For Andrea Bernes, it started with a question that would transform her bakery in the coronavirus era.
“A customer asked me if I would sell her flour,” said Bernes, the owner of Linda’s Cakes & Desserts Specialty Shop.
Bernes mulled that over.
It was mid-March and long lines were forming at grocery stores as the COVID-19 crisis arrived in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Then one of my suppliers asked if I wanted to buy anything in bulk,” she said. “I was a little afraid to buy extra things.”
Those extra things would include eggs, bread, commercial style toilet paper, potatoes, flour and rice. Linda’s Cake Shop, a Brownsville mainstay for over 30 years, was now selling “essentials” in addition to its usual array of tasty sweet treats. It was all more than Bernes could have imagined when she purchased the cake shop nearly three years ago.
She was already leading a busy life as a business owner and schoolteacher before the coronavirus crisis. The last few weeks have made life even more hectic. The added goods she is selling at her cake shop are coveted during shelter-at-home days.
“I saw it as something I could offer in helping to fill a need in the community,” Bernes said. “I’d feel bad if it was something I could do but passed up.”
An Adjustment for Business
Bernes quickly saw where her added lines of products were making a difference. Nurses, medical assistants, doctors and other health care professionals were coming by to buy the essentials – and express gratitude.
“They (medical workers) don’t have time to wait in lines at H-E-B after all that they’re doing right now,” she said. “I’m thankful I can do something for them.”
Bernes and her staff can now bring eggs, bread and other essential products to health care providers while they wait in their cars in the Linda’s Cakes parking lot. It’s a community service – and a business – with the sort of revenue impact many other small businesses are feeling with the required social distancing keeping customers away.
“It all went down the drain,” said Bernes, describing all the business she lost due to the coronavirus. It wiped away the high school and college graduation celebrations where her cakes would be front-and-center. Mother’s Day, another huge day for her business, will also be largely lost as far as orders from Linda’s.
Her best months are usually March, April, May and June. This period of time, unfortunately for Linda’s, was when the shelter-in-place and social distancing mandates came down.
“We’re like everyone else in trying to figure what’s best to stay in business,” Bernes said.
She’s still grateful for her business and doing what she can for her community. Bernes recently treated the Valley Baptist Health System staff in Brownsville with a big “Thank You” cake, the big blue letters written on white frosting.
“THANK YOU to our friends at Linda’s Cakes for their generosity!” said Leslie Bingham, the chief executive officer of Valley Baptist-Brownsville, in a Facebook post that shows her staff with the cake.
The hashtag on the post says it all, #ACommunityBuiltOnCare – Linda’s Cakes.