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Herald & Review, Jim Bowling, AP Photos
In this Dec. 15, 2011 photo, thank-you cards from customers hang that the Mowry family has posted next to the entrance at the new Sweet Life Bakery in Decatur, Ill. The family decided to turn their love of baking into a business run out of the kitchen in what used to be the family garage.

DECATUR, Ill. — Sisters Allison Mowry and Megan Harris have been spending much of their time since this summer baking in what used to be the family garage as part of the new business they have launched.

Just last holiday season, Allison Mowry said she was parking her car in the spot where she now makes batches of specialty cupcakes. The garage has been renovated into a kitchen that now is the base of operations for The Sweet Life Bakery, 4216 Bowman Road in Decatur.

For those approaching the house from the outside, it still looks like a normal two-car garage. From the inside, the door is covered and the space transformed into a fresh-looking bakery, complete with a glass display case.

Some of the recipes have withstood the test of time, said their mother, Holly Mowry, who passed on the ones she received from their grandma to her daughters.

"Our butter cream icing recipe is over 100 years old," Holly Mowry said. "I'm not going to mess with it. I don't like to experiment."

The sisters are quick to point out that the space has enough room for them to each have their own side to work. Although they say they generally get along, they are sisters, after all.

"I wouldn't do it without Allison," said Harris, who is more detail-oriented.

"We balance each other out perfectly," said Allison Mowry, who brings her creativity to the process.

Owning a bakery has been a lifelong dream of their mother's. Holly Mowry started making and selling cakes when she was 13, but it wasn't until this year, as she turned 55, that she has been able to realize her dream with the help of two of her daughters.

"Baking is a lifelong love of mine," Holly Mowry said. "I've done other things, but I've always been dabbling in the bakery business. I always wanted to have a bakery, but it never happened."

Holly Mowry's husband, Eric, and two of their other children, Michael, 16, and Morgan, 18, have helped run the business, but the baking is left up to Allison Mowry and Harris.

"It's awesome what they're doing," said Morgan Mowry, as she stepped into the bakery to see what was happening. "They don't want me to bake. I don't mind eating."

Holly Mowry runs the business side of things, answering phones and taking orders as her daughters bake.

"I'm the boss, and they let me come wash dishes," Holly Mowry said.

"We know what has to be done," Allison Mowry said in response.

From a young age, Holly Mowry passed on her enjoyment of baking to her daughters. Allison Mowry started baking and selling items to people she knew from church at an even earlier age than her mother. She has taken courses at Wilton School of Cake Decorating and the Chicago Institute of Art.

Wilton is a prestigious institution in Woodridge where the instructors have produced cakes for the British royal family and Hollywood stars. Allison Mowry points out that she paid for her tuition with money she had earned.

Allison Mowry's parents bought her a full set of commercial baking equipment that they were trying to resell until they figured out a use for it by converting the garage into a bakery.

Allison Mowry is now 19 and graduated from high school earlier this year. Starting the business is a way for her to work her way through college. Although she doesn't know what she wants to do for a career, she figures it's a safe bet baking will in some way be involved.

Harris works full time as a registered nurse, but she would like to spend more time baking.

"This is what I want to do," she said. "Mom presented the idea to have the bakery for Allison. I've never baked at this scale, but it's not really work."

When it came time to launch the business, the family hit the ground running, sending thousands of their tasty treats, including cupcakes, cakes and cookies, around town and hosting a well-attended open house in August.

They have had a seasonal kiosk since the middle of November at Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth, and it will close at the end of this week. Having the kiosk was a way to spread their name around, Holly Mowry said.

Figuring out how many cupcakes to bake each day to have for sale at the mall has been challenging. Items from the bakery are usually made to order, so having 20 varieties of cupcakes ready to sell at the kiosk has been a change of pace for the business, Holly Mowry said.

"It all works out in the end," she said. "We want to have a good product every time."

They do not currently have plans to become a franchise or establish a storefront. Their focus is on making the most from the Decatur market as they can.

As the holidays wrap up, their attention will quickly turn to the upcoming wedding season. They already have several weddings booked and plan to be at the Decatur Bridal Expo on Jan. 6 and 7 in the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel.

A fee is charged for delivery unless, as they say, it's a great big order or wedding and worth the effort and time it takes to get the products to their destination. They'd like to keep the operation within the family, so having the staff to add more delivery just doesn't seem feasible.

Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com