Bakers Expo Winners, far left: Maria Lewis' son, Antwan Days (accepting award on her behalf); Keisha Lopez, center left; Daphne Diaz, center; Sherita Semple, center back; Walter Dixie, center right; Karen Cepeda, right; Rita Paniagua, Omar Cepeda (Keren's husband) and Michael John Heagerty. Credit: Yolanda Stewart |

Sherita Semple knows good baking – every day, she makes cakes, cheesecakes and puddings for her Syracuse bake shop, Trita Treatz. She also knows bakers have just the right magical touch to satiate the sweet tooth of any taste-tester.

Thanks in part to her efforts, that magic was on full display at Syracuse’s first annual Bakers Expo, which welcomed more than 500 attendees who sampled treats from 22 bakers. But with events like this, there can only be one winner – or, in this case, four. 

The winners of the expo – four bakers with entrepreneurial spirits – will be given a chance to promote their businesses and sell their delectable delights throughout the summer at pop-up events sponsored and hosted by Wildflowers Armory. 

Semple partnered with Syracuse Common Councilor Rita Paniagua to make the expo a reality, and both women were on hand to announce the inaugural winners. In the corridor of Jubilee Homes, an organization that focuses on providing resources for economic development, Executive Director Walter Dixie and Paniagua congratulated this year’s expo all-stars. 

More than a year ago, Semple sought out Jubilee Homes to inquire about ways to grow her business. With Paniagua’s help and belief in Semple’s vision, the pair teamed up to turn that vision into the Bakers Expo. 

“I reached out to the sponsors and they immediately stepped up to the plate, saw this as a good event, a good opportunity for the community, and immediately we were able to raise, all together, $40,000,” Paniagua said. 

All of the expo ticket sales were distributed to several organizations, including Jubilee Homes’ youth culinary program, Interfaith Works and the local food pantry. 

The four winners – Keren Cepeda, Keishla Lopez, Maria Maldonado-Lewis and Daphne Diaz – are all women of Hispanic heritage who are pioneering self-made businesses with their culinary creations. Diaz received $1,000 and was named “baker of the year;” Lopez won $500 for taste and texture; Cepeda won $500 for creativity and design; and Maldonado-Lewis was awarded $250 for creativity in packaging.

“I was so impressed with the turnout and how everyone did,” said Michael John Heagerty, owner of Wildflowers Armory. He said he offered them space in the Wildflowers pop-up events because he wanted to give back to the bakers and help them promote their businesses. 

“There’s four dates, so I figured at each of them we can feature one of [the bakers] and have the tent ready and [they] can sell, no cost, no nothin’,” Heagerty said.

The only things the bakers are required to bring are tablecloths and their custom-baked delights, he said. 

Wildflowers will hold the block party pop-up events every second Sunday throughout the summer, beginning on Mother’s Day, May 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bank Alley in between East Jefferson and East Washington streets. 
The streets will be closed for pedestrian-only traffic, and in addition to the bakers, other local vendors will sell their handcrafted items. The events will also highlight young entrepreneurs selling their creations from the Everson Museum’s summer art camp, “The Everson Lemonade Stand.”

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