Mastering the sugar arts
Becki Dina, a Salvation Army soldier and owner and decorator of Sugar Arts Bakehouse in Shaker Heights, Ohio, took on a hobby that became a job, which then became a ministry.
After teaching for 12 years, Dina left her job to spend more time with her children. But once she became settled in at home, she found herself looking for things to do to help pass the time and be more productive. She thought, A hobby that provides an income would be an added bonus.
“I had been baking cakes for theme parties that our family had hosted,” says Dina. “For a Hawaiian luau party, I designed a surfboard cake. For a ‘Cars’ birthday party, I made a Lightning McQueen cake.” She never had a formal education in baking, but instead relied on YouTube instructional videos and library books to show her how to bake.
In 2013, cupcake stores enjoyed a rise in popularity, so they became the focus of her attention. But in December, another pastry request became her priority. “At this time of the year, people don’t ask for cakes or cupcakes; they ask for cookies,” says Dina.
Dina named her business Sugar Arts Bakehouse; sugar for the type of cookies that are her specialty, and arts for the first letter of the names of her four children: Andrew, Rachel, Tabitha, and Sara.
“When I decided to turn Sugar Arts into a full–time job, I had been working for over a year at the Cleveland Temple Corps doing family ministry and leadership development. It took a lot of prayer for me to see that it was God who was telling me to leave that ministry. But in baking, I have also access to people in my community that I never had before.”
Earlier this year, COVID–19 affected many local businesses like Dina’s. Through the early months of the pandemic, parties and events were suddenly canceled, and so were Dina’s orders. But in April, they began to pick up again.
“A lot of parties at big venues had to be moved to homes. So, when planners have money that they don’t use on the location, they can spend it on a bigger cake or more cookies to celebrate at home with loved ones,” says Dina.
As the months went by and the country opened up again, the business grew. School administrators who had canceled an order of 300 cookies for their 125th anniversary reached out to Dina in the fall and requested an order three times larger to accommodate a bigger celebration.
“I saw God’s hands working when the business remained strong, and when orders were canceled but came back even bigger than before,” says Dina.
The Salvation Army is a frequent client of Sugar Arts. Dina sends cookie orders as far as Territorial Headquarters in N.Y., and to the Philadelphia Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.
“The Buffalo N.Y. Corps ordered cookies in the shape of a white shield with red letters and Christmas lights on the side,” says Dina. “My Salvation Army shield cookie cutter gets a lot of use.”
“It’s fun to receive an edible shield. It’s a reminder of The Salvation Army that people can enjoy right there. It’s not another pen to throw into a purse to forget about.”
Meeting a delicious need
Dina says that Sugar Arts Bakehouse is her way of meeting an exact need for someone who reaches out to her. “One day, an order came from a mom whose daughter wanted a cake that looked like Buckingham Palace, but she wanted it the way the daughter saw it in her mind; with yellow windows, and soldiers standing guard,” says Dina. The mother asked the daughter to draw Buckingham Castle, and then sent the picture to Dina, who made the cake design that matched the drawing.
“To me, that’s just as much a ministry as a program at a corps,” says Dina.
“People see that I try to go above and beyond for my customers and develop a personal connection with them. When I send a package from Sugar Arts Bakehouse, I pray for the people who will enjoy it and hope that it brings happiness to them in that moment,” says Dina.
“I may not always know who they are, but God knows the names of every one of them.”
by Hugo Bravo
For more information on Sugar Arts Bakehouse, visit sugarartsbakehouse.com.