By Marsha Brown
Former elementary school teacher Jeri Lionberger can easily stand the heat and has no intention of getting out of the kitchen
Jeri’s offers a variety of seasonal items as well as trendy pastries for social events.
Jeri Lionberger recalls the moment when she first decided to open Jeri’s Back Home Bakery.
“I was a teacher at Houston Elementary in Mineral Wells,” Lionberger said. “Every time, we would have a little party, you know, a birthday or somebody was retiring or having a baby, I always made the cake. I remember one day we were having a birthday party. This teacher was having a piece of cake, when she turned to me and she said, ‘This is great. What are you doing here?’”
Soon, Lionberger found herself drawing out plans for her bakery on the back of a lesson plan as her students took a test.
“I guess eventually,” Lionberger said, “you really do have to go with doing what you love best.”
The moment she retired from teaching, Lionberger started shopping around for an affordable storefront in a high-traffic area as a location for her bakery.
“I found it in York Avenue in Weatherford,” Lionberger said. “It’s perfect. It’s right across from Yesterdays (sandwich shop). I thought it would give the girls one more place to go.”
Lionberger felt that the time had come for her bakery, although while she was working on the lease the economy took a dramatic downturn. Undaunted, Lionberger opened the doors to Jeri’s Back Home Bakery, last April.
“We’ve been busy since day one,” Lionberger said. “My customers have been great.”
Regular customers come from as far away as Possum Kingdom, Mineral Wells, Aledo and Weatherford.
Regular Jeri’s customer Kelly Hamilton attributes Lionberger’s early success to the fact that she loves what she does, which makes her shop a cheerier place to walk into combined with her willingness to go an extra mile to help her customers.
“My niece was getting married and for her bridal shower I was bringing the cupcakes,” Hamilton said. “I brought one ribbon from a bridesmaid’s gown. Jeri worked so hard to make sure the color of the cupcake icing matched perfectly with that one small piece of ribbon that I told her when it was all over that she can count me as a loyal customer of her bakery forever and, of course, I have been.”
Lionberger’s early aspirations leaned toward baking.
“As a teenager, I wanted to work in a bakery so bad that I actually lied on an application for a job in the bakery in Skaggs-Albertson,” Lionberger said. “I said I had experience decorating cakes. I actually had none. It didn’t take them long to figure out I had lied. But they taught me how to decorate. I loved it, but I made five-something an hour.”
Lionberger’s skill as a baker helped her get through a number of tough times in her life.
“I was a single mom (before her degree and her job as a teacher) and simply didn’t have the money to pay my electric bill,” Lionberger said. “So I whipped up a big batch of cookies, boxed them up, then I went downtown and sold them to people walking around downtown. I made enough to pay my electric bill.”
Eventually Lionberger worked her way through college and became a teacher.
“Even while I was teaching, I still dreamed of opening my own bakery,” Lionberger said. “I kept at it until I did it.”
Customers are now passing bakeries in Fort Worth neighborhoods like Ridglea and Sundance Square to buy cakes from Jeri’s.
“I just took an order from a lady in (Fort Worth silk glove neighborhood) Westover Hills for 64 party trays,” Lionberger said. “That feels good.”
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