A year ago, Shelly Sullivan walked away from her eponymous restaurant, Shelly's Place on Orange Street, after handing it over to Mary Ann Walker, whose name now appears on the sign outside.


Sullivan had been in the restaurant business for 23 years and was ready for a break.


"You don't really know yourself at first," she said. "I went into business initially because I had a lot of friends I would cook and bake for.


"People and baking. You think 'perfect. I'm going to open a cute little place and cook and bake and make people happy.'"


But the cute little place was a lot more work than she had expected at the outset, requiring her to be more ambitious to keep up with the demands of the business and then step up her commitment to the business as it grew.


"The machine takes on a life of its own," she said. "I really never had a desire to have a big business. ... Then you get into a position where you can't get out."


Then Walker and her husband made Sullivan the right offer on the right day and Sullivan was out, with free time for the first time in decades. But she still loved to bake, and she still loved seeing people.


A craving for coffee turned into an opportunity: She stopped by Blastoff Café in the High Desert Primary Care shopping center on Main Street, and found the doors closed.


"I came into buy a mocha and there was a sign on the door."


Blastoff was closed for good, and the owners were looking to sell the location, which had been extensively remodeled and was ready for another restaurant almost immediately.


Sullivan hadn't been planning on opening an espresso bar, but she had been looking for a kitchen where she could legally do catering work for friends and deal with customers again. And the woman who started off with a pie, pastry and sandwich shop had the urge to bake again. And this time, she had a vision.


"You can buy cakes all the time," she said. "There's a lot out there. I wanted to have the opportunity to do something more 'gifty.'"


More "gifty" in this case means bundt cakes, which look a little more polished than the normal cakes available in grocery stores, can sit on a desk at work without spoiling during the workday and can be transported more safely than other cakes.


Sullivan had also signed a non-compete agreement with Mary Ann's Place to not open a restaurant called "Shelly's Place" in the High Desert for five years. She also wanted to move the focus off herself and onto the product, especially for potential customers not familiar with her previous restaurants. And, if the restaurant was a big success, she wanted a name that could be franchised.


And so Bodacious Bundts was born. In addition to the titular cakes, the shop serves espresso, a variety of baked goods and soup.


The restaurant opened for one day on September 20, when it served spectators at the annual Hesperia Days parade and had its official grand opening on September 24.


"I started without a 'name' 24 years ago," Sullivan said. "I'm willing to do the work again."


More than 80 percent of new restaurants do not make it three years, and with businesses closing in the current economic climate, it might not be the ideal time for Sullivan to open her fifth restaurant.


"After dealing with cancer and dealing with the world around me and people dying, you want to do it now, and not wait," she said. "You've got to have some faith. ... What are you going to do, crawl in a hole and die?"


Bodacious Bundts is located at 17051 Main Street, in the High Desert Primary Care Shopping Center, and is open five days a week. For more information, call 956-5530.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.