By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Vavette Blevins had a compelling reason to find a fun job, the kind most people spend their lives dreaming of. If early results are an indication, she's also proving it can happen.
The Livingston native started her adult life as a soldier, becoming one of the first to go to Iraq. After she left the service, she became an endodontist, a dentist specializing in root canals.
After a while, she landed in the emergency room with symptoms that were diagnosed as manifestations of stress, possibly post-traumatic stress disorder, although she believed she had had a heart attack. Not long thereafter, she went to the hospital again, and the heart-attack symptoms were unmistakeable. This time, she was advised to quit her practice.
At loose ends for about three months, she was surfing the Web one day and saw a picture of a cake decorating kit. It was a magic moment.
"I have four sons, so it was always somebody's birthday, and I always loved baking," she said. "I started baking cakes on a small scale at first for friends and acquaintances, and it grew into a business with four ovens in a building at my family's home.
When I set up as a business, though, the city told me I couldn't have customers coming through my home and advised me to set up a storefront."
This she did, and Works of Art Cakes was born at 328 E. Avenue C in the middle of downtown. A couple of weeks ago, she had a grand opening with about 200 people coming through to sample her wares.
The heart of the business is wedding cakes, and through word of mouth and the Internet, she gets customers from as far as Dallas. With the help of a young lady working on the weekends, she said, "I deliver all over Austin. I limit myself to two cakes a day, but I stay busy, more than I would have dreamed." She said orders are booked through August 2008.
Soon, her mother plans to move here to help her. In the meantime, her product is not her only dream. Baking at home near the east gate of Fort Hood, she keeps her office on Avenue C with a half dozen tables and a refrigerator full of of everyday cakes and drinks where "the inviting atmosphere and friendly staff invites customers to relax, chat with friends, read a book, or just escape," according to a news release issued before the grand opening.
"I come from a small town, and when I grew up, the downtown was thriving. Everybody knew whose kid you were," she said. "It's just dead there now, and it's sad. Killeen is not a small town anymore, but it has a small downtown, and I hope places like mine crop up all over the place, where people can stop in and chat, meet on the sidewalk, and so forth. I want to see it come alive."
She said that already, many people will drop in for cake and coffee – "not every day, because they're watching their waistlines" – but a couple of times a week.
She got some powerful credentials after she decided on her future. She graduated from the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin and won a scholarship for a five-month school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Now she has to mix her education in multitiered creations with the universal Texan taste for sheet cakes.
It may work. She has a catalog of photographs of original creations besides multistory round cakes: one that looks like a hat, another like a huge bottle of hot sauce, one that looks like a cookie, another like a clock. Another looks like a 12-pack of famous-label beer. "I was picking up an empty 12-pack in the alley before somebody saw it and thought I had emptied it, and I thought, Why not?' I get inspirations all over the place."
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and by appointment Saturday and Sunday.
She has plans to offer pastry and decorating classes soon and is taking names of prospective students.
Her husband is a military retiree with his own job. She said he helps with chores around the store but wants nothing to do with the cakes.
Cake delivery is a slow process because of the fragility of the cargo, but she had little trouble in mad-hornet traffic. "People get close enough to see the side of the vehicle and see that I'm carrying wedding cakes, and all of a sudden they're not so competitive. They're friendly, and they wave."
She has one other passion: supporting troops overseas through the organization Support a Soldier. "I know what it's like to be in a war zone, and my family is here partly because we still feel strongly connected to the military. I won't stop with helping our people in uniform until the last one returns home," she said.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557