Jill Phillips has run a very successful business for decades. Last October, a twist of fate also left her at the head of a second larger company.
Phillips has owned Jill’s Cake Creations since 1979, located since 1998 on Bouquet Canyon Road.
When supporters of the founding town that became Santa Clarita raised funds in the mid-1980s, Phillips designed an oak-shaped cake for a fundraiser.
When Magic Johnson turned 33rd birthday at Magic Mountain in 1992, she created a large Lakers purple iced cake for the occasion. The project was top secret, but her son who worked at the amusement park heard about it.
“Do you know who it is for?” ” He asked. She did and told him he wasn’t supposed to.
The cake was so big that she decided the candles looked too small, out of scale. So she improvised, melting candles together. What she didn’t know, and learned this August afternoon, was how to make a homemade version of candles that will stand up to even an NBA star’s efforts to blow them out. Once Johnson took the first slice of the ceremony, Phillips quietly smothered the candles.
The cake appears, candles lit, on screen for a few seconds in “The Announcement,” a 2012 documentary marking Johnson’s 20th birthday telling the world he was HIV positive.
Over the years, Phillips has made thousands of cakes, but never considered herself a chef. “I’m a decorator,” she says. “I started with cakes to have something to decorate.”
Even though it wasn’t as lucrative as some thought, she enjoyed it. “In the good old days, the cake business supported my three boys and me,” Phillips said. “I love working with my wives,” helping them through part of the wedding planning process.
In 2005, Phillips married Russ Cox, years after their lives went their separate ways and then together again. He owned Comfort Control Corp., a heating and air conditioning business on Constellation Road. He courted her by being patient and helpful, offering to help deliver cakes on weekends.
They have built a life together, a blended family style, with seven children and ten grandchildren.
Then, after a long battle with cancer, Cox passed away last October. His partner, George Pershan, runs the business on a daily basis. Pershan “has the same values as Russ and has worked with him for fifteen years,” she said. But Cox owned the business, which means Phillips now owns it.
Jill’s Cake Creations has five employees and annual sales of approximately $ 300,000. Comfort Control has 26 employees with a turnover of over $ 1 million.
They are very different businesses, but some lessons intersect. “I interviewed someone for a job at Comfort Control and asked if they would be nervous about delivering a big cake.” The correct answer is that they should be and be prepared to admit it.
In addition to dropping the company’s key product, rear-end collisions are another occupational risk. “We drive slowly, and not everyone here is. “
Over the years the cake industry has changed. The taste of the frosting oscillates between buttercream and fondant, which is more like dough, and is rolled and applied. Gluten-free cakes are now available.
Competition has intensified, especially since AB 1616, the California Homemade Food Act, also known as the Cottage Industry Bill, became law in 2013. It allows producers of made foods. house to sell to consumers, so “anyone who watches cooking shows and has an oven can go into business,” Phillips said. “Of course, they usually don’t pay the worker’s compensation or the rent.”
Phillips would like to hand over some of her administrative work so that she can spend more time with her grandchildren, aged 21 to 5. She intends to honor her husband’s memory by doing whatever it takes for his company.
In the meantime, the cake business continues to have its fun parts. Phillips was a cake consultant earlier this year on an ABC pilot, “Losing It”. Natalie Morales, familiar to viewers of “Santa Clarita Diet” as policewoman Anne Garcia, plays the owner of a pastry shop on the other end of the spectrum of Jill’s success. The fictitious store goes bankrupt and Morales’ character has to work from home. Phillips made sure that the set reflects the reality of baking.