50 Years: An interview with Margaret•
Posted on November 16 2023
Margaret was kind enough to share with me her thoughts on business, cakes and how far we have come in 50 years.
"My first cake that I decorated was in 1970 as part of my teacher training. I remember that by the time the cake was eaten the icing was so hard that a knife could not be put through.
During my first year out as a teacher, I went to a 12 month course at Technical College in Cake Decorating. At the end of the year, I won first prize for the class, first prize in the local show and first prize in the display in the shop window of the local hardware store.
I started the business on 11-11-1973 so that I could work from home to look after my sick husband. It was named ‘A & M MEISSNER’. By the end of 3 years I was doing 10 weddings plus other occasion cakes each week. I had a dream of having a shop and used to imagine a counter with lots of little decorations in it.
My first shop was in Gaythorne and I changed the name to ‘CAKE ICING CENTRE.’ We soon outgrew that little shop moving to 640 – 642 Samford Road, Mitchelton in 1982. 1986 saw the shift to 651 Samford Road with the purchase of that building, remaining there to this day. 1993 saw another change in the name to ‘CAKE AND ICING CENTRE’. (Sarah-Jane would then go on to rename the store STUDIO CAKES in 2019, with the byline in the logo referencing "your cake and icing centre")
Margaret continued, "Changes are always challenging and there were plenty as each generation came. Cake designs have changed dramatically over the years from very fine intricate piping of embroidery, extension and lace work, to plain sides and lots of flowers, followed by double height cakes, sharp edges, large flowers and artistic painting. A major change came with the move away from fruit cake to chocolate mud cake and other delicious recipes. This is where we excelled. Prospective brides loved our cake which won over our competitors."
One of Margaret's original designs
Sarah-Jane recreated her parent's wedding cake for their 50th anniversary, under Margaret's careful tutelage.
Wedding cake designs have certainly evolved over the years!
Margaret reminisced about her years in the store, "One of my favourite parts of running the business was knowing the customers. I met young mothers with preschool children and by the time I left they were grandparents. Also it was rewarding to meet someone who had never iced a cake before and to guide them along the path to become experienced cake decorators.
In the early days, the business was the only one of its kind in Brisbane. The only competition was from the home decorator but they were our customers anyway. Then came the internet which taught everyone how to ice a cake and in the most simple and radical ways."
Margaret continued, "Proud moments were when a bride would come to pick up a cake and exclaim their delight as it was just what they wanted. We went to the n-th degree that when taking an order we made absolutely sure that all particulars were noted. It was always nice to see a newspaper or magazine article about the business .My favourite cakes were the school graduation cakes in the shape of the school hats."
Our annual Boater Hat design, for local school graduation events.
Margaret's final pearl of wisdom, which is especially poignant to me, is "to run a business successfully the most important thing to remember is that customer satisfaction and loyalty is the backbone of the business. Without that there is no business. Secondly, the product has to be good and consistent."
In retirement, Margaret says "I don’t miss the work, but I miss the customers. It was a great feeling handing over to Sarah-Jane knowing that she is young and exuding enthusiasm just as I was 50 years ago. Keep up that enthusiasm and your customers will see it in you."
Margaret's key points, and my most important takeaway is have an excellent product which is consistent and be a friend to your customers.
These are points that I and our whole team takes seriously. We are not perfect, but we certainly promise our maximum effort in every endeavour we undertake. And we so thoroughly love to share our knowledge and our time with our wonderful community.
Here's to another 50 years!
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