Four decades of cake decorating
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Lisa McCormack sorts through various candy molds at the Decorator Grocery in Peoria.
PEORIA -- Nestled in a residential area of Peoria's East Bluff, a lonely corner business stands out.
With a weathered, white-brick structure, Decorator Grocery lures customers in and whisks them into cake-decorating heaven.
"From moms who are doing fun baking projects with their kids to local professionals and those new to the baking and design industry, this store is a great resource," said Susan Crisler, a loyal customer for about six years.
She'll get no argument from owners Doug and Wanda Rinkenberger, who've spent 39 years at their store at East Arcadia Avenue and North Delaware Street.
"We've never been sorry that we stayed here," said Doug Rinkenberger, adding the business began in his family's Roanoke home before moving to the site in 1974.
Inside the store, attention quickly goes to the walls, where dozens and dozens of specialty cake pans are bunched together. In a collection decades in the making, there's everything from rabbits, witches and trains to cartoon characters, such as Bart Simpson, Minnie Mouse and the Pillsbury Doughboy.
In between are rows of shelves packed with everything necessary for cake baking, from sprinkles and sugar candies to various baking cups for cupcakes.
"We have a loyal clientele," Doug Rinkenberger said. "We try to offer good product at fair prices, and keep a good inventory of everything so customers can get things here maybe they can't get other places."
The building, once home to an old meat market, is now one of Peoria's few specialty cake-decorating stores, though the Rinkenbergers also have a shop in Bloomington. It operates Monday through Saturday.
"We've tried to keep our heads on straight with what we expect this business to give us," Doug Rinkenberger said. "Here it is 40 years later, and I'm still hauling my own supplies to my shop."
The Rinkenbergers have not been immune to business struggles.
"Since we've opened, there's a lot more competition from the big stores," Wanda Rinkenberger said. "A small struggle has been to know what you can give the customer that the big stores can't."
One of those things might be the personal touch.
"The Decorator Grocery cares about their customers as much as they care about their sales," Crisler said. "It's a significant, but fundamental difference."
Peoria Councilman Tim Riggenbach, whose 3rd District includes the store, said location doesn't matter when the product is good.
"When you're filling a need for the community, it doesn't matter where you are; people are going to find you," he said.
After almost 50 years of marriage, Wanda Rinkenberger said the neatest part has been being in business with her husband for all these years.
"It's been a great journey," she said.
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