"I cannot imagine not creating my own destiny every single day. There's stress that comes with that, but we still love it."

By Julia Turshen
July 28, 2020
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Amy Dickerson

Since everyone always asks, Cheryl Day jokes about selling t-shirts that say, “Yes, Cheryl is in the back!” at her beloved Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. She runs the 17-year-old bakery with her husband Griffith Day and the two have also written best-selling cookbooks together, and her first solo cookbook with Artisan books will release in Fall 2021. I spoke with Day about what drives her and what measures she’s put in place to ensure longevity. Whether it's a brick-and-mortar bakery or any long-term commitment, we’ve all got a lot to learn from someone who shows us day in, day out that biscuits matter just as much as boundaries, and heritage just as much as legacy. — Interview by Julia Turshen, founder of Equity at the Table (EATT) and author of Now & Again

Note: This interview was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in the Day is currently open for pickup on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

What’s your focus, 17 years in?

Getting back to our roots and the reasons we got into this in the first place. I recently found out that my great-great-grandmother, who was a slave, was a baker. She was known for pies and for making biscuits. All the same things that I'm doing. It’s made what I do feel more important somehow.

And you’re doing it on your own terms.

I cannot imagine not creating my own destiny every single day. There's stress that comes with that, but we still love it. We started this on our own. No investors. Still no investors.

How have you gone about setting boundaries for yourself?

If we want to change something, we can do that on a dime. We changed our hours about a year ago. We're open Thursday to Sunday. We used to be open Tuesday through Saturday and then we dropped Tuesday and added Sunday so we were just closed on Mondays.

We had to think about what was going to be sustainable. We were so busy we had a line down the street, people coming at us from all different directions, wanting more, more, more. We were struggling to keep up with demand. I was starting to see a toll on my team. Like, can we never do enough? We don't want to feed all of Savannah. We want to be personal. I've always said we want to be one person baking for one other person.

How’s business going?

The crazy thing is we're making the same money. We're actually doing better than we were doing last year. And now we have more ideas and the time to think about them. We used to just be constantly working.

Now on days when you’re not in the bakery, what are you doing?

I'm writing or I'm practicing self-care. Sometimes I get a facial in the middle of the day. I started a garden growing roses and herbs. I had to get a little broken before I learned I needed to fix these things.

Do you and Griffith have any parameters around your work life and your personal life?

When we get home, if we have to ride around the block a couple of times we will. We try not to talk about work at home.

How do you feel every morning when you put your key in the door?

This is the cutest bakery. Every single thing in here, Griff and I did. It's just us. It feels like us.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.