When I first moved to Cleveland over 6 years ago, I was on a quest to find that neighborhood gem! Someplace close, with great food, great desserts and an inviting atmosphere. Not only did it need to be great, but it needed to be 100% scratch made. You might think that is easy to come by for bakeries, but shopping for cakes for our wedding in another location, taught me that a lot of bakeries, while it’s marketed as homemade, isn’t. The first time I walked into Luna Bakery, I knew it was the place I’d been searching for in Cleveland. Sweet, buttery and vanilla aromas filled the air, the kind that bring you back to your childhood, watching your Mom or Grandma making an array of desserts for the holidays. Back then, they only had 1 location in Cleveland Heights on Fairmount and they were expanding their dining room area. Even with the larger seating area and 2nd location, it’s always crowded, which is a testament to just how wonderful this place is and how many people love it.
After visiting Luna a few times, I soon found out that the owner and genius behind this delicious place, was Bridget Thibeault, a local gal with big dreams! She started this business with 2 partners, (who she has since bought out). And while it’s very difficult to have 1 thriving bakery, let alone 2, that Bridget isn’t slowing down. She has her eye on opening a third location sometime in the near future. She’s won numerous “Best Of” awards and even published a Cupcake Decorating book! It’s always my kids favorite destination after the first day of school. They love it just as much as anyone! So, take a trip to Luna, settle down with a macaroon and get to know Bridget with our interview below!
Where are you originally from?
Cleveland Heights. I grew up 4 streets from Luna on South Overlook. My husband and I have lived in Cleveland Heights for the past 11 years but we just moved to Shaker Heights. I went to St. Ann’s, Beaumont and then college at Marquette University. I also graduated from The Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago with a culinary degree when I was 29. I am the owner of Luna Bakery & Café.
How many children do you have & what are their ages?
We have 2 children – a boy and a girl. Cavan, age 9, and Cecelia, age 4.
What are some of your favorite things about Northeast Ohio?
After college I spent 12 years in Chicago and NYC. I never thought I’d move back to Cleveland and I was so pleasantly surprised when I did. It has all the things those larger cities have to offer but on a smaller, much more manageable scale. As a business owner, it would have been much more difficult to open a storefront in a larger city. Cleveland is affordable and I love the sense of community.
Can you tell us something people would be surprised to know about you?
I think I appear to be a very laid back, stress free person but I struggle with all of the same pressures that most entrepreneurs and moms do.
Tell us about your community involvement – a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or business – how do you rely on the women of Northeast Ohio?
I am on the board and a member of Cleveland Independents. It is a marketing organization for over 80 local restaurants with a goal of increasing business and educating the public regarding the importance of supporting independent restaurants.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment is building Luna into a growing, profitable business in an industry that has very slim margins and a huge rate of failure.
What would you say your biggest failure is?
After my son was born and before Luna, I was making cakes and pastries out of my house while working crazy hours and not making much money. I felt like I was failing as a business woman and as a mom because I was so overwhelmed. I almost gave up and started looking for a ‘real job’ again. But as fate would have it, my partners found me and inquired about opening a new venture in Cleveland Heights, which became Luna.
What’s the one thing you’re most passionate about?
I am passionate about supporting local businesses and educating people on the importance of eating fresh, natural food and baked goods. We make everything from scratch at Luna and I think that is how we should teach our children to eat.
How did you start your business and grow it into multiple locations?
When I graduated culinary school I started a cake and pastry business out of my apartment in Chicago. I ran that business on the side for years and continued when I moved back to Cleveland. After quitting my job at Fire Food & Drink to have my son, I was feeling like my business was not sustainable. Then my former partner called me looking for a chef/partner to open a cafe at Cedar Fairmount. This was my opportunity. In 2011 we opened Luna Bakery & Cafe with 15 seats and a patio. We had lines out the door so a few months later we added 25 more seats and again in 2016 we added 35 more. The community embraced us because of the great location and consistent, quality food and scratch pastry. In 2017, after a year of negotiating, I bought my partners out. I knew I wanted to open a 2nd location because of 2 reasons: customer demand and the opportunity to grow a local company with great culture. I offer health benefits, 401k, vacation, flexible schedules…these things all affect my bottom line but I think they are important and they help me retain talent in a very competitive labor market. We also have a mission statement and core values that are guided by great service. I opened our 2nd location in Moreland Hills in June of 2018. I chose Moreland because we have brand recognition in that area and I didn’t want to be more than 20 minutes from home since I have small children.
What is the greatest resources you have used to help make your bakery successful?
The biggest resource for me has been my membership in EO, Entrepreneur Organization. It’s a global organization that has a Cleveland chapter of approximately 150 business owners. This group is invaluable in helping me prioritize and make decisions about my business. Prior to EO I was in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program which also helped me create a growth plan for my business.
How do you juggle being a mom and a business owner?
It is extremely difficult juggling being a mom and a business owner. I always feel like I’m doing an average job at everything! I just try to take it one day at a time and always be there for my kids when they need me. I’m also learning how to say no and take days off/vacations. This means trusting my employees and letting go of some of the control.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years? Or where do you hope your business will be in 10 years?
Over the next 10 years I think I’d like to have a 3rd location but I will also be working on my exit strategy. I’m 46 so I need to make a plan to eventually retire or sell the business.
If you could tell your younger self something, what would it be?
‘It will all work out.’ I seized every opportunity to travel and have fun in my 20’s and early 30’s but I was always looking to eventually settle down and have a family. I met my husband when I was 33 and got married when I was 35. I didn’t open Luna until I was 38 and we struggled financially at the beginning. It’s still a risky business but I am constantly focused on growing and learning.
What’s the best payoff about owning your own business?
A sense of accomplishment that I don’t think you can get when working for someone else. Every day a customer thanks me for bringing Luna to the community and that is an amazing feeling.
Advice or resources for someone who wants to open their own business?
If you have a good idea, keep pursuing it. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Surround yourself with smart people and talk to other entrepreneurs. Be willing to make changes. I used to be a chef but I had to remove myself from the kitchen because I realized my value was greater when overseeing the entire business. And that was the turning point where we started to become more profitable.
Is there anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
My mom, my husband, my sitters…so many people who help me day to day. And my friends for making me laugh along the way!
Luna Bakery & Cafe are located in Cleveland Heights & Moreland Hills, OH. For more information, head to their website at www.lunabakerycafe.com Bridget also authored a “Cupcake Decorating, 52 Techniques, Recipes, and Inspiring Designs for your Favorite Sweet Treats.” It is available for purchase at their Bakery locations or amazon (affiliate link).
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