborhood of Harlan County Lake and looking for a sweet treat this summer, you won’t do better than Dragonfly Desserts.
For more information…
800 Main Street
Alma, NE 68920
Hours: Tues-Fri, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm; Saturday, 8:00 am – 1:00 pm