Jan. 25—What Michael Richmond and his partner, Michael McCall, began as a home bakery last year will now be giving Sweet Beginnings in Downtown Willoughby its next chapter.
With the Miles family retiring after owning Sweet Beginnings for the last 38 years, located at 4145 Erie St., Richmond and McCall plan to open Michael's Bakeshop before Mother's Day this year. The two will get the keys Feb. 1 and will begin their work on the space.
"It's kind of funny how we're neighbors two doors down and now we know one another," Richmond said. "They've been super supportive and excited telling everyone what's next. I'm excited for them to be able to rest and retire."
Richmond and McCall moved to Willoughby from Ohio City in November of 2021. When the owners of Sweet Beginnings announced they were closing, Richmond went down and introduced himself, inquiring about what was going to happen with the space.
"We were looking for a space to grow and it would've been perfect," Richmond said. "I called the landlord every day until he answered and finally, I guess I was the first he responded to. There were a lot of people interested, so I think it's because I wanted to keep it a bakery that maybe he thought that would be easier."
Even though he is a pastry chef, Richmond has done the least amount of baking compared to everything else he has been working on to open the business. Designing a website, running social media, doing accounting, building and painting things and interior decoration are among the steps he has taken for opening the new storefront.
"My partner and I are trying to do everything ourselves as much as we can, and sometimes that's really challenging because I would say I'm an expert in baking and not an expert in the millions of things that are involved when you open a shop," Richmond said.
When the bakeshop opens this spring, Richmond and McCall are going to start off with cinnamon rolls, loaves of bread and crusty breads. When they participated in the Willoughby Outdoor Market last year, their top sellers were their white bread, cheddar jalapeño bread, cinnamon raisin bread and all of their loaves of bread.
"We want to appease the crusty bread people by doing baguettes to start," Richmond said. "Eventually, we'll grow in directions of having more options. Hopefully, as our menu grows, so does staff. I'd love to get a few bakers on staff. Hopefully a year from now it's more than just me so I can be in a leadership or teaching role. Right now, it's not the reality, but we're going to get there."
Richmond has always worked at a bakery for the last decade, working in Chardon and in Chicago at bakeries. He always knew that he wanted to be a teacher and a leader without being a formal, typical school teacher.
"I always knew I wanted to be leading a team and I never really knew what that meant until one day it clicked," he said. "I enrolled myself into pastry school and when I graduated in April of 2022, I was like it's time. That's when we started Michael's Bakeshop."
When Richmond and McCall did the market last year, they had no idea what they were getting into.
"At the last second, I had this idea to do breads and I'm glad that everything has unfolded this way," Richmond said. "The Downtown Willoughby community has been kind and generous. It's scary and everything's risky, and you're putting yourself out there. Selling bread has been like getting hugs and being part of a big family. I'm grateful the next step is having my space in Downtown Willoughby."