Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Overcoming Grief One Baked Good at a Time: Jera’s Heavenly Sweet Reopens

“I want people to feel at home, to feel safe, to feel comfortable when they come in.”

Many Toledoans may have been missing their morning ritual of stopping downtown at Jera’s Heavenly Sweet for a decadent jumbo cinnamon roll or a flaky scone accompanied by hot, local coffee. Open since 2017, this made-from-scratch bakery has been serving up cookies, cakes, pies, breakfast pastries, cupcakes, and brownies to the community with the intent of making each and every customer feel at home. 

The past few years have been more than tough on the local business, between a global pandemic and family loss, they have been pushed to their limits. Despite everything, Jera’s has come through stronger than ever and finally reopened at their new location this September. 

Pandemic and Tragedy
The pandemic rocked our nation and hurt many small or local businesses. Jera’s Heavenly Sweet was no exception. With everything shut down and her built-in 800 customers from the Fifth Third building no longer coming to work or stopping by her store, owner Jera Stewart realized she would need to adapt and change.

Following the trend of food trucks, the bakery began to set up a tent at various parking lots across town and even did some home deliveries. She pushed through, managing to keep most of her staff on board through the worst of it with hard work and dedication.

Then, January this year changed everything. After finding a new location and thinking the move would take no longer than a few weeks, Ms. Stewart’s husband, Bill, had a flare up of shingles over his eye. The virus spread rapidly, reaching his brain and causing an infection called viral encephalitis. Unable to take the normally prescribed medication due to kidney health, the virus had him shuffling between the hospital and rehab. Ms. Stewart was there through it all, the only one able to visit him in the hospital, and struggling while her partner of 35 years was consumed by this. Bill passed away March 14th. 

Through the sadness and grief following this tragic loss, Ms. Stewart says that she could not have come through it all without her daughter, Brianna. 

“My youngest daughter works with me, and she has been my right arm…She has filled in all the plugs and is trying to fill in where my husband would have been. She is 25 and has taken on some major responsibility. I want her to go and do her thing, but she tells me, ‘Mom this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now.”

New Location
Ms. Stewart came across the space that was formerly Curious Cat Cafe and knew it was absolutely perfect. “[Bill] was so proud of this business. He was so excited about the new location. He did get to see it twice… He was like ‘Babe, I think this is it!”

The new and improved store is located at 3059 W. Bancroft Street, and Ms. Stewart couldn’t be happier. Away from the construction-riddled downtown area, she is perfectly situated next to the university and several neighborhoods full of former customers. 

New Customer?
Never been to Jera’s before? Well, expect to be amazed by the outstanding customer service, something about which Ms. Stewart herself is very proud. She and her staff love meeting new customers and especially love greeting returning ones. Ms. Stewart fondly thinks of all the customers that have been crazy about her baking since the late 2000’s when she would bake for the Old West End Festival, and has been so happy to watch their children grow before her eyes.

“If no one else has looked at you today, we’re gonna look at you. We are gonna look you in the eye, give you a smile, and ask, ‘How are you? What do you have a taste for?”

Not sure what to try first? For breakfast, Ms. Stewart recommends people come out and try her homemade yeast-raised cinnamon rolls. Scones are also a hot commodity and come in a variety of flavors. If you’re looking for something sweet and unique, the bakery also sells hummingbird cake, a southern recipe that Ms. Stewart has been making for the past nine years. Similar to carrot cake in texture, you’ll find crushed bananas, pineapple, cinnamon, and pecans, all covered in a layer of cream cheese frosting.

The store’s website and Google page are in the process of being updated. The new hours are:
Monday-Friday 9am-6pm
Saturday 10am-3pm

The bakery’s Facebook page is always kept up to date by Ms. Stewart’s daughter. For questions or looking to place an order in advance, make sure to call 419-214-1107.

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