Called a sweet “Mother-Daughter Combo,” by a customer at Village Bake Shop, the duo does everything together. “We’re a partnership — the best part,” Teresa said. “We live together, go to church together, pray together, play together and work together.”
Jo’s own mother died about 40 years ago. Besides Teresa, she has a son, Steve Gilbert, who has served as pastor of the Heritage Church of God in McDonald 19 years. Of course, that’s where she attends church.
The octogenarian said the bakery business is all she’s ever done after growing up on a farm and milking the cows. Working in a bakery began with her marriage to Arthur Gilbert, who worked with his dad and when about 15, quit school and started on a career which evolved to a family legacy.
They had their bakery in town on Broad Street originally, but moved to the Village Shopping Center, where it has thrived for 52 years. Mr. Gilbert died in November 2006, but the Village Bake Shop continued under the able hands of Jo and her daughter.
Teresa said she was “born” to the bakery business and was taught by her mother, “not to work as hard as I did.” She came to work, was showed and told “how to do it” and was hooked.
Her forte is cake decorating, but, like her mother, she is into every aspect of the business.
Jo waits on customers — her favorite part — decorates, cleans and tends to the finance. During a temporary retirement earlier, she said she missed her old customers and talking to people. But when customers come in now, Jo is there, eagerly greeting them and serving them her delectable treats.
With Teresa’s joining her mother, different ideas were tested — “Mother’s were simple,” she said, “and mine are wild and crazy.” But both agreed they work together really well and she enjoys decorating cakes and meeting the customers. She said the Village Bake Shop customers are “extended family.”
Teresa worked for a few year at Saks Fifth Avenue in Indiana before coming back to Cleveland. During that time, she would drive home on weekends to help her mother. “I wanted to be with Mom, so I had to come here to the bakery,” she added. And the bakery, she said, “is in my future for always.”
She takes her mother’s advice to “never give up — work hard.” Add to that, “Go to church, live a good life and be thankful,” and you have the formula for living.
Teresa said she wants to live life to the fullest every day and pass what she has learned to her children, Angel and Dustin — “I love my children,” she said. And on motherhood, she added, “A mother has unconditional love — whether you’re good or bad.”