Photo: Shelley Brophy sits at a table in her downtown restaurant, Shelley's Bakery Cafe.
(Photo by Kelly Daniel)
Shelley's Bakery Cafe named Small Business of the Year
by Kelly Daniel, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
Shelley Brophy identifies her restaurant as an "independent alternative" for residents and tourists. It is one of the parts of the Nacogdoches whole.
"Shelley's Bakery Cafe gives customers an enjoyable and casual dining choice, improves the value of downtown and promotes all of the community," said Jessica Henderson, Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors. "Because of the contributions and positive impact the business makes, the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce board named Shelley's Bakery Cafe as Small Business of the Year."
Brophy said the success comes from testing and adapting along the way and doing homework before the business opened in June 2006, with input from community leaders, friends and family.
"Just look around," Brophy said, referencing the cafe's decor. "My mother Peggy Fare has the artistic talents that created the charm of the restaurant. It's gorgeous, it's timely and it's classic because of her. Plus, she's a great taste tester."
The restaurant has always offered a versatile choice for a casual meal or a special celebration. Maximizing the time the business is open and changing the menu and services based on what customers want have been the key to growth. Brophy said at the beginning, the bakery included fresh-baked bread ready for pick up. "It didn't sell well and produced waste, so I stopped that," she said. "But I found that customers needed catering services, which grew more than I expected."
Another successful side of her cafe developed after her restaurant Farechild's on North St. closed. Brophy noticed a number of her cafe diners requested Farechild's menu items. Those special requests led to the monthly themed dinners. The dinners have been going strong for about five years and are popular for attendees and fun for her and her staff.
Striking a deal for the downtown location with property owner Diana Walker was important to Brophy, because she understood from her past experience in food service that "the amount of money it takes to outfit a restaurant is different than setting up other ventures. I wanted my business on North Church St., and Diana agreed to sell the building only if I opened a restaurant."
Brophy implemented her plans using the advice she had gathered from many in town including representatives at the Chamber of Commerce, the City and Nacogdoches Economic Development.
"Shelley first came to me at Nacogdoches E.D.C. asking about where she might turn to start her own business," said Judy McDonald, who served as president/CEO. "She and Bill were special people to Archie and me, and I really wanted to be very careful with any advice that might get her into trouble.
"I asked what her passion was, and she immediately said 'I love to cook, make up new recipes and try new foods.' My advice was do what your heart says to do."
McDonald then put Brophy in touch with Brian McClain at the Angelina Small Business Development Center and "the rest is history," McDonald said. "But it is the history she made that has influenced the growth of our downtown and so our city. Her gift for food preparation is only a small part of the contribution she makes to making our part of the world better."
Before there was the thought of opening Shelley's Bakery Cafe, Brophy earned a masters degree and worked in the field of grief counseling that included hospice and Alzheimer's patients and their families. Close friend Nancy Speck Mangham also worked in the same area and became an encourager for the new business. "Because I interrupted what I was doing and opened up a restaurant, doesn't mean I stopped having the interest. It never went away," Brophy said. " I am still involved in that area, and Nancy and I share that, and she loves the restaurant."
Brophy recalled local bankers supporting the business opening in practical and endearing ways.
While seeking the right financial partner, Brophy remembered a phone call that brought what she needed to get the venture through the starting gate.
"I answered the phone and heard the voice, 'Shelley, this is Francis Spruiell at Austin Bank. Girl, we need to talk. Tell me what your plans are.' Francis wanted to work with me," Brophy said.
Banker Ron Collins played a big part in settling on a business name.
Two names were in mind, and Brophy conducted her own public survey to settle the debate. When she asked Collins his opinion, he gave an answer that was in favor of neither. "You can name it whatever you like," Collins said. "I'm calling it 'Shelley's' and I'll be there."
Brophy acknowledged that for her, there is no separation between running her business and serving the community - and when the city prospers, so does her business.
She is currently serving a fourth term as City Council Member for the Northeast Ward. Relationships have grown from holding the position as well as a love for the service to the citizens. With a business that is open to the public, customers who happen to be residents know that they might catch her for quick discussions over lunch, while picking up pastries or just popping in.
"It has been a wonderful avenue to work with others toward a common goal, promoting and preserving our city, finding new ways to attract families, businesses, new ways to take care of our citizens," Brophy said. "We have updated parks and trails, good schools and a place with culture, because our citizens voice what they want, and they're participatory in making those wants a reality. Being part of that is a wonderful experience."
Brophy predicts that the recent growth of local healthcare services will be good for business, and important in the livability of the city.
For tourists, Brophy and her staff take every opportunity to make their visits to the restaurant and the town the best they can be by promoting the unique sites and attractions.
McDonald said, "Her gift to us is her big smile, welcoming hugs, listening ear and determination. Shelley is always thinking how she can help improve the lives of our citizens. She is a great restaurateur, servant of our people and dear friend."
The Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce 94th Annual Meeting and Membership Banquet begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, in the SFA Grand Ballroom. The 2015-2016 board of directors will be inducted and award recipients will be recognized.
The 2015 Citizen of the Year and the Gary Justice Business Excellence Awards recipients are:
Grace Handler, Citizen of the Year - award sponsored by Tipton Ford, Inc.
Shelley's Bakery Cafe, Small Business of the Year - award sponsored by Heritage Land Bank.
Mast Motorsports, Medium Business of the Year - award sponsored by Regions Bank.
Clear Springs Restaurant and Auntie Pasta's, Large Business of the Year - award sponsored by R&K Distributors, Inc.
Bronze sponsorships are available for $750 and include corporate recognition and seating for eight or nine. Individual admission tickets are available for $40. Contact the Chamber at 936-560-5533 for reservations. Seating is limited, and the reservation deadline is Sept. 16.