By Michael Booker and Roderick Wilson
From a movie theater to restaurants to stores, The Waterfront shopping center in Homestead has an abundance of establishments.
The newest addition, a bakery called Cakery Square, is generating a lot of buzz.
Co-owned by Wesley Lyons, 26, a former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, and his business partner, Amber Greene, 32, the bakery drew a large crowd to its grand opening July 15.
Lyons and Greene, a business graduate from the University of Pittsburgh and Florida State, said they were determined to make their dream of owning a bakery that gives back a reality.
“The most challenging parts of it all was working with the borough, getting permits, creating recipes and getting the menus correct,” Greene said about the planning process.
But, Cakery Square isn’t a traditional bakery. For teens involved in Lyons’ education program, The Pursuit, the business has become a platform to help them develop entrepreneurial skills.
Lyons runs The Pursuit program in local middle and high schools, mostly in low-income communities, so teens can gain knowledge about life skills, work ethic, goal setting and how to maintain a positive outlook on life, he said. Lyons himself is from one of those communities, North Braddock.
There are 250 students from 14 different schools that are involved in the pursuit program. Many have applied to work at the bakery, Lyons said.
“A lot of students within the program asked for jobs. But the ones who reached out and wrote extensive emails on why they want to work in the bakery got the jobs. It shows initiative,” he said.
“Not everything is going to be handed to you. Sometimes you’ve got to earn it,” Lyons said.
Five students are currently working at Cakery Square. Whether it’s taking orders, learning to decorate items, or taking out trash, they get to use and exercise their skills in the workplace, Lyons said.
The students say they’re enjoying the experience.
Cakery Square employee Mondale King, a 15-year-old from Braddock, was behind the counter ringing up orders in the shop on a recent Saturday morning.
“This program has helped a lot in developing life skills and time management. I wanted to come here to work up my learning experience,” he said.
“I want to become a marine biologist, so these are just steps in the taking on what I want to be,” he said.
The bakery has a colorful, modern layout with an array of treats on display, including cookies, doughnuts, cupcakes, custom cakes, gelato and specialty tea. All of the pastries are made in house by professional bakers, while the gelato is purchased from Mercurio’s in Shadyside.
Opening the bakery was a test of determination, Lyons said.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of patience that goes into starting a business … you have to be prepared and wait for the dots to connect,” he said.
Patience is a subject that Lyons should be well informed about. He wrote a book called “The Pursuit with Patience,” which was published November 2012.
The book provides insight about the struggles that he faced, how he worked toward his goals/opportunities, and most important, how he remained positive. Customers from all around the Pittsburgh area are enjoying his new establishment.
Sisters Mary Jane, 61, and Katie Singer, 60, both of Greenfield, bought treats in the bakery one recent Saturday. “I love the vibe this place gives off. It’s nice and clean, decorative and super modern,” Jane said.
The sisters found out about Cakery Square from a billboard but it took them a week to actually get in the shop, Singer said. “We tried to come to the grand opening, but the entire bakery was so crowded that we couldn’t even get in,” she said.
In the future, Lyons plans on expanding the bakery and possibly starting cake-decorating classes for the community, he said.
“Hopefully, we could have a lounge for adults as we continue to make our bakery better for the community as a whole,” he said.
About the authors: Michael Booker, 16, is from Spring Church, Armstrong County. He is a junior at Apollo-Ridge High School. Roderick Wilson, 15, is from Monongahela, Washington County. He is a sophomore at Ringgold High School.