LAKEFIELD - Megan Hall of Lakefield owns and operates Simply Sweet Cheesecake, which has been open since February 2015.
She credits her husband, Nelson, with the idea to open a cheesecake bakery. Hall used to make cheesecakes just for fun and bring them to parties and events. Nelson constantly told her how delicious her cheesecakes were and encouraged her to sell them.
In early 2015, Hall was on maternity leave with her second daughter. She was getting a little antsy, so she decided to go online and just play around with a business card design. The online form asked for a website, so Hall quickly created a Facebook page, thinking nobody would really notice it unless she started sharing the link on her own page.
That day, she got seven orders.
Hall didn’t even have cake boxes ordered yet, so she quickly assembled all the needed supplies and got started.
Simply Sweet quickly outgrew Hall’s in-home operation, and in October 2017, she opened the doors of her walk-in bakery at 206 Minnesota 86.
The store is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. When customers walk in, they’ll see the menu for the day on a chalkboard behind the counter. Flavor offerings change often, but if anyone is looking for a specific flavor, they should order at least two days in advance.
Hall offers such limited hours “because we have a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes.”
For example, Hall is right in the middle of fundraiser season, which usually begins in September and runs through the end of the school year. Over the next two and a half weeks, Hall will make more than 5,000 cheesecake cupcakes for fundraising purposes.
Hall says she participates in fundraising as a way “to give back to the community for their support.” In 2018, Simply Sweet contributed about $8,000 to fundraising efforts.
She also works with four wholesalers who offer her products in their businesses: Pub 19 on the Okoboji View Golf Course, Ruthven Meat Locker in Spirit Lake, Pillars in Jackson and Johnson’s Meat Market in Windom and St. James.
Beginning this summer, Hall will also operate a concession trailer. So far, she plans to attend the Jackson and Cottonwood county fairs, Rhythm of the River in Jackson and Summerfest in Lakefield. The trailer has been a dream of Hall’s since she first opened her business, so she’s excited to finally make it happen. The concession trailer is slated for opening in early June.
Between all these ventures, Simply Sweet keeps Hall plenty busy, and she likes it that way.
“We have to be very strategic and smart” at this stage, she said, since her business is operating at full capacity.
Hall’s business sense stems from 16½ years in inside sales and customer service prior to opening Simply Sweet. She has a degree in business and marketing that gave her a solid foundation of knowledge and experience.
However, the restaurant and bakery world is new to Hall, and she’s still figuring out all of the state laws and regulations that govern her process.
“It’s been a total learning curve for me, but I’ve done it,” Hall said.
She is not intimidated by the things she doesn’t know yet.
“When you stop learning, what else is there?” Hall commented.
Hall stays busy with family life, too. She and Nelson have three daughters aged 9, 4½ and 10 months. They operate a hobby farm with chickens, dogs, show cattle and pigs. Hall says farm life is another new learning experience for her, having grown up in Apple Valley.
When her dad moved down to this area, Hall began visiting him here. On one such occasion, Nelson saw Hall around town and asked who she was, eventually approaching her and asking her on a date. They will celebrate eight years of marriage this June.
“He’s my number one supporter,” Hall said of Nelson. “He’s had my back since the beginning. Anytime I need anything, he’s always been there.”
Hall said that since Nelson works in the building next to Simply Sweet, he likes to come by on his lunch break to visit and have some cheesecake. His favorite flavor is plain smothered in caramel.
Hall hasn’t always been ambitious, she said. But she started working at 15 and has always had to pay for things herself, which instilled in her a strong work ethic.
“I want great things for myself and my family,” she said. “I will work until my fingers bleed to get it - but not into the cheesecake.”
Another thing that keeps her going, Hall said, is that she “left a really great career behind to follow this American Dream - and I never wanted my family to struggle because of that.”
Hall also supports local artists in her store. The front area of Simply Sweet features tables with crafts and decor made by Minnesotans. These artists are just getting started with sales and don’t have their own storefronts.
“I know exactly what that’s like, because that’s where I came from,” Hall said. “So I like to support them.”
Hall said a big motivator for her is the support she gets from her customers. She said people come from great distances to eat her cheesecake - she’s had customers from as far as Fairmont, Sioux Falls, Estherville, New Ulm, Springfield and Marshall.
“It makes my heart skip a beat,” Hall said.