2021 READERS’ CHOICE BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Delayed start, hot summer and fulfilling winter shoots Auntie Em’s to best biz

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By Thomas Sellers Jr.

For most people when they hear Aunt Em, they think of a fictional character healing from the Heartland of the United States.
Closer to home in Flag City, Emily Bergman and her team are working to change that. Opening Auntie Em’s May 22, 2020, Bergman’s creation of cupcakes, popcorn and shaved ice treats are quickly making a lasting impact.
Alongside Michelle Davis, Kamrie Coontz, Kyndall Isgett and Kayla Coontz, Auntie Em’s located at 7969 B Street in Millington was voted the 2021 Millington Star Readers’ Choice Business of the Year.
“With us being a military family, we’ve been in a lot of different military communities,” Bergman recalled. “Generally just being who I am, I would generally have some sort of treat at my house. I always had cookies or something. So the kids would come over to my house, just the neighborhood kids. So they would just call me Auntie Em immediately. ‘Auntie Em, Auntie Em.’ It just carried over. It’s not the Wizard of Oz. I am a big fan but it’s not from it.”
Bergman and her military husband Justin brought their five daughters Hannah, Sariah, Kori, Laurel and Grace to Millington to settle down. After a few months of living in their new home, Emily embarked on opening Auntie Em’s Sweet Treats.
“I was originally renting the building,” she recalled. “My lease started on March 1. My sister (Pam Fusco) from Michigan flew down and we blitz the renovation of this front section of the building. So we painted. We did new flooring and we redid some plumbing.
“Everything we could do in those two weeks between getting the lease and planning the open, I had all my inspections so that we were ready to go,” Emily continued. “Of course the pandemic hit. I was ready. I had product ready to, cookies and cupcakes. I just set there thinking what in the world am I supposed to do.”
Facing a crossroad in trying to open her new business, Emily leaned on her parents Owen and Patricia Fletcher during those first few weeks. She even had to give away all those fresh-baked products to neighbors and friends via Facebook.
“I was thinking what in the world did I get myself into? Why did I sign this lease?”
Emily worked with her parents for a while and COVID-19 caused more restrictions for them. Down to just her husband’s income, Emily faced a tough decision.
“It was a little bit tough to be holding this business still owing utilities and rent on it and not having an income,” she noted.
But the family rallied around her and Emily was able to have an opening target date of May 22.
“Over the moon excited and nervous,” she recalled of the opening. “I am a rule follower to boot. I made sure to follow that health directive, I obeyed all the rules. I had all my six-foot lines made out. I made sure that we were doing all of the right things. Where my table six-feet apart…
“Things have been fantastic,” Emily continued. “We had an amazing summer. We don’t have the best location as far as being hidden behind other building. But I feel very grateful we do have the space we have. I have my own parking lot. I have space for outdoor seating.”
What started off shaky developed into a positive year with Auntie Em’s creating a devoted following.
“2020 was absolutely fantastic,” she said. “It was way more than I could possibly expect to be. We made a lot of friends in the community. We found grandparents who were bringing their grandkids on regular basis. Moms and dads who would come in. And of course we reached out to our military community.”
Emily is grateful for developing customers and more importantly friendships during her short time in Millington. She knows customers by name and even remembers their individual orders.
“Being a transplant, a person who was not raised here, I have no strings here,” she acknowledged. “I have no family here. But I have been adopted in. I feel much love. I love being in Walmart and people see my shirt. ‘Oh, Auntie Em’s, Auntie Em’s. I love this cupcake. I love this cupcake.’”
Customers love the Red Velvet Oreo, Oatmeal Creme and Carrot Cake cupcakes. Other signature items selling well are the variety of popcorns like candy, movie-theater, kettle, cheddar and Chicago styles.
As the pandemic gets under control and restrictions are lifted, Auntie Em’s plans to expand with Friday Family Film nights and more creations on the menus.
“Plans for Auntie Em’s is to expand our offerings,” she said. “We would really like to take on more costume orders and we would like to introduce more treats like ice cream. But we really, really want to be that place that we have something for everybody.
“As a mother of five kids, this one is like ‘I don’t like that.’ The other one is, ‘I don’t like that,’” Emily added. “I want to make sure I have something for everyone. I even keep freeze pops in the back just in case there is a kid who can’t find anything they like.”
That dedication to satisfy everyone who walks through her doors helped Auntie Em’s win 2021 Business of the Year. Bergman said she is grateful to the community for the support and exposure.
“Being voted something like that is huge and an honor especially when you’re a new business like us,” she concluded.
For more information, visit info@auntie-ems.com or call 279-5877.