As a little girl, Oxford native Kelli Smith Russell dreamed of starting her own bakery. Years later, she is the proud owner of The Cakery at Oxford East Plaza off of University Avenue.
Russell attended Northwest Mississippi Community College, where she played soccer. Then she attended the University of Mississippi and studied hospitality management.
“Shortly after, I had an internship at Emileigh’s Bakery,” Russell said. “Then I worked at a T-Shirt place, Oxford Printwear, because I had drawn my whole life.”
She later returned to Emileigh’s because they needed workers. That’s when she began thinking about opening her own bakery.
“Everybody likes the idea of opening up your own bakery,” she said. “It just sounds really fun, so I thought, I’ll do this (work at Emileigh’s), and give it a shot and see if it’s something I really really want to do. They ended up closing about three months after I started working there full time, so I was without a job.”
Russell said she couldn’t find a job anywhere, because Oxford is such a small place, and the job market is flooded with college students.
“That’s when I started talking to my mom, and said let’s try it,” Russell said. They bought the equipment from Emileigh’s after it shut down and began baking.
“The main reason I wanted to stay in Oxford was because I live here, my family lives here, my family’s family lives here – just generations and generations are from here,” she said.
They moved in at the end of February 2014 and opened in April.
Theresa Holley, the office manager, said they currently have 11 workers. Most are students.
The thing that makes The Cakery unique is hand-drawn, customized designs. “Our niche is this hand-drawn, really whimsical cake that we do that you can’t really get anywhere else,” Russell said. “The designs are just so unique, and there isn’t any market for that here.”
In addition to cakes, they sell cupcakes, cookies, petit fours, double doozies, macaroons, pastries, and a number of other tasty treats. Each can be customized for birthdays, graduations, game days and holidays.
Holley said her favorite part of working at The Cakery is “Kelli and her family.”
“We have uncles, aunts, cousins, and so many more people in here all of the time,” Holley said. “I also like having the students that work here. To me, that is a lot of fun.”
Russell said Holley guides young people. “Even for me, she is a mentor,” Russell said.
Both said the job is fun. “There is just such a family vibe here,” Holley said. “Anyone that comes in, they just walk through and love on everybody.”
When it comes to expanding, Russell said they have had a few ideas. “We thought about building a new building across the street just so we could have more room, you know, like a place that is actually made for baking,” Russell said.
“Drains in the floor would be nice, so you could just spray stuff down, but the rent would just be ridiculous. So we aren’t really able to do that right now. However, we have a really good location, and I would not want to move out of this parking lot for anything.”
Another idea is to add a “tea room” for birthday parties, tea parties, or wedding and baby showers. “It would be nice to have just a small place to be available to rent out to people,” Holley said.
Russell said it will take a lot of effort to make those changes, but she’ll continue to reach for her goals. “You know, the thought of changing is scary, but necessary,” Russell said. “As long as I have my family, friends, and city behind me, it will be a piece of cake.”