One Of Gay Street’s First Black-Owned Businesses Celebrating 25 Years

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One of the first Black-owned businesses on Gay Street is celebrating 25 years.  

Mer-Mer’s Bakery opened in November 1998 and has stood the test of time. Chandra Taylor started the bakery after graduating from Pellissippi State. 

“It was me, and my mother along with my two daughters, Mercedes, which is Mer-Mer, and Chrisma, which is Chrissy my youngest one,” said Taylor.

At the time, she didn’t have the money, but she did have a business plan and a love for baking.  

“I baked all my life,” Taylor said. “I baked with my grandmothers and great-grandmothers and when I was at the girls club back in ‘79, I baked cakes, and they told us how to decorate cakes and how to present the cakes and I just kind of liked it.” 

Taylor was ready to start her business and the building at 617 N Gay Street sat empty.  

“I found out who owned it, which was Mr. Monday, Mr. Jean Monday and I explained to him what I wanted to do, and I explained to him that I had no money, but I had a talent. And I knew that if he let me come in, I could make him some rent.” Taylor continued on to say, “he gave me the keys without any rent or anything for the first four months of the bakery. That was amazing.” 

Taylor’s daughter Chrisma was 6 years old when they opened.  

“I remember late nights, I remember my sister and I sitting at the desk, and we’d be drawing or writing and sitting in the same little spinney chair together,” said Taylor.

Chrisma has watched her mom persevere through all types of challenges that come with owning a business, including the pandemic. She said it’s her mother’s relationship with her customers that keeps them coming back for more.

“Oh, it means a lot. I’m just very proud of her. It just shows a little bit of my mama’s character and how she’s very strong and strong-willed,” said Chrisma.

Taylor said it’s her famous pound cake that brings people into the bakery, but she said, that’s not what’s not the secret to long-term success. 

“It’s the Lord,” She said. “I’ve only been here by the grace of God. 25 years, you know. I’ve caught myself trying to quit and I’m going to slack up or I’m going to slow down or I’m going to work and go over and help my friend over at his store sugar bakers but every time it seems like it puts me right back in here.” 

Mer-Mer’s Bakery will have specialized treats this weekend to celebrate the anniversary. They are open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

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