Claire Cameron-Ruetz looks perfectly at home bustling around and beaming at customers from behind the counter of the Dollop Shop, but if anyone had told her two years ago she would be running a specialty bakery at Cricket West, she would have said they were “absolutely bonkers.”
A former physician, Cameron-Ruetz made the difficult decision in 2020 to hang up her stethoscope midway through her second year of medical residency as an OB/GYN. Miserable and burnt out from working 100-hour weeks that barely left her any time or energy for her baby boy and husband, Cameron-Ruetz found herself crying in frustration every night. She was counseled to take a month of family medical leave to recharge.
Everyone expected she would miss practicing medicine and realize it’s what she loved doing, but “the longer I was gone, the more I started to feel like myself again,” said Cameron-Ruetz. “I started to feel like I was regaining my life and like I just couldn’t go back. So I left.”
Rediscovering an old passion
Cameron-Ruetz found herself with more time on her hands than ever before. “I was spending a lot of time with my son, which was just heaven. It was amazing,” she said.
She also rediscovered her passion for baking, and her refrigerator began filling up with sweets to the point that she began giving things away. She was skeptical at first when a neighbor told her she should sell her baked goods, but decided to put up a website and began to post on social media thinking it would be a fun side project. To her surprise, things took off and she started getting custom cake orders from people she had never met.
Cameron-Ruetz soon found herself baking full time, selling at the Perrysburg farmers’ market and licensing her parents’ larger kitchen as a home bakery to turn out cakes for birthdays, weddings and other special events.
She wasn’t necessarily thinking about opening a storefront, but then a friend with a business at Cricket West told her another bakery was moving out of the West Toledo shopping center. Cameron-Ruetz ended up signing a lease last October, and the Dollop Shop Bakery and Cafe opened for business in March.
Balancing work with family
Cameron-Ruetz said her son, Ezra, was the main catalyst for helping her realize how unhappy she was practicing medicine. Now three years old (she describes him as a “three-nager”), he is a frequent visitor to the bakery and their number one taste tester. “He is obsessed with sweets,” she said. “He’s probably the only three-year-old in this city that prefers a macaron to a cookie.”
Cameron-Ruetz’s perspective on baking is very different from when she worked in medicine. “Nobody is calling me at 2 in the morning to tell me that their cake is hemorrhaging,” she joked. “Of course I care about what I do, and I want to deliver a good product to my customers, but at the end of the day, it’s cake.”
The amount of mental energy she was giving to work as a doctor “really prevented me from being a parent who is present,” Cameron-Ruetz said. Now she leaves work every day at 5pm to pick her son up from the babysitter. Her family eats dinner together, and she puts Ezra to bed every night.
“This job is not emotionally draining at all. In fact, it gives me life,” said Cameron-Ruetz. “I get to be part of people’s happy celebration times and I get to watch people enjoy the things that I make. And that’s so great.”
Q & A with Claire:
Your life in six words or less: Loud, busy, joyful, messy, laughter, sugar.
What is your ideal way to spend a summer day with your family?
Getting outside in nature or going on an adventure together.
Describe Toledo in one sentence.
Toledo is a gritty place — home of brave creatives, hidden gems, and hardy Midwesterners — and I’m proud to call it home!
What is your favorite thing to bake?
This year I discovered choux pastry and I’m obsessed — I love making eclairs and cream puffs with all kinds of fun fillings!