Nuha Abuduhair brings specialty bakery to Overton Square

Baking is both a family tradition and a form of stress relief for Nuha Abuduhair, proprietor of 17 Berkshire, Overton Square’s newest retail shop.

 “My mom always baked at home and had tons of cookbooks, and I’d look through them and stand next to her while she baked,” said Abuduhair, whose bakery will open this spring at 2094 Trimble Place, which formerly housed The Square Olive. “So, it was always fun for me. My mom was very creative. I joke that she was Pinterest before Pinterest existed … she was always crafty.”

A sample of 17 Berkshire's bakery offerings. (Submitted) Abuduhair, who received her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Memphis, left her job as a registered nurse at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital after the birth of her own two children. She wanted to spend more time with them, but she also found herself with more free time on her hands, which she devoted to nurturing her love of baking.

“My friends started asking me to bake cakes for baby showers or birthdays, and it just kind of took off,” she said. “It was very organic and unintentional. I think that’s what’s been so great about it – I didn’t plan anything. I just put myself out there unknowingly and Memphis saw a need for it.”

In 2015, Abuduhair established her business, 17 Berkshire, a modified version of her childhood address in Memphis’ Nutbush neighborhood. She named her business as a tribute to her late father, who immigrated to the Bluff City from Palestine.

For three years, she baked custom-made cakes, cupcakes, cookies, macaroons, cheesecake cakes, petit fours and other items out of her home in Cordova. When Abuduhair began searching for a space for her growing business, she set her sights on Midtown.

“I love that Midtown is very local,” she said. “The people who live here are very local and they really support any Memphis entrepreneur, which is great. Memphis is growing and if you have an idea, people are just so supportive.”

She’d already participated in pop-up shops hosted by other women-owned establishments, such as City and State, a coffee and gift shop on Broad Avenue, and Me & Mrs. Jones, an Overton Square specialty painting supplies shop that also serves as a teaching studio.

“Memphis has so many women business owners, and that’s been my support,” said Adubuhair. “Lisa [Toro] at City and State, Erika [Smith] at Crazy Beautiful, Stephanie [Jones] at Me and Mrs. Jones, Whitney [Hardy] from Co-Work … I’m supported by women who are doing incredible things. I think they have a different eye; men see more business whereas women see community flourishing.”

She said she’s especially passionate about people seeing Memphis’ Muslim women represented as entrepreneurs in the community.

“It's such a profound topic to so many Muslims, especially women,” she said. “We are so ‘normal’ that people don't even realize we're here…as Muslims, we are encouraged to put our best effort in everything we do, and to do it quietly. 

Good deeds shouldn't be boasted; that's part of the reason why we’re kind of tucked behind the curtains; we don't really want a pat on the back.  We just want to do good and inspire others to do the same.  It's even more important for the children of immigrants.  We see how hard our parents worked and how much of themselves they had to let go," she added.

Adubuhair plans to open 17 Berkshire’s doors this spring when work on the 1,038 square-foot space is completed. With a brick-and-mortar comes health department inspections, permits, insurance and other requirements that didn’t apply when she worked at home under cottage laws, so she doesn’t have an official opening date just yet.

A sample of 17 Berkshire's bakery offerings. (Submitted)Her kitchen is under construction, which will enable her to bake her custom celebration cakes and pastries on site, but she’ll also be offering grab-and-go cookies and other treats, as well as specialty artisanal teas and coffees.

“I already have a pretty wide range of products that I do, but there will be a bit of an expansion with the smaller pastries,” she said. “Macarons, for example, are a limited order of 24, but in the store, customers can walk in and buy one.”

Adubuhair said she’s excited about offering her meticulously crafted baked goods in an aesthetically interesting space.

“I don’t want to give away too much because I really hope it knocks people’s socks off, but I will say it’s not going to be anything like Memphis has seen before,” she said. “It will be very airy and pretty, but not too girly. I’m not looking for a girly space. It will be elegant, but it will also be very cool and chic.”

She said she feels her business will be a perfect fit in Overton Square, home to places like Ballet Memphis and neighboring store The Art Project, an art studio for children.

“The art is here, and I feel like people who appreciate art will also appreciate this form of art.”

And Ciara Neill, Director of Marketing; Loeb Properties, agrees.

"We're delighted to welcome a bakery to Overton Square,” she said. “17 Berkshire's mix of homemade pastries, served alongside its specialty coffee and teas is the perfect fit for neighborhood. The business will be a great activator of the courtyard area, serving the many patrons who walk through the area and enjoy playing our outdoor games, as well as bringing in new clientele with their boutique cakes."

Read more articles by Aisling Maki.

Aisling Maki is a writer and editor with awards from The Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and Public Relations Society of America. Her work has appeared in publications in more than 20 countries and she has written locally for more than a dozen publications, including The Commercial Appeal, Memphis Flyer and Memphis Parent Magazine. She previously worked as a digital producer and weekend reporter for Action News 5, Memphis correspondent for the Agence France-Presse (AFP) and staff reporter for Memphis Daily News.