Sweet Melissa Cake Boutique has opened in Middletown. Offering custom cakes as well as grab-and-go treats, owner Melissa Marchione loves mixing art and eggs together for the perfect personalized edible indulgence.

Last month, Melissa Marchione realized a lifelong dream when she opened the doors of Sweet Melissa Cake Boutique for business.

“I started cooking family dinners when I was seven,” Marchione said. “And, I always said that this was what I wanted to do.”

Marchione specializes in specialty cakes and cookies that are intricately decorated, individually customized and great-tasting. Like most success stories, hers hasn’t happened overnight. First, she pursued culinary studies at Delaware Technical Community College, saying she tried to soak up as much as she could from instructors like Liz Marden, who taught a class in pastries. From there, she interned at the Hotel DuPont as a pastry chef and found herself decorating wedding cakes.

While interning, she was also working as a hostess at La Casa Pasta, a member of the Chesapeake Inn family of dining options. She then went on to manage the Chesapeake Inn Dining Room for five years, learning a lot, she says, about the business side of a restaurant.

In 2011, she had her first child and rather than go back to the long, grueling hours of restaurant management, Marchione decided to pursue her cake decorating passion through an online business. It was something she had already been doing on the side but she finally felt ready to devote herself to it full-time.

“The hours were just as intense,” she said. “But, I loved taking someone’s idea and turning it into reality. Plus, I was home with my child.”

As she built her customer base through referrals and word-of-mouth, Elena Jackson of Elena’s Florist and Décor by Moore, both on Broad Street, starting a relentless campaign to get Marchione to open a storefront.

“She’s just phenomenal,” Jackson explained, adding that she envisioned her little enclave of Broad Street as the area’s “wedding central.”  “In just about a block or so, we have a florist, an event planner, a hair salon, jewelry, wedding apparel and a clothing boutique. Someone who did amazing wedding cakes would make it complete.”

Jackson bought the property behind Décor by Moore and ramped up her campaign. Finally, Marchione decided that it was time to take the plunge. Weeks of renovations stretched on and sometimes it was hard to visualize how it would all come together but new floors, new baking equipment, display cases and a modern “shabby chic” aesthetic brought it all together.

When she opened the doors for business on Saturday, Oct. 25, she was also proud to say that she currently employs two talented cake decorators and bakers. One of those cake decorators, Jen McDowell, was also operating her own side business with dreams of opening her own bakery when she learned of Marchione’s impending business.

“I had been thinking of renovating my own house to do something like this but was worried about the time and money involved,” McDowell explained while working on some Halloween cupcakes this week. “Working for Melissa felt like a better fit for me.”

Illeana Martinez found out that Marchione needed help through a conversation with Marchione’s sister while both women were getting their hair done. Martinez went to the Art Institute in Philadelphia for two years and says that her position at Sweet Melissa’s is a dream job.

“I love what I’m doing,” Martinez said as she poured cake batter into a baking pan. “Time goes by faster because I’m having fun and doing what I always wanted to do.”

All three women are adamant that that best part of their days are the moments that customers stop by to pick up their orders, though.

“Seeing the customer’s face makes our day,” Marchione said. “Sometimes, people have a lot of ideas about what they want or they just have a vague concept. When you bring that concept to life for them and get to see their eyes go wide and hear them say that you did exactly what they were hoping for—that’s the best thing.”

Her customers return again and again because of her abilities.

“My husband and I recently used Sweet Melissa to make the favors for my wedding,” said Taylor Alger, who explained that she gave Marchione very little direction. “My only direction was that I wanted 150 cookies with an ‘A’ in a shade of aqua. The color matched perfectly, the font matched the font on our wedding invitations and they had a scalloped edge to match the bottom of my dress and our cake. They even had a hint of lemon, my favorite baked good flavor. My friends and family still talk about those cookies.”

Reviews like Alger’s make Marchione’s day and her hope is that a storefront will allow her to make confectionary dreams come true for more people.

“There’s nobody else offering what we’re offering here,” she said, while also explaining that Sweet Melissa’s will not be a typical bakery that also does generic sheet cakes, pies or breads. “We usually need about a week’s notice [for something specially made] but we try to be flexible. We’re also going to have lots of grab-and-go items for last minute parties and edible gifts. I can’t think of anyplace else where you can get a high-end specialty cake or cookie for a reasonable price.”