Cheryl Maloney comes from a family of bakers and entrepreneurs, as a matter of fact, her great aunt Mary Ann Drahos owned and operated a popular restaurant and bakery in Cedar Rapids for many years.
“My ‘old Auntie Mary’ owned Mary Ann’s Eat Shop, from 1935 until 1950,” Maloney explained. She said she always knew her great aunt as ‘old Auntie Mary’ — a term of endearment used by her family.
“She started the restaurant with her five sisters and made sure they were all equal partners.” As the sisters eventually got married and moved on to raise families, Maloney’s great aunt kept running the business. Maloney says she can’t imagine the obstacles her great aunt overcame in the 1930s to make her restaurant successful. “She was ahead of her time, a real firebrand.”
A family tradition Growing up, Maloney says she learned much of her baking skills at home from her mother, Mary. “I baked with my mom forever. I would sweep the flour off the counter,” she said laughing. “My mom baked all the time, and she learned all of her technique from my great aunt Mary.”
She says as far back as she can remember, her mother was always in the kitchen baking. “There were four kids in our household, and everything she baked, which was delicious, vanished as quickly as she could make them.” Maloney added, it was a daily occurrence.
Maloney, a Chicago native, had a successful career with Constellation Brands in the alcohol industry before moving to Solon with her husband, Shawn, and son, Will.
“Growing up my family would visit Iowa and the Cedar Rapids area,” she said. “We would come each summer and stay with grandpa and grandma.” Those visits to Iowa left an indelible impression on her. “We had so much fun coming here.”
While in Chicago, she says her father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and to help her through this time, she turned to her love of baking. “Baking was therapeutic for me. It was something I enjoyed and it helped me get through that time.”
A family-realized dreamOpening her own bakery was something Maloney said was always in the back of her mind, and she says it was also a dream of her mothers, but she never had the opportunity. “My mother always talked about opening a bakery but it never worked out,” she said. “We talked about it all the time.”
“My mom lives in Tinley Park (a suburb of Chicago) and she’s been helping me with recipes. My sister, who lives in Robins, has also been helping get things ready. Everyone in my family is helping and are equally excited. It’s been a dream for everybody. My mom jokes that she’s living vicariously through me.”
Maloney says since she’s moved to Iowa, she’s noticed a lot of bakeries offer goods, especially cinnamon rolls, early in the morning, “But, they’re sold out almost as fast as they open. And once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
“My plan is to have cinnamon rolls available all morning. Not everyone is up and around by 6:30 a.m.”
She said The Eat Shop will offer an eclectic selection of baked goods, including: Bagels, pies, pastries, cookies and cupcakes, as well as granola. “I don’t want customers to go away and say that was fine. That’s not acceptable. I want it to be the best they’ve ever had.”
According to Maloney, nearly half of the recipes she offers at The Eat Shop are family recipes. “We were undecided about offering kolaches. But I can’t say no,” she said, of the traditional Czech pastry.
“Everyone’s grandmother has their own recipe, especially around this area, and everyone thinks theirs are the best. We’re going to offer kolaches, too, but ours will have a modern twist.” She says younger people will appreciate the taste of their kolaches. “These are for people who may not have had them before.”
Maloney said she hopes to have the bakery open for Solon Beef Days, but says she’s waiting on baking ovens to arrive. “These are on a dock and we’re waiting for confirmation on when they’ll get here,” she said.
The Eat Shop, located at 120 W. Main St., will operate as a counter-serve bakery, customers will be able to enjoy outdoor seating. “We’ll have black Adirondack chairs and side tables lined up in front and on the side of the building.”
She says everyone in Solon has been great and encouraging about her business. “We love Solon. Everyone has been wonderful. This is where we’re supposed to be.”
Hours for the bakery are: Monday – Friday 6 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, 6 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Sunday, 7 a.m. – noon. For more information visit www.theeatshop.com.