Back in the Day Bakery Is Savannah's Sweetest Spot
For the owners, an unflappable positive spirit has been a recipe for success.
Cheryl Day is a serial optimist. It's a trait she got from her mother, Janie Hanson (aka Janie Queen or Janie Q), who could see the silver lining in just about everything. And if ever there were a year to count positivity chief among one's character assets, 2020 was it. Cheryl and her husband, Griff, have owned and operated Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah since 2002. It's a warm, jovial space in the city's Starland District beloved for its handmade Southern baked goods and communal spirit.
When the pandemic shuttered restaurants nationwide last March, it was no different on the corner of 40th and Bull Streets. Back in the Day Bakery—the living, breathing embodiment of Cheryl and Griff's decades of love and passionate grit, where lines wind around the block for biscuit sandwiches and slices of Cheryl's cream pies—closed its doors, and they were forced to lay off nearly all of their employees. The two had weathered ups and downs before, but nothing like the circumstances engendered by the pandemic.
"It was like a death," says Griff. "It's been leveling for us and our friends across the country." It took months, but the couple regrouped. Central to their survival was the fact that they own the building that houses their shop, an investment they made in 2014. Back in the Day Bakery returned in June 2020 with a new walk-up window and now offers nationwide shipping of cupcakes and cookies with Goldbelly, an online marketplace for small food businesses.
At the same time, Cheryl was deep in the manuscript for her next cookbook and first solo book project, a compendium that honors the history of Southern baking and includes nods to African American contributions—both personal and pivotal. Research brought Cheryl back to an epistolary journal left to her by her late mother, the optimist, who passed away when she was 22. In those handwritten pages, her mother shared stories about Cheryl's great-great-grandmother, Hannah Queen Grubbs, an enslaved woman and pastry cook who was known for making "delightfully colored cakes with delightfully colored frostings." If you know Cheryl or have visited her store, you know that those signature colors permeate every facet of her person, pastries, and bakeshop.
In the throes of her toughest year as a business owner, Cheryl revisited a treasured part of her family history and unearthed a vivid affirmation of her path and purpose through the legacy of her ancestors. From women who wrought joy out of difficult circumstances, the message to persevere was clear.
Though last year's slowdown felt anything but sweet, it forced the couple to get back to basics, to prioritize what was most important to them and reach back to their roots. On the menu this year, in addition to feathery biscuits and old-fashioned pies, they have resilience, joy, and the hopes of filling the bakery with pastry-loving people one day soon.
backinthedaybakery.com, 912-495-9292, 2403 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401