On the west side of Hendersonville lies a quaint little cottage, comfortably nestled under a stand of shade trees. Although rustic and tranquil, the setting seems rather ordinary, at first.
However, as you draw nearer, you are suddenly enveloped by the delightful aroma of freshly baked treats. Step through the door, and you will find an array of colorful cakes, cookies and other goodies, the likes of which you have never seen.
For a moment, you wonder if you are dreaming. Then you realize that it is not a dream, but instead, sweet reality.
Welcome to Lili Bella’s Cakes.
Lili Bella’s is a unique, family-owned business that incorporates a small-batch bakery, a custom cake studio and a locally roasted coffee and expresso bar at its Shivel Drive location. Owners Jennifer and David Ramos specialize in providing custom wedding and special events cakes and desserts for all occasions.
“At Lili Bella’s, our goal is to always serve the best baked treats and coffees in town,” says Jennifer. “We welcome all of our guests to come inside and cozy up with a tasty dessert and a hot coffee. We love to get to know our customers, and we really care about them.”
Neither Jennifer nor David originally planned to go into the bakery business. Jennifer worked in the legal and education fields for many years, while David spent time in the corporate world, carving out a career in consumer goods. In addition, Jennifer and David also worked in different capacities in the restaurant industry, which gave them good insight into what it takes to run a consumer-oriented small business.
However, the opportunity to start their own business arose shortly after the birth of the Ramos’ daughter, Isabella.
“After having our daughter, we decided that I would stay home with our daughter and our three sons. During that time, I began baking cakes and cupcakes for my sons’ school events. Before long, my home baking spiraled into graduation cakes, custom birthday and special event and wedding cakes,” says Jennifer. “I soon realized that I loved baking for others and that I had a flair for creating unique custom cakes for any occasion.”
Over time, Jennifer’s home baking business grew so large that she had to begin turning customers away. At this point, she and David decided that it was time to turn her home bakery operation into a true small business.
“As Jennifer’s baking prowess became more widespread, there was a steady increase in the demand for her cakes,” says David. “We soon realized that it was time to get into the bakery business full time.”
Once the couple had decided to open a bakery, they were faced with several typical startup issues, including determining the name of their business.
“We considered several names before settling on Lili Bella’s,” says Jennifer. “We came up with the name one afternoon while doing yardwork. It is derived from our daughter’s name, Isabella Liliana. At first, we were going to call it Bella Lili’s, but we finally decided that we liked the sound of Lili Bella’s better.”
With the name settled, Jennifer and David began to search for a suitable location. After an extensive search, they finally located the small building that was to become their bakery.
“We wanted our business to have a ‘home’ feel, and when we found the 84-year-old cottage on Shivel Drive, it was like a dream come true,” says Jennifer. “It was originally designed and built by Braxton Dixon, who was known as the builder of choice for country music stars.”
After purchasing and renovating the property, they were finally able to open Lili Bella’s in Sept. 2019. Soon thereafter, the sweet deserts and flavorful coffees became the talk of the town.
“We offer a large selection of baked goods, including custom cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies and chess squares,” says Jennifer. “However, our most popular item is our famous cinnamon rolls. We usually have people lined up outside to purchase the cinnamon rolls, and we always sell out of them quickly.”
Like other small businesses, Lili Bella’s had to adapt to the new normal spawned by Covid-19. However, despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, Jennifer and David were able to continue to grow their business through innovation.
“During the early days of the coronavirus, we had to figure out ways to acclimate to the new environment in order to stay in business,” says Jennifer. “We began offering curbside pickup, contactless payment options and home delivery. We also created our ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) cookie kit, that allows families to spend time together decorating cookies. It remains one of our biggest sellers, even today.”
The pandemic also presented them with an unexpected silver lining.
“Due to the coronavirus, David had the opportunity to leave his corporate position and join me at the bakery full time,” says Jennifer. “It was scary at first, but ongoing community support of our business has helped to make our dream of working together come true.”
With Mother’s Day soon approaching, Lili Bella’s is the perfect place to go to get Mom some sweet treats that she will long remember.
“To make Mom’s day, we suggest an order of cinnamon rolls and an amazing Bella’s Cafe caramel or other coffee drink,” says Jennifer. “Some other great options include a cupcake bouquet, a sampler bakery box or a DIY cookie kit.”
However, there is no need to wait until Mother’s Day. If your sweet tooth is calling, head on over to Lili Bella’s for the tastiest treats in the City by the Lake. But if you have a yen for cinnamon rolls, be sure to show up early!
Lili Bella’s Cakes
109 Shivel Drive,
Hendersonville, TN 37075