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Closing The Loop: Mary Johnson


Mary Johnson, who bakes cupcakes at her boutique bakery in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville, was a nurse at a major hospital in Jacksonville, and the daughter of a career Air Force officer.

“I was just unhappy at work,” she says. “I was putting in long hours instead of being around my family, and I was stressed out. I would come home and do things like catering on the weekend. That made me happy.”

Cooking, and especially baking, was something with deep family ties.

My dad and I cooked when I was young, especially around the holidays. He’d make these great Yule logs!”

Mary’s friends and customers told her she should think about cooking professionally.

“I started getting busier, and they told me I should open a bakery,” she recalls. “At first, I thought, I could never do that. And then I asked myself, ‘Well, why can’t I?’”

Mary Johnson launched into entrepreneurship, opening the Buttercream & Moonbeams bakery last February. It was harder than she thought it would be.

“There’s a lot of regulation when you’re selling food. We had to hire an architect and a contractor and get a lot of permits. It tool a lot more money than we thought it would.”

It also took a lot more of Mary’s time. At the beginning, she put in 60-plus-hour weeks. But she has a picnic-style table in the front of the store, for neighborhood customers to hang out on, and for her kids to do their homework on.

The table gets a lot of people, and not only her kids, sitting at it.

“Ever since we opened, we’ve had a lot of business and encouragement from the neighborhood,” she says. “I think people are ready to support a small, local business.”

Mary would do it again.

“Most days, I would! There are some days that I go, ‘what was I thinking? I quit a salaried job!’ But we’ve had so much support from the community. I don’t want to walk away from that.”

Warren Miller is a writer and financial executive who lives near St. Augustine, Florida.