Simply Pure Sweets bakery gives young entrepreneur, world class chef her spark back

Photos and story by Jeffrey Harrell/ Contributing writer 

“Ding, ding,” the timer sounds, signaling the first batch of blueberry muffins are done. Chantell Kennedy-Shehan resets her timer for another batch. She has two more before she switches to cinnamon rolls. Her iPhone dings again, this time to tell her it’s 5:30 a.m., an hour before opening. There is still so much to do in so little time. Macaroons and croissants still have to be baked.

The sun may just be peeking over the horizon, but Chantell and her mother, Katrina Shehan, are hard at work preparing fresh treats for their ever-growing clientele.

At 27, Chantell, her last name being a combination of her mother’s maiden name and her father’s last name, finds herself the owner/operator of her new enterprise, Simply Pure Sweets in downtown Murfreesboro, which opened last March.

Katrina said Chantell showed interest in baking at the early age of five. At the age of 11 she placed first in a regional 4-H cooking competition, where the idea of becoming a baker and pastry chef came into being. She advanced to the state competition where she won second place. Her potential was obvious to her parents.

After graduating from high school in 2007, Chantell enrolled at Johnson and Wales University in Miami. She graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in culinary nutrition. During her five-year tenure at Johnson and Wales, Chantell spent a semester in France interning at Ecole Nationale Superieure de Patisserie, a renowned pastry arts school known for being one of the toughest.

“My instructors made me cry, but I learned real quick to read recipes in French,” Chantell admits with a little smirk on her face.

The American girl proved herself and soon became the top student of her class.

“Ding, ding,” the timer goes off once again. The aroma of fresh baked croissants wafts through the crisp, 6 o’clock air inside the industrial-style shop at 118 North Walnut Street.

“I really didn’t think I would be here yet,” she says, meaning she didn’t think she’d have her own shop so soon. As she talks, the slender woman pulls back her blonde hair into a ponytail, except for one strand that just doesn’t seem to want to stay behind her ear.

“I was working as a chef at a hospital in Atlanta when my mom had a proposition for me.”

Chantell Kennedy-Shehan is hard at work at her bakery Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Thursday, November 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

Chantell Kennedy-Shehan is hard at work at her bakery Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

 

Katrina saw something missing from her daughter’s life and decided to help change it. “I called her and told her that I and her dad had been thinking. The economical growth in Murfreesboro was booming and now was the time to take this opportunity.” Call it mother’s intuition, but Katrina saw the creative spark was missing from her daughter’s life. “While she was in school, she would call home with such excitement for the food she was preparing. Working in the hospital as a chef was good money but that excitement in her voice was gone. Her creative spark was gone.”

“My husband and I want to help our children out as much as we can. We knew that her dream was to one day open a bakery; we had the extra money to invest, the Murfreesboro economy was booming and we wanted to see our daughter’s talent put to use. So I called Chantell and made her an offer.”

A Christmas tree pastry at Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Thursday, November 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

A Christmas tree pastry at Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

 

At the age of 26, Chantell had a life-altering decision to make. Stay in Atlanta with a job that had great benefits, 401-K, health insurance and paid vacations, continuing to live independently like most 26 year olds dream of doing but living a repetitive life with a repetitive career.

Or, she could move back to Tennessee to live with her parents and take out a personal loan from a bank, along with her parent’s investment, and open her own bakery. No health plan, no paid vacation.

After a month, she made the courageous decision to leave Atlanta and so far she hasn’t looked back. She might work six days a week, 5:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but to Chantell it’s just part of chasing her dream.

“Ding, ding,” the last timer of the morning chimes. This time it’s her loaded biscuits coming out of the oven, a customer favorite. Spicy chorizo and pepper jack cheese oozes out of the cooling biscuits.

Loaded biscuits fresh from the oven at Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Thursday, November 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

Loaded biscuits fresh from the oven at Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

 

Chantell’s bakery just opened in March 2016, but she already has regular customers that can’t wait for the “Closed” sign to be turned to “Open.”

The only obstacle Chantell constantly encounters is time. There never seems to be enough time in the day to do all the baking on top of the routine clerical work. The bakery might close at 4 o’clock but this young entrepreneur neglects a social life to grow her business. There is paperwork, product to reorder and the mental preparation for another day “Open.”

“Ding, ding,” the last timer of the day signals it’s closing time. “I’ve got my spark back,” Chantell says proudly, her sentiment punctuated by a glimmer in her bright blue eyes.

Freshly baked macaroons at Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Thursday, November 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

Freshly baked macaroons at Simply Pure Sweets in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (MTSU Sidelines/ Jeffrey Harrell)

 

To contact Lifestyles Editor Olivia Ladd email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

Related News

2 Responses

Leave a Reply
  1. anrmtsufall16
    Nov 29, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    This article really shows that people should live the life they love over the life they think might be safer. Taking risks for the things you love is a main part of life. I never want to get a job I am not excited to go to everyday. It would make me feel like I wasn’t living the way I wanted, that it wasn’t as meaningful. I like that she was willing to take a risk to do the job she enjoyed most. I know things don’t also work out for everybody, but isn’t it worth it to try?
    I hear people all the time talk about having a job they hate that pays well. But, they can’t use that money like they would like because they must work their awful job. This article lets people know with effort and time, you can do the things you love in life. You might have to put a lot of effort into it and you might not get paid as well, but you will enjoy a more meaningful existence on this planet. That is something I think everybody would like to have before they die. To live a life that meant something to them and was worth living in the end.

    Reply
  2. Sierra
    Apr 06, 2017 - 02:44 PM

    Simply Pure Sweets has been such a great addition to the downtown area of Murfreesboro. I worked on the Murfreesboro square for a while and I always liked walking to get my lunch especially because the meals and treats weren’t things that I normally got from a large chain restaurant. Chantell and her mother both are extremely nice. As for the food, well its speaks for itself the loaded biscuits (which are incredibly delicious) are my favorite. I also love their lunch options which I don’t think too many people know about if you have tried it you should. My one critique is the location she chose. Her location is without a doubt the reason people are not constantly lined out the door for her food. The square is the correct demographic which is people on foot passing by and smelling and see her tasty treats, but that’s just the thing she is off the square where not a lot of people walk by and even when they do you cannot see in the windows or frankly even tell if they are open. I would have recommended either a spot on the square where regular foot traffic already is and where people can see in or someone near the avenue which is an ever-growing piece of Murfreesboro. They will to great as long as they get their name out there through word of mouth.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyrıght 2015 Sidelines. All RIGHTS RESERVED.