MANCHESTER, NH – For Shelly-Anne Storer, owner and executive chef at The Wild Orchid Bakery in Manchester, the journey from her native-island of Trinidad to The Queen City has been anything but simple.
But the decision to move was fairly straight-forward.
“I wanted a better life for my kids and myself so I decided to take us to New England,” said Storer, who is preparing for the grand opening of The Wild Orchid on South Main Street, which will be rung-in with Mayor Joyce Craig on Friday, Dec. 18 at 11 a.m.
Storer’s story, however, begins on the island countries of Trinidad and Tobago off Venezuela where she grew up in a culinary environment.
“Both families were always cooking, always baking, especially my dad’s side,” she said. “My dad was a big cook himself.”
Storer also studied “painting, creative design, drawing and shading,” which later served her in developing her aesthetic for cake design.
While Storer had some training as a cook and gained experience in the catering business, she said customers were particularly drawn to her cakes. “I had a choice so I went into desserts,” Storer said.
From 2008-2014, Storer owned a bakery in Trinidad called Simply Edible; however, volatile situations on the island prompted Storer to relocate her children to her godfather’s home in Nashua.
“I always had a dream of seeing Boston and the winter. The seasons fascinated me,” said Storer, who was greeted with the particularly tempestuous winter of 2014-15, where New England received record snowfalls.
Once settled in Nashua, Storer took a position as a baker, dietary aid and breakfast cook at Granite Ledges of Concord, an assisted/senior living community, where she developed an affinity for the clientele.
“The community really grew on me,” Storer said. “I once had a Southern woman ask me if I could make her a Hummingbird Cake, which she said made her revisit her childhood.”
However, the long hours and the commute from Manchester—where she lived with her kids and husband, Adam, an Army veteran and middle school teacher in Bow— coupled with the inclement New England weather forced Storer to look for positions closer to home.
After demonstrating her talents through a venerable portfolio of work, Triolos Bakery in Bedford offered Storer a job as a full-time cake decorator.
Storer said she loved working at Triolos Bakery but then came 2020 and…
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
After COVID-19 closed all non-essential businesses, Triolos permanently shuttered the shop, and Storer had decisions to make.
“We were all locked down and I knew it wasn’t looking good,” she said. “That’s what led me [to pursue The Wild Orchid Bakery].”
With “wild” abandon, Storer decided to follow a dream. “Instead of working for someone, I wanted to work for myself,” she said. “That’s what I’m accustomed to. This was a sign.”
So Storer, whose citizenship has been stalled due to torpid paperwork, applied for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, and with grit and in brilliant DIY fashion, she brought her bakery to life, bringing along two colleagues from Triolos—Jocelyn Arcoite, her assistant bakery chef, and Kellie Haigh, who will work retail in the front of the store.
Corriena Dumais, a former-Marine and family friend, also jumped on board and will also tend to the retail end.
The Wild Orchid Bakery will feature “island-style pastries” where one “tastes many cultures,” said Storer.
“You’re going to get a cultural experience with the foods,” said Storer, citing influences from African, East Indian, Chinese and Portuguese cuisines.
Meanwhile, Storer said she is grateful and humbled by this new adventure.
“I was lucky to get this opportunity so I want to pay-it-forward,” she said. “Let me do your cake. Let me know your budget, and I can make it happen.”
And seeing what Shelly-Anne Storer has already accomplished, one tends to believe her.
Wild Orchid Bakery is located at 484 S. Main Street, Manchester. 603) 935-7338
Tue – Fri: 6:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturday: 6:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.