When the family cable television business closed just before Christmas in the 1980s, Jeri Fry didn’t know what to do. The prospect of Christmas looked grim for her and her family.
“I thought I’ve got little kids; it’s Christmas time,” Fry said. “What are we going to do?”
At that point she realized she had all the ingredients to make gingerbread and she had the skill to bake the houses. Perhaps, if could sell the holiday staple, she thought.
In the beginning, she began by baking the gingerbread, then using the cutter to create the stock to take to craft shows in the area, where she provided the kits with instructions.
“We would bake the little gingerbread people, samples. Then, when I was at these events, we would give the samples away,” Fry said.
A few years after that, she reached out to people in the state, where she supplied Christmas shops in Rifle, Aspen and in the Denver area. She also worked at what is now Quality Inn in the gift shop.
“I got hired to manage the gift shop at that place,” Fry said. “They allowed me to take some of my product in so I had a little shelf I put gingerbread on.”
While working in the gift shop, a president of one of a Denver service group stayed at the hotel. When he saw the gingerbread creations, he made an agreement with Fry to supply about 130 houses for a big Christmas dinner in Denver.
“I had to figure out how to produce it; how to package it and how to ship it,” Fry said.
So she went to Mike Merlino, who owned a cider mill at the time to get boxes. After modifying them, she was able to ship eight houses to a box.
At first, she thought she might need help as the business expanding, but she managed to bake the gingerbread and get them sent to various places.
“I was just a cottage industry then,” Fry said. “That was a big year then it spread from there.”
One thing she made a point of doing every year was to create a special item to give to someone in the community and surprise them with it.
“That was always fun,” she said. “I would always try to do a feature item. I’ve done the Robinson Mansion and we took it to Colorado Springs for a competition at the Citadel.”
She also created a miniature of the Peabody Mansion, which at one time was the home of a governor and currently houses the Canon City Chamber of Commerce. She also has created a gingerbread piano, churches, trains, houses, Jack in the boxes, treasure chests, a carousel and much more. One of the first years, a resident commissioned her to bake a holiday mansion and she entered it along with the decoration of her entire house into the Good Housekeeping competition.
“That frankly was one of the first things that I did,” Fry said. “That challenged my abilities and pushed me.”
During this time, she also taught classes through the recreation district and helped others. In 2012, she opened the Gingerbread Bakery inside Cup and Cone, where she offers what she calls Jubilees for children and adults to create the gingerbread houses on site October through December.
At first the ice cream shop was not set up for baking, but after working closely with the health inspector, she was able to use the small ovens to bake gingerbread.
“The way that we are doing it now is patterned after the Henry Ford process, where you do a piece and a piece and a piece,” Fry said. “I train the staff in how to do the gingerbread and all the people on staff are trained in a least a piece of it. Our production is a little bit easier. We’ve done onsite Jubilees and I have done many off site Jubilees, where I take the entire party and go to someone’s house.”
In conjunction, she offers hundreds of cutters as well as candy and cookies for the houses. She also designs specialty cutters for various projects.
Cup and Cone now sells organic Boulder ice cream. The shop also offers a full soft drink fountain and its own handmade root beer, handcrafted sodas and a full espresso bar. The espresso is made specifically for the Cup and Cone by the Pour House in Florence.
“Another thing we’re adding this year is the Toy Shop,” Fry said. “(The toys) are all made by Fremont County woodcrafters. I’ve got five different woodcrafters that are presenting their items and it has to be either a toy or a puzzle because it’s all wood.”
While baking gingerbread houses became a way to afford Christmas, it was also becoming a tradition for the Fry family.
“Those first few years, I made substantial amount of money to cover Christmas for the kids and was able to get each of them a bicycle,” Fry said. “It also started a tradition with my kids. Chris and Devin had to have that every single year. They would bring their (friends) over for this party. When Chris went to work for the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., he took his knowledge about the gingerbread (and the new cutter made by Fry’s husband, Mike, and invited 20 people to the party, which was successful).”
Cup and Cone is located at 331 Royal Gorge Blvd. in Canon City. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-275-3434.