Mixing a hobby of baking and cake decorating with a background in office management has yielded a recipe for fun for Jo-Rita Clayton, the new owner of the Gazebo Party Shop in Downtown Kingsport.
Clayton expected to make some changes to the store when she bought it at the end of May. In fact, she started by painting the walls lively green and raspberry colors that complement canvas paintings of cakes that hang inside over the entrance. But her pace for remodeling was hastened by the flooding that hit the downtown area on July 17, 2013.
“At first, I wanted to sit down on the floor and cry,” Clayton said. “But then I said, ‘You know, it’s going to be better. It’s going to be remodeled, and it’s going to be my store, like a brand new store.’”
After cleaning up, new flooring was installed. Old shelving was ripped out and replaced. And new inventory was stocked, including soup and dip mixes from Wind & Willow and gourmet items from Harry & David, Captain Rodney’s and Rose & Ivy. Clayton expects to order additional kitchen gadgets as well. She’ll stock everything the shop has always carried, plus she plans to add a variety of other items.
“I want the shop to be great, like it used to be,” Clayton said. “I took my first cake decorating classes here 30 years ago from Gene (Chapman, the original store owner), and I’ve always admired her.”
Prior to buying the business, Clayton worked for more than a decade as an office manager. During that time, she would “bake like a maniac” at the holidays and give goodies away to friends. When she was laid off from her job three years ago, she started making cakes for others as a hobby. She purchased her supplies at The Gazebo from then-owner Carla Spivey. Last year, Clayton started teaching cake decorating classes at the store before Spivey approached her about buying the store.
The Gazebo offers classes in cake decorating that cater to all ability levels from beginners to advanced gum paste. Classes also include working with fondant and candy making. Cupcake decorating classes for children are also available.
Eventually, the owner said she’d like to be able to do the cake baking at the store. For now, she transports the cakes for classes after baking them at home. Clayton said she envisions one day hosting cake-decorating birthday parties.
The Gazebo has a large selection of decorative cake pans and does on-site napkin imprinting for special occasions like birthday parties and weddings.
Clayton plans a “re-Grand Opening” for The Gazebo on Sept. 13-14 so regular customers can see the new changes and new customers can explore what the store has to offer.
The Gazebo Party Shop is located at 225 East Market Street in Downtown Kingsport. Business hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Look for extended hours during the holiday season, starting in mid-October, to allow the shop’s regular candy makers added time to stock their supplies of Merckens chocolate.
For more information, visit its Facebook page or call 423-245-0771.