MISSOULA — Many of the trends and hobbies that occupied people during the pandemic’s shutdowns and quarantines have fizzled by now. For a Missoula pastry chef who rediscovered his passion for baking during the pandemic, his COVID success story has only grown over time.
Renting the kitchen of what used to be Lisa’s Pasty Pantry, Jeremy Sher begins an order for a Black Forest Bûche de Noël. Carefully spreading the ganache across the cake, it’s evident that Sher is no stranger to the kitchen, but to say he’s a businessman still feels new.
“A year ago, I had no intentions or thoughts about running a business at all,” explained the pastry chef.
Like most, pandemic isolation sent Sher on a quest for something, really anything to pass the time. “I just started baking."
One cake turned into two, two into three, and with each baking fit, a neighbor or a friend had a custom cake waiting at their front door.
“At some point, people were like, ‘Okay, no more, we've had enough cake'," Sher joked.
But with every beating of the batter, Sher felt a little better, so the baking continued.
“I started putting pictures online saying ‘Who needs this cake? Who needs this? Who's feeling left out, who's feeling stressed out'?”
Without any plan, Sher's work to spread joy through baking exploded as customers came calling, ordering cakes for their neighbors, loved ones, colleagues, and friends.
Sher called it #CakeItForward, a movement to share positivity through cake. The trend eventually turned into a pandemic-born business called Missoula Cakes.
“I realized I was buying, you know, industrial-sized packs of everything. Fifty pounds of flour, 100 cake boxes, 20 pounds of butter at a time and it was getting really expensive.” - Jeremy Sher
A business plan fell from the sky as effortlessly as the powdered sugar atop his dessert, but 2021 has been anything but a piece of cake for this pastry chef.
“I had 25 to 30 orders in the books going into Christmas, and then I tested positive for COVID,” said Sher.
Not to mention the ingredients he buys locally have been hit by the supply shortage. He also had surgery somewhere in there.
Even pandemic success stories have their sour moments. “I do everything,” said Sher, “I shop, I clean, I deliver, and of course I make everything.”
Despite the challenges of entrepreneurship, one year later Sher is doing better than ever — both in his business and in his personal life.
He believes it's the motive behind his deliveries that keep the cakes coming and the business running. “This notion of taking care of other people is at the heart of what I do.”
A year ago, this cake master might not have considered Missoula much of a home.
“Pre-pandemic, I was considering leaving Missoula because I couldn't find the opportunities that I needed to.”
Today, he can’t imagine leaving, and there’s a cake to thank for that.
“That's a really weird blessing that the whole pandemic has sort of sent my way.”