Located on Springwells Street in Southwest Detroit, the sweet treats of Sheila’s Bakery have attracted customers from all over the city and metro area for more than a decade. Owner Fidencio Espejel opened the bakery 10 years ago, naming it after his daughter, thinking it would bring luck.
“It all started when we first immigrated from Mexico into California,” Espejel said. “That’s where I really became a baker. Then I moved to Michigan because I thought it would be better for my family, and I started the bakery here.”
On Oct. 18, the bakery will celebrate 11 years of serving the community. Sheila’s continues to be a busy and beloved spot in the neighborhood, making cakes for various occasions including weddings, Quinceañera celebrations, and other special events.
Customers come in and fill their trays with a diverse set of sweets, everything from double-chocolate chip muffins and candy-sprinkled cookies to churros and other authentic Hispanic goodies. Store manager Arnold Bueno wants people to feel the positive atmosphere inside and to understand the bakery’s top goal to provide quality.
“(Our bakers) put a lot of effort into the quality of their product,” Bueno said. “They treat them as if they were going to eat them as well, which makes them even better. They’re for their family – and their family is everybody else in the community.”
“Sheila’s helps to create jobs, bring income to the community and lowers delinquency and the crime rate in the community.” – Fidencio Espejel, owner, Sheila’s Bakery
With racks full of desserts such as sugar-coated roscas, cannolis, fruit nut cakes and Oreo cakes, people have the option of buying slices or a full dish. One of the cakes Sheila’s is known for is its signature tres leches.
Rogelio Gomez, one of the 10 bakers at the business, has worked for Sheila’s since the beginning and has baked professionally for more than 11 years.
“I like my job,” Gomez said. “I like making cakes, but I like it most when the customer says, ‘Oh my God, this is very good!’”
Gomez recalls how Espejel started the business. Although he didn’t have much money, Espejel was truly invested in the business and used that motivation to help serve and better the community.
The community surrounding Sheila’s wasn’t always in good shape, due to crime. When the doors first opened Gomez said people were afraid of somebody coming in and robbing them, but now everyone feels comfortable and safe.
Besides providing sweets, Sheila’s helped by hiring more bakers and employees.
“The way it benefits the community is Sheila’s is a center for us to create jobs,” Gomez said. “It brings income to the community and it also lowers delinquency and the crime rate.”
Before Juan Carlos Perez started working at Sheila’s a year ago, he’d been coming to the bakery whenever he had a sweet tooth for seven years. He still buys snacks from Sheila’s at least twice a week.
His favorite pastries are the jericalla, a dessert from Mexico, and the empanada de queso and chocoflan.
Perez says Sheila’s also helps bridge a gap between Southwest Detroit and other regions of the city and the suburbs.
“I think it’s more like a connection, not just between the people from Southwest, but slowly and steadily we’ve seen people from different areas of Detroit,” Perez said. “So it’s sort of like a portal from outside into Southwest, and that’s bigger than being a bakery.”
The bakery has done well enough to open a second location in Pontiac.
Espejel believes the ingredients to a successful business are to work a lot, have a good team of people that will back you up, and to do things right.
Working alongside him, Bueno said he knows Espejel enjoys being part of each customer’s day.
Photos: Paul Engstrom