Baking up some holiday cheer

Local bakery worker busy for holiday season

This story is part of Meet Your Neighbor, a series designed to tell you something new about the people in your community. Participants are chosen at random for the interviews, in which we strive to share a portion of their lives with you, the reader. Look for this series once each month.
REED CITY — Deb Merriss loves customer service. In a business with a “world famous” mouth-watering product, keeping customers happy is not very hard. Merriss has worked as a manager at Wright’s Bake Shop in Reed City for seven years. From bread bowls to cappuccino to cheese bread, the family-owned bakery thrives on local business and customers who keep coming back for their favorite treats. “We have people who come in weekly,” Merriss said. “Some are local, some are from out of town. We have everybody.” Starting work as early as 5 a.m., Merriss always is prepared to frost cookies to look like turkeys or elves, and enjoys promoting the homemade, delectable product. The
Herald Review stopped at Wright’s Bakery to chat with Merriss about the best things in the bakery business, her favorite season and special childhood memories as she frosted some elf cookies to keep up with holiday orders. HERALD REVIEW: What is it like around the holidays at Wright’s Bakery? MERRISS: It’s very hectic, but it has to take us through the winter months, because everybody is dieting in January and February. A lot of our northerners are snowbird kind of people, so we tend to lose a lot of our regular customers then too. We had a very good Thanksgiving. We haven’t had orders like that in a couple years. I’m very thrilled with the turnout. We tried to get people into ordering, because we can estimate what we’re going to need, but it’s hard to be a mind reader. We understand the economy is slow, but we appreciate the people who keep coming in. What is your biggest seller? MERRISS: Our cookies. Lots of cookies. We make cranberry walnut cookies. We do fruitcake cookies. We do German stollen cookies. People like the uniqueness. I had a German customer come in one time and tell me how back in Germany they get the stollen and take it to the bakery and bake it, because their ovens at home weren’t big enough. Ben (another employee) comes in to make the stollen for us. We soak the fruit for two weeks, drain it and add other mixtures. We don’t just buy ready-made stuff. We go the extra mile. What baked good takes the longest to make? MERRISS: This time of year, the German Springerle cookies take the longest time because they have to sit. They’re a German anice-flavored cookie. They’re licorice.  After you mix up the dough, they have to sit eight hours. What time do you get up in the morning? MERRISS: My shift varies. Especially with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I’m here when they need me. Yesterday, I was here to help frost doughnuts and frost cookies. Our soft sour cream cookies are a very big seller, so we did 8,000 or so of those. I was here at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and 5 a.m. on Wednesday. Our bakers come in about 10 p.m. to get the oven started. Then they do the cookies, and when the oven gets up to temperature they do the pies. The first (baker) is usually out at 8 a.m. What is your favorite thing about the baking business? MERRISS: I like customer service, and I like making everything from scratch, like we do here. Everyone does work together well. You have your stressful days, but I try to make light of it and make it easier on everybody. What is your favorite season? MERRISS: Springtime, because everything’s getting started again after the dull and dreary winter. And it is good here (at Wright’s Bake Shop) with Easter and Fat Tuesday. Even Valentine’s Day is good here. What is one of your favorite childhood memories? MERRISS: I grew up on horseback. Riding horses would probably be one of my favorite memories, and being at home with family. If you weren’t in the baking business, what would you be doing? MERRISS: I like customer service, so I’d do something customer-oriented. I’m also a numbers person. I do get to do payroll here, and some of the accounting.