Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Margarete Garner has always been a fan of food. A native of Bavaria, Germany, she’s lived in Tupelo for nearly three decades. And she’s worked in the food service industry in various capacities at the now-gone Gloster 205 and at Park Heights. A goal she set for herself was to open a bakery before she turned 50. On Nov. 29, she will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of Simply Sweet by Margarete, where she serves lunch Monday through Friday, and sells chocolates, homemade breads and delicious baked goods aplenty. Her 22-year-old twins, Ana Rose and Jon Luke, have both worked at times in the bakery. Ana Rose still does; Jon Luke is serving in the Marines.
Q: What is the holiday season like at Simply Sweet by Margarete?
A: People start placing orders for Thanksgiving at the end of September and into October. And then Christmas orders begin. From October through February, it’s nonstop. Christmas and Valentine’s Day are our biggest and busiest times. But it’s great. Sure, sometimes it feels a little overwhelming, but I just take a deep breath and focus. It is so satisfying and amazing how Tupelo reacts to us.
Q: Is it true that you have surprised people stopped by a train in front of the bakery?
A: As you know, here in Tupelo, the train goes through quite frequently and people have to stop in front of the bakery at the Green Street crossing. So, we’d go out with little treats. Most people were pleasantly surprised to be approached by someone in a white apron carrying a tray of treats.
Q: What made you love cooking?
A: I’ve always liked food and people. When I was a young girl, my parents had a restaurant at home in Germany, out in the country in a little guest house. Of course, there was no question: I helped. When I was 9 or 10, I served and washed dishes. I taught myself to cook — if you can read, you can cook. And when I went out on my own, I had to cook if I wanted to eat. When I came to the U.S., I just thought it would be nice to bring a bit of European touches here.
Q: You are around amazing sweets daily. Is it true you are not much of a sweet lover?
A: It is true — I am not much on sweets. I let the girls who work with me do the sweets. I bake bread every day, and I have to like what I’m doing. That’s the secret to anything.
Q: What is the best part of owning your own bakery?
A: That’s easy. Just to see how the community has supported us has been amazing. Early on, I was looking for a downtown location for the bakery. I had driven by this place before, but it was never available. Then one morning, I rode by and it was for rent. I just felt like it was meant to be, and everything just sort of fell into place. Here we are, 10 years later.