In May, Dexter residents Kim and Saing Yam opened the Chelsea Bakery in the former Glee Cake & Pastry space on Main Street–and Kim says the community response has been “overwhelming.” The husband-and-wife team–Saing bakes, Kim sells–owned Dexter Bakery for eighteen years until they sold it six years ago to launch Pinckney Bakery. The Yams also used to supply baked goods to Chelsea’s Pierce’s Pastries Plus, which closed about two years ago.
Kim is selling doughnuts, pastries, soft pretzels, and other baked goods, which Saing is making out of their Pinckney location for the time being. They plan to add special-order cakes in the near future. She says the apple fritters are the biggest seller, but soft pretzels are doing brisk business, too.
The phone rings–it’s her husband checking in: “We’re all sold out!” she tells him. “Just a tray and a half left.” Kim says Saing is a “good baker who offers a good, fresh product” and adds, “I’d need to hire three bakers to do his work.”
Saing noticed the empty storefront while driving through Chelsea. The space was move-in ready, and the kitchen was “just beautiful,” Kim says. It was designed and built to the specifications of former owner Glee Havens, who passed away last July.
Saing convinced Kim they should give it a go, despite the high rent. It’s all about “volume of customers,” she explains. “Also, I’m cheap labor!” she laughs. “Location is very important” too, she adds, and this is a prime spot.
The Yams grew up in the same small village in Cambodia, and each fled with their families after the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. Kim was ten when she arrived in San Diego in 1979 with her mother and five siblings; Saing was thirteen and the lone son with nine sisters. They met through Kim’s brother.
“We didn’t speak any English and did odd jobs to make a living,” she says. Saing got his start baking at a doughnut shop in San Diego. After marrying, they visited Saing’s uncle, a baker in Livonia, and learned the Dexter Bakery was for sale. Baking became their livelihood. “It’s all we know,” she says. “We are blessed to live in a country where you can work hard and make a living … In Cambodia you work in the hot sun and all you think about is, ‘What am I going to eat today?'”
Kim and Saing’s three children–Dennis, seventeen; Connie, twenty; and Jason, twenty-two–help out when they can. But Kim says the bakeries are “a backup” for them: “I believe in education and they should go to college and do what they want to do.”
Kim says the business suits her and Saing. “We’re easygoing people,” she says. “We’ve met a lot of nice people with this job. I don’t know, maybe it’s something about the sugar that makes people happy,” she laughs.
Chelsea Bakery, 117 S. Main, Chelsea, 562-2654, Mon.-Fri. 5:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.