Tracy Oberdick, 29, of Plainfield, created the menu for the new Creative Cakes cafe in Tinley Park. | Nick Swedberg~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 5, 2014 6:39AM
One of the sisters running a Tinley Park bakery believes a series of happy accidents helped them grow the business and add a new fast-casual cafe.
The other sees their success as having the right people and keeping up with demand, combined with a healthy dollop of good timing.
Despite their different views and personalities, sisters Beth Fahey and Becky Palermo operate together as the business savvy and creative brilliance behind Creative Cakes, which recently expanded to add a cafe.
“Becky and I were always forgetting our lunch and saying, ‘Where do we want to go for lunch today?’ ” Fahey said.
From that need grew the idea to start the restaurant. They both wanted to avoid greasy fast food and weren’t thrilled with the limited options in the area for the kinds of soups and sandwiches they wanted.
Creative Cakes Bakery and Cafe in Tinley Park offers a selection of crepes, soups, salads and sandwiches, along with wine and craft beers. One of their most popular items so far, the It’s Complicated panini, combines thinly sliced roast beef, Fontina cheese, pickled red onion, bacon, quince jam and a roasted tomato and garlic aioli on ciabatta bread.
Their bakery, 16649 Oak Park Ave., has operated since 2005 in the same shopping center where Rubino’s Italian Imports is located. The sisters were looking to expand their business and were planning a second location last year when deli owner Pat Rubino told them the former AT&T store space at the end of the complex was available.
Construction on the new cafe began in January, and it opened with a full menu after Easter.
The bakery operation, next door to the cafe, also is expanding.
The pair bought Creative Cakes in 2002. Palermo already worked there as a cake decorator, and she and Fahey bought it when the old owners wanted out.
Palermo calls the fortunate timing of taking over the cake business, finding the Oak Park Avenue location and hearing about the open space right next door as a series of “happy accidents.”
Fahey previously was a camera assistant in television and film, working on movies, including “Groundhog Day,” and TV shows, including “Twin Peaks.” Originally from the Chicago area, Fahey moved to Los Angeles before returning to the suburbs with her husband and three children.
Fahey knew it was time to leave L.A. when her daughter came home with some shocking news.
“My daughter came back from kindergarten saying she had to go on a diet,” she said.
With the sisters back together, their business began to flourish. Shows such as “Cake Boss,” which debuted on the cable television network TLC in 2009, were just starting to become popular, as was the idea of having elaborate and expensive cakes for more than just weddings.
“We really came in at the right time,” Fahey said. “We were young enough, hired the right people and are able to keep up with the demand. That’s why our business grew.”
The bakery had six employees when it moved from its original 159th Street location to the Oak Park Avenue store. Between the cake-making and running the cafe, Creative Cakes now has 30 staffers.
“Creative Cakes is a family,” Palermo said.
Palermo believes she and her sister balance each other out.
“We appreciate each other’s differences,” she said. “And that’s why it works.”
Fahey also partly credits their success to being able to pick up on trends in the cake business, not only in cake-making but on the business side. Fahey said she knows of several bakery owners who added cafes.
“There wasn’t ever really anything we saw that we couldn’t do,” Fahey said.
Creative Cakes is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays, and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit realbuttercream.com.