Jennifer Ramos had been making custom cakes out of her Hendersonville home for about a year when she and her husband David spotted the quaint stone building on Shivel Drive.
“We drove past this one day and saw it was for sale,” Jennifer recalled. “It wasn’t even on our radar, but for some reason we just fell in love with it.”
Built in the 1930’s, the one-time home was one of the first a young Braxton Dixon helped build with his father. Dixon, who was a teenager at the time, later went on to design and build homes for Roy Orbison, producer Fred Foster and most famously, Johnny Cash.
Most recently a dentist’s office for decades, the two knew when they bought the building in March of 2018 that renovating it would be a labor of love.
They removed walls, replaced ductwork and completely replaced the floors, walls and even the ceiling.
“We kind of saw the vision of what we wanted to do,” said David who worked his job at Cracker Barrel’s corporate headquarters during the day and hammered nails at night for more than a year. “We knew it was going to be a lot of work, but we were up for it.”
Eighteen months later, fans of Jennifer’s Lili Bella’s Cakes are flocking to the new bakery and coffee bar the couple recently opened in the cozy, renovated structure.
Although her love for baking dates back to memories of stirring batter alongside her grandmother, Jennifer has only recently realized her dream.
She was a teacher working for a Nashville magnet school when she made a cake for her son’s wrestling team. Then a friend asked her to design a graduation cake.
“It just snowballed from there,” she said. “The demand has been very high.”
“It’s gotten to the point where she has had to turn customers away, so we knew we had to get out of the house, and get a physical location,” David added.
Jennifer says she first just wanted a place to prepare her custom cakes, but then decided to combine her love of baking with something she is equally passionate about: coffee.
Lili Bella’s cakes, named for the couple’s four-year-old daughter, Isabella, has partnered with Muletown Roasted Coffee of Columbia, Tenn., to offer locally roasted coffee.
Coffee sizes are regular, big and biggest with a 20 oz. coffee (the biggest) priced at $2.25.
Offerings include Americano, cappuccino, espresso, latte, flavored latte, chai tea latte, hot chocolate as well as a cold brew and iced mochas, lattes and Americanos.
Jennifer noted that the coffee they buy is ethically sourced, meaning that workers are assured a fair wage for their efforts.
“That was important to us,” she said.
And, of course, the bakery will feature a selection of cakes by the slice, cake pops, pies and seasonal desserts. They plan to offer vegan items on Wednesdays and gluten-free items, like macaroons, on Fridays.
Jennifer says they hope to highlight local talent at some point as well by hosting a songwriters’ night.
Melody Vaudrey’s Bible study group from Long Hollow Baptist Church met at Lili Bella’s on Tuesday.
“Her cakes are amazing,” said Vaudrey. “And she has worked so hard for this. We all really want to see her do well.”
Josh Bratcher, who works from a home office nearby, says he’s already a regular.
“We were in almost as soon as they opened,” said Bratcher. “I really enjoy the house coffee – and the baked goods are good too.”
“People are really excited about us being here,” Jennifer Ramos added. “I feel like a lot of people want to shop local and we’re just giving them another chance to do that.”