Owner of Sweet Arts Bakery on Main Street Ruth Ann Lewis not only makes delicious baked goods, but she also contributes her love and dedication to her craft to the entire Geneseo community. As a small business owner, baker, mother and artist, Lewis has accomplished a diverse number of things that inspire many others to go after what they love.
Her varied life experiences include horseback riding, crafting beautiful cakes and traveling the world to help others. These events have not only broadened her perspective on life, but have also instilled a work ethic in her—one that allows her to appreciate those around her.
While growing up in Utica, Lewis initially became interested in baking through her mother’s constant presence in the kitchen. From her single mother, Lewis learned both how to cook out of necessity and how to appease her interest in the kitchen. Lewis’ mother let her children explore their curiosity.
“She always let us play in the kitchen,” Lewis said.
When she was young, Lewis’ father passed away in a plane crash, altering her perspective of the world and life decisions. It encouraged Lewis to further pursue her passions.
“We always had this idea that life is short,” Lewis said. “No matter how difficult, take advantage of what you enjoy and live your passions—and hopefully you can pay the rent while you’re doing it.”
After spending three years pursuing a degree in business administration at Gordon College, Lewis decided to drop out in 1986 to spend a few years traveling.
Lewis lived in Australia for a year and worked on a mercy ship for three months. While traveling, Lewis built houses in Mexico, worked in the laundry room on the mercy ship and helped street kids in Australia. There, she saw what a person could do to make a difference in somebody’s life, which she marks as the inspiration for her taking the time to travel.
Lewis moved to the Geneseo area in 1989 to train horses, working in stables around the area until she broke her leg. Then, she decided to settle down with her husband, who she met while he completed his masters in Geneseo.
“I couldn’t keep up with the crazy schedule and realized I had to settle down,” Lewis said.
It was once her children started school that Lewis decided to start her baking business.
Along the way, Lewis decided to complete her degree in business administration from Gordon College. Wherever Lewis lived, she took classes with a small business focus. Finishing her degree propelled her into taking her business to the next level.
“Even though I graduated from Gordon College, I took classes at nine different colleges to finish my degree,” Lewis said.
Living with her family in Avon, Lewis developed a small business plan for a bakery that specialized in baking cakes and in participating in farmers’ markets. Through the farmers’ market in Geneseo, Lewis found the space and soon opened Sweet Arts in Geneseo in February 2015.
Lewis cited her daughter Annie as the inspiration for naming the bakery Sweet Arts.
“I really wanted to take the concept of cake as an art form,” Lewis said. “Annie said, ‘What about Sweet Arts?’ which worked!”
Throughout the bakery, Lewis displays an array of visual art, which includes her uncle’s paintings from the Uganda water project as well as the photography of campus photographer Keith Walters ‘11. This helps her to support the community of Geneseo—just as they support her.
Lewis’ journey has certainly not been ordinary, but it has shaped her into someone who took her passions and experiences to create Geneseo’s own Sweet Arts.