Just over four years ago, Marilyn Walker’s husband of 42 years took her out to dinner and, at the end, gave her an envelope with keys in it. “It’s yours to do what you want,” he said. “The deed was paid in full. You know you love to cook…” he hinted. Marilyn had retired from Child Protective Services, but her husband was not yet ready to retire. It didn’t take much convincing. Marilyn already had a following. She regularly baked and brought cakes, cookies, or pies when socializing with family and friends. People had started requesting their favorites years before. She had an old-fashioned kitchen in mind, but her husband encouraged her to start with all new equipment. “How can I cook old-fashioned in an all new kitchen?” she wondered. She compromised by displaying her collection of kitchen antiques and got to work in her shiny new kitchen.
Of course, a new business needs a memorable name, and for Marilyn, that was easy. Most people don’t know her as Marilyn, but as Pinky. When she was born at Highland Park General Hospital the nurses had trouble determining Marilyn’s race. The film “Pinky” was in the theatres and it told the story of a light-skinned African-American woman who passed for white. Actress Jeanne Crain was nominated for an Academy Award and Marilyn was forever nicknamed Pinky.
After just four years, Pinky’s Shuga Shack has a staff of four and, according to Pinky, “business is good.” Her customers come to her shop at 18929 Schoolcraft from Lansing, Troy, Flint, and just around the block. Ooey Gooey Cake is a big seller, (think pudding and cake – yum!). She makes a variety of pound cakes, and peach cobbler is another top seller. “I know what people like. It’s all made with a lot of love,” she says. It’s no surprise business is good. At one special event at the Somerset Collection, Louis Vuitton managers from all over the country had a taste of Pinky’s Shuga Shack. It was a big order, and Pinky was up most of the night baking. She got a call from one of the managers the day after the meeting telling Pinky that the meeting was postponed because of the pound cake. The business of the meeting was put off until everyone had had their fill of Pinky’s cake. “’The Las Vegas manager put your peach cobbler in her purse before she boarded the plane!’” the manager told Pinky.
Pinky’s Shuga Shack is doing so well, Pinky is looking for another location, maybe closer to downtown. Her daughter wants to help develop this new location and maybe add some others features such as wifi and a bigger space to sit and enjoy coffee with a slice of pound cake. Pinky’s Shuga Shack on Schoolcraft will remain though. It’s important to Pinky to keep her original store open – important for her and for the neighborhood. According to Pinky, “In the beginning it wasn’t so nice here, but I’ve seen a transformation in other businesses near here. There are more and more people taking care of their properties.” Pinky opened her doors and provided some delicious baked goods to the Trash Talkin’ volunteers this past season. The volunteers enjoyed Pinky’s treats and then spent about an hour picking up litter along Schoolcraft. It was a great combination of community volunteerism and business support.
If you’d like to find out more about Pinky’s Shuga Shack, you can visit the website at http://pinkysshugashack.com/, email Pinky at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 313.837.2253.