Sometimes businesses aren’t so much planned as they happen naturally, a consequence of who we are as individuals.
That’s how it is with The Tiny Kitchen.
Its origins date back to owner Megan Merrithey’s high school days in Glenbard East in Lombard, when she began decorating cakes for sale. This continued when she went to college as a side hustle, decorating and delivering custom cakes.
Over the years, this side hustle continued, although she spent 14 years working in St. Charles schools as a teacher, instructional technology coordinator and instructional coach.
“I have always loved creativity and creating different flavors of cakes and desserts,” Merrithey said.
And then Merrithey, a mother of four school-aged children, outgrew her family kitchen, with cakes stored wherever she could find a place, while she expanded into small desserts and organized a few small weddings.
“My children were wondering: can we still eat at the kitchen table?” she said, laughing.
It was time for the Merrithey team to fly the coop. And The Tiny Kitchen was born.
Merrithey had taken a look at the small former yarn store at 107 W. Main St. in downtown St. Charles, and it seemed like the right place to start when she decided to move out of her kitchen.
She quit her job at the school district and threw herself into her full-time job. Today, teaching is his secondary activity; she teaches homebound or homeschooled children who need extra support in the morning.
And she worked as a teacher at The Tiny Kitchen, where she has about 1,200 square feet of gathering space that can be used for baking classes.
“I have a beautiful big custom-made farmhouse table and we literally gather around it. I have all the equipment and I teach them some strategies and techniques and they go at it with desserts that I make for them ” said Merrithey.
She also has a vending machine from which she can sell individual slices of cake. The idea is to provide more liquidity, to “make money while I sleep”.
There’s just a problem with the vending machine.
“In theory, it’s a great idea, but I’m having trouble finding a location,” Merrithey said. “I can’t have it on-site in my building, so trying to find another business owner who might want to take on the responsibility of hosting it has been a bit of a challenge. But once it’s up and running, it will be awesome.”
Meanwhile, she partners with local breweries and wineries that don’t have in-house catering but want to feed their customers. She works at Compass Academy in St. Charles, teaching in their culinary lab and hosting interns who can help her with marketing.
“I’m very busy. It’s kind of my nature to be very busy,” she said.
Merrithey employs six people, including two bakers who come in early in the morning to help, as well as a few teenagers who work the counter.
Her location in downtown St. Charles has worked well for her, providing her with a number of walk-in customers.
“Last weekend with Jazz Fest was really great to have people coming in, and we’re looking forward to Scarecrow Fest,” she said. However, construction on First Street cannot be completed soon enough.
Her first-year income so far is about $75,000, and she hopes her holiday business can push her into six figures.
Eventually, of course, Merrithey plans to move out of his small kitchen. She now has about 500 square feet of kitchen space, maybe less, and it’s already feeling cramped. He has approximately 15 months of lease remaining.
“I had been working in a family kitchen for so long that I thought, ‘I can make a small kitchen work.’ But now that I don’t have to restrict myself, I shouldn’t restrict myself,” Merrithey said. “I know better what my business needs to continue growing, so the next space will be even better than this one.”