New bakery sweetens downtown Bessemer’s culinary scene

Otis and Janet Bates have renovated a former office into the new home for Cake Creations.

A new full service bakery has opened in historic downtown Bessemer. Cake Creations held a soft opening on April 10 at its location at 1827 Third Avenue North. The owners, Otis and Jan Bates of Birmingham, had previously operated a bakery in Bessemer by the same name, but decided downtown was where they wanted to set up shop next. The opening day included visits from businesses throughout the downtown district, such as The Bright Star and United Textiles, all of whom dropped in to say hello and wish the Bates’ success on their new location. “The people here are so friendly,” said Mr. Bates. “It’s like they are saying we are genuinely glad you’re here.” Cake Creations will specialize in wedding and birthday cakes, but the shop features displays of cupcakes and pastries. In addition, the location will feature ice cream from Mayfield’s and deli sandwiches. “One of the things we’re excited about is featuring Mayfield ice cream and the deli,” Bates said. The bakery’s hours of operation will be from 7:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays thru Fridays and 7:30 to noon on Saturdays. In addition, the shop will serve as a real world training center for Virginia College Culinary students. Bates said he is in talks with Lawson State Community College to have some of their students work in the bakery as well. Bates got his start in the bakery business some 24 years ago while working at Marsh Bakery in Birmingham, where he trained under Gail and Lloyd Marsh. He worked for a time providing wedding cakes to Savages’ Bakery in Homewood. However, Bates longed to open his own shop, and for a time he opened a shop in Five Points West in Birmingham. Bates received a loan through the city’s Economic and Community Development office, a loan he said opened the door for him in Bessemer. However, the move wasn’t without criticism. “Everybody was saying Bessemer is dead,” Bates recalls. “They were saying there is nothing going on in Bessemer and I was going backwards.” However, the Bates’ did not agree and opened the shop in the 800 block of 25th Street North. The site did well until Mrs. Bates became ill and they were forced to attend to making sure she was healthy. “We did very well at the location,” Mr. Bates said. “We were making cakes for 19 to 20 weddings a week.” The return to Bessemer brought the business downtown. Jan Bates said the couple was drawn to downtown Bessemer because of the opportunities it presented and the overall spirit that seems to be emanating around downtown. “It feels like Bessemer is on the rise,” said Mrs. Bates. “There is an entrepreneurial spirit that is on the rise here.” Mr. and Mrs. Bates said they plan on being in downtown Bessemer for a long time. “I want to pass on this knowledge to my two sons and grandchildren,” said Mr. Bates. “I want to see this (business) in the next generation.”