Niagara Gazette

Features

October 24, 2012

Gather at Yvonne's

Niagara Gazette — Lakea Strong believes in second chances. 

That’s why, when she opened her new restaurant, Yvonne’s Bakery and Cafe, on Third Street, she was determined to hire those who needed a break. “Everyone has the potential to grow,” she said recently in her tidy, brightly painted cafe.

Strong, who gave birth to her first child at 16, said she needed lots of second chances to grow into the kind of woman who has one career at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, and another as an urban entrepreneur.

The tidy cafe she opened, with its high ceilings and shiny tables, was named after her grandmother, the woman who raised her, because her own mother was only 16 when she was born.

A ‘92 graduate of LaSalle High School, she ran track and played basketball, eventually becoming the number one high jumper in New York state. She had offers from colleges, but she knew she had a son to take care of.

Her grandmother never made her feel less for getting pregnant. “She told me, you’re not the first one and you won’t be the last one,” Lakea said, smiling. The whole bakery is a testimony to her grandmother’s love, she said. That’s why she’s always trying to hire staff that might need a hand up.

She went on to finish community college at Lakeland in Cleveland, and later took at job at Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital. While she is on leave from her job as operations supervisor, she stays in touch with her boss, Sheila Kee, the hospital’s chief operating officer. Kee is a big fan of Strong’s, calling her a “super employee,” and said that the hospital had already ordered some baked goods from the restaurant.

”She brought me a piece of her peach cobbler,” Kee said of Strong. “Oh, my God, it was very good.” 

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