Rowie spent her childhood in the Philippines where her mother, Corazon Reyes, studied home economics in college and took cake orders at home. Rowie assisted her in the kitchen.
Rowie moved to Chicago at the age of 10, staying with her uncle and aunt, Arman and Tarcy Castillo. Just like her mother, her uncle was a great baker, and he took cake orders at home. In high school, Ramos helped him bake. “I ran home after school,” she recounts, “so I can bake cakes for our orders. I never told my friends I baked all these cakes and was helping my uncle and aunt with their side business.”
Rowie occasionally baked in college. She earned a degree in computer science from DePaul University and worked in information technology.
Enter Mike Ramos, her U.S.-born Filipino dream boy and eventual husband. They naturally gravitated towards baking together in a Chicago suburb. “We were very hands on from day one. When we started taking cake orders, it was just the two of us—we really built this business from the ground up.” However, village authorities learned about their underground business and warned them twice, but they could not resist taking orders. When they were given a court date, the couple decided to have their own shop.
Rowie’s Bakery is a mom-and-pop endeavor. She stays most of the time in the kitchen, baking and testing flavors and products. He bakes, does graphics for the shop and helps cashiers when they get busy. They take turns taking care of their children, Cortez and Zoe.
Rowie equates baking with happiness. “Cakes complete a party,” she explains, “and it’s one of the best ways to customize your celebration. We love to see our customers happy and enjoying our products. It makes us proud to know that we are part of people’s special occasions and life events.”
Many of their customers order cakes year after year. Going through orders, she would come across a familiar name and realize that the bakery has been part of the customer’ s transitions. “Her kid is now five years old! I remember doing the cake for her baby shower for this kid,” she would say to herself.
The most popular product at Rowie’s Bakery is her mother’s original recipe of the Rosemarie (a name given by her mother) orange chiffon cake with white butter cream mixed with cherry and pineapple bits. It also comes in mocha flavor. Also, many customers clamor for classic Philippine favorites, like mamon (fluffy sponge cake), sans rival (cashew crunch cake) and brazo de mercedes (custard dessert).
How does she attribute their success? “We make unique and beautiful cakes and we keep the homemade taste regardless of the volume,” Rowie replies. And the sweet surrender of customers to Rowie’s Bakery will last forever and a day.
5664 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60659
Tel. (888) 769-4372
Video by Ivan Kevin R. Castro
Styling by Joan Vande Kieft
Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., writes from Chicagoland when he is not busy traveling and loving the arts.
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