Business

Marion's Jules Bakery for sale after 18 years in business

Juli Hardin, owner of Jules Bakery, 3201 Armar Drive, pours champagne cake batter into a pan as she makes a wedding cake for a customer at her business in Marion, Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Juli Hardin, owner of Jules Bakery, 3201 Armar Drive, pours champagne cake batter into a pan as she makes a wedding cake for a customer at her business in Marion, Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — The motto at Jules Bakery is life is short, serve dessert first.

Owner Juli “Jules” Hardin is taking that advice to heart. Having served customers sweets for almost two decades, she’s decided it’s time sell the business.

“I have spent the last 18 years building a bakery business in the Cedar Rapids-Marion area. Now it’s time for me to step aside to welcome the next rising star,” Hardin said.

If all works out as she hopes, customers won’t see much of a change.

“My customers are so loyal and involved. I’m not changing anything and whoever buys it from me can just take over,” she said.

“That’s what my customers want. I have a great following and there’s a good foundation here.”

Hardin said she will have to stop committing to make wedding cakes in the near future because she’s unsure as to when a sale will happen.

Once the business is sold, Hardin also is offering to stay on for a year to help the new owner navigate the different baking seasons.

“I have so much information to pass on,” she said. “I want someone to come in and not make the same mistakes I did. Time is too valuable. I wouldn’t trade a second of the last 18 years, but I do wish I’d had a mentor I could have listened to.”

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A similar transition occurred earlier this year in Cedar Rapids, when Amy Jordan took over operation and ownership of Kathy’s Pies from Kathy McCauley and Terri Henecke, who had run the downtown bakery for more than 33 years.

They wanted cake

Hardin said she always believed she would know when it was time for her to move on from Jules Bakery. When she wrote her business plan before opening, Hardin noted that she’d like to operate the business for 18 years.

“I go back and visit that plan every January and saw that this past January,” she said. “I spent a long time working my mind around it and preparing to say, ‘It’s time.’ There are just other things I want to do before I get too old.”

Hardin said she had hoped to make high-end French desserts when she first opened her bakery, but quickly learned that the local market wanted cake.

“I’ve always made everything from scratch. And I’ve seen a lot of pop-up businesses over the last five or six years. I was always in this for the long-run,” she recalled.

Getting her start with baking on an Easy Bake Oven when she was eight years old, Hardin said she will miss being in the kitchen.

“I love making wedding cakes, the creative process and working with the couples. It will be difficult not doing that,” she said.

“I’ve tried to calculate how many I’ve made in my life and it’s somewhere in the thousands.”

Her frosting recipe was created when Hardin was just 19.

“I moved to a town without a bakery and I wanted cake, so I made my own. When I brother tasted it, he said, ‘I don’t know what you did to that frosting, but you need to do it all time.’ And it’s the same recipe I use today.”

Over the past 18 years, Hardin jokes that not much has changed but her ability and her age.

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“I’ve gotten pretty good at what I do,” Hardin said. “But this is more of a young person’s job.”

On a typical day she works non-stop — making cookies, brownies, cakes and frosting, decorating cakes, dealing with refrigeration equipment when it breaks, putting on a janitor’s hat at the end of the day.

“And in between all of that, I hope I had a good time and that I smiled,” she said.

“I have a lot of brides out there. And they’ve had babies. It has been so much fun to be part of their timelines and family traditions.”

Hardin had been dropping hints to customers for a while that this could be her last year as owner of Jules Bakery. Since making the official announcement, she is now assuring customers that she will find someone to take over the business and that her recipes will continue to be used.

The sale of Jules Bakery — which has operated in its current location since opening in December 2001 — would include its current leased location, all equipment and processes, client lists, vendor lists — and the recipes.

Her buttercream frosting — a coveted secret recipe — is one reason Hardin originally opened her shop.

“It is not unusual to hear my clients express hope that I find a buyer who will offer the same high-quality sweets. Cakes, cupcakes and iced sugar cookies are huge,” she said.

“I often hear stories about my goodies being shipped to many places around the world. They are the type of sweets that clients will follow, no matter who is baking.”

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After selling Jules Bakery, Hardin looks forward to volunteering, working with entrepreneurs, spending time with family and researching whether she’d like to run for public office.

Hardin served as the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce vice president of communications before opening her bakery.

“This chapter has to close in order to do those things,” she said.

About the business

• Owner: Juli Hardin

• Company: Jules Bakery

• Address: 3201 Armar Dr., Marion

• Phone: (319) 447-0943

• Website: julesbakery.com

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