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By Diego De Jesus
News Staff Writer 

Second Bakery Draws Fans to Downtown Lake Wales

 

Last updated 1/22/2024 at 4:53pm

Diego De Jesus

Shannon Aliff adopted the nickname "Mimi" from her children and grandchildren and is applying it to what she hopes will become a multi-generational effort bringing baked treats to customers in the Lake Wales area.

A desire to combine family and "flair" has resulted in a business that customers are describing as "a delight.

Since opening less than two months ago Mimi's Bakery has quickly become a new favorite for an early-morning crowd that heads to downtown Lake Wales to enjoy artisanal baked goods to kick off the day. Cases filled with Danish pastries and artisanal breads emit a delicious aroma, accompanied by the fragrance of freshly-brewed coffee.

"Where else can you get a cup of coffee with refills for only $1.50?" one regular commented during a recent visit.

Shannon Aliff, the owner of Mimi's Bakery, wanted to bring her love for baking and cooking to the city, saying she believes the city needs more flair. The opportunity to involve her children in the effort was simply 'icing on the cake' for the creative Aliff, who aspires for her bakery to become one of the growing city's staple locations.

"This is something that doesn't feel like work to me. It comes naturally," Aliff said. "Baking for me is not hard. It's something I think about all the time, and I love doing it. I want to do more for the community."

Aliff was originally the proprietor of Heavenly Delights, a bakery in Keystone Heights, Fla., that opened in 2000. However, she closed it in 2003 due to the heavy workload of baking alone. She always wanted to include her children in her beloved craft. Now that they're grown, they work alongside her at the shop, located at 253 East Stuart Avenue.

Aliff bakes with her son, Anthony DeSantis, and has been training him to become her successor at Mimi's Bakery. He prepares and bakes dough for bagels, cookies and other baked goods. Her daughter, Kaylyn Humphries, also helps, washing the dishes when she can, while also working as a full-time nurse.

Her relationship with her children and grandchildren is paramount to Aliff, naming her bakery after being called "Mimi" when they were growing up. The idea to use the name came from her granddaughter, she says.

Preparations began on Oct. 16, prepping countless pastry fillings and dough. They built up a stockpile meant to last the first two weeks of their Nov. 20 opening, bracing for the possibility of a large crowd arriving on their pre-Thanksgiving opening day. They were not disappointed.

They begin prepping each day at 3 a.m. before opening at 7 a.m., shaping the dough into their myriad of baked goods, including cakes, pies, cookie platters, and breads. Cinnamon raisin bread, almond challah, and pecan chocolate chip cookies are among the range of offerings featured on the shop's website at Mimisbakery.org.

"We love baking, and she's an incredible chef," DeSantis said. "She's been one my whole life and showed me a lot. I'm still learning every day."

During their first two weeks, they exceeded their initial expectations. A line of people stretched out the door, leaving their shelves emptied by 11 a.m. with mobile orders stacking up during the holiday season. It was a hectic time, and they're enjoying the downtime post-holiday to ponder what's next.

Now striding into its eighth week, the newcomer bakery has boasted some bestsellers, including their Danishes, croissants, cinnamon buns, and scored bread.

"Right now, we have a small menu because that's what we can handle," Aliff said. "There's nothing we buy from a distributor that's already cooked. We bake everything from scratch, but I'd rather do it that way and bring customers a product that's 100% fresh."

Diego De Jesus

Anthony DeSantis prepares the large batches of dough required to turn out generous counts of pastries, breads, and other delights in the spotless kitchen at the new Mimi's Bakery on East Stuart Avenue in downtown Lake Wales.

The Lake Wales community has warmly welcomed the novel bakery, with ample support spreading the word through word-of-mouth and online media.

"A lot of the community has really been super nice, and some of the things they say on social media and what they have done has far surpassed what I could have ever expected," Aliff said.

The shop is in addition to the nearly four-year-old Cocoa Cakes Studio just across the street. That shop specializes in elaborately-decorated cakes and other specialty baked good, many created to order.

As Aliff and DeSantis work out the kinks of their new business, new in-house-made products, such as their novel homemade jams, are steadily being introduced. Aliff is actively exploring gluten-free baked goods and aims to offer them by the end of this month.

Catering services are also available through their website, or inquiries may be sent to email at [email protected].

 

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