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Small businesses are the backbone to the local economy. News 8’s Aleah Hordges gives the INside Story of how women-owned businesses are evolving and driving change in entrepreneurship, despite economic uncertainty.

This is the third of a five-part series on women-owned businesses in central Indiana.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

AVON, Ind. (WISH) – Customers are calling Marsha’s Specialty Desserts and Tierney’s Catering delicious as the company aims to be part of every celebration.

Neighbors have referred it to as one of the best local gems in Avon.

It’s tucked away in a tiny strip mall of Rockville Road.

Co-owner Marsha Quarles describes the business as not just unique, but tried-and-true.

“We’re able to help bring your vision to life. That’s what we’re here for,” Quarles said.

She mentioned the business is a family affair as five other family members cook and run operations.

“We were always the family that had all of our cousins over for different events and everything had to match. The napkins matched the theme of the food,” Quarles said.

Marsha said her grandfather invisioned the catering company. The family opened up shop in 2012.

“He always told us that this is what we should do. We should cook and we should cater desserts. We should encompass it all into one and that’s how M&T was born,” Quarles said.

The menu doesn’t stop at desserts as customers also order Southern cuisine.

“We do a lot of champagne chicken. My aunt makes the best fresh green and macaroni and cheese.”

Marsha’s Specialty Desserts and Tierney’s Catering has done weddings, community events, parties and more.

The baker said there’s nothing the award-winning business hasn’t conquered.

“We’re small, but mighty,” added Quarles. “That’s what we like to say.”

The entreprenuer mentioned she hopes her comonay can influence other black entrepreneurs to dream, despite what obstacles may occur.

“Commercial real estate agent looked at me and he said ‘you will never ever be able to bake enough to afford a space; never’ and that always stuck with me,” Quarles.

No matter what other people may think.

“Don’t ever let what people think what you can or cannot do define you,” said Quarles.

Marsha’s Specialty Desserts will sell strawberry shortcakes at the Avon Farmer’s Market on June 7 from 4-7 pm.

AVON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Exactly one year since the merger of two Indiana agricultural cooperatives became official, the new organization announced plans to relocate from Avon to Indianapolis. Co-Alliance Cooperative Inc. says it is moving to a larger site to accommodate its growing team.

Last year the boards of directors and members of Avon-based Co-Alliance LLP and Harvest Land Cooperative, headquartered in Richmond, voted in favor of the merger, which took effect on February 1, 2021.

Co-Alliance says its overall employee numbers grew by one-third last year.

“With the tremendous growth of our member-owned cooperative, we have simply outgrown our current facility. The new headquarters will be more centrally located for employees and will allow our team to conduct business more efficiently in a space that better suites our expanding needs. We are excited about a future where we can collaborate more efficiently and better serve our members,” said Co-Alliance President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Still.

Co-Alliance is moving to an existing office near Interstate 465 and 10th street. Renovations are being completed and the move to the new offices is planned for early summer 2022.

Citizens of Avon, get excited! There’s a new Nothing Bundt Cakes location in your town!

Lisa and Curt Roberts, Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise owners, joined us today to share more about their new location and what you can expect from them during the holiday season.

Watch the video above for all of the details.

For more information visit,

AVON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Avon-based Harlan Bakeries LLC is adding an Evansville company to its portfolio. The company has acquired AmeriQual Group Holdings LLC, which produces, packages and distributes food products, though financial terms are not being disclosed.

Harlan did not detail whether any jobs would be affected by the deal, but President Hugh Harlan says the company plans to work with all employees to vertically integrate both businesses and ensure continued growth for both companies.

“The AmeriQual team is excited to be partnering with Harlan Bakeries as we move towards the next phase of our company’s growth,” AmeriQual President Dennis Straub said in a news release. “We believe that there are multiple growth opportunities with this combination and that our company cultures are very similar.”

Inside INdiana Business has reached out to Harlan Bakeries for more details on the acquisition but has not yet received a response.

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — A Speedway man died in a crash Sunday afternoon near Avon, the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Monday afternoon.

Benjamin Melvin, 43, was the only occupant of a black Jeep that left the road. He was partially ejected from the vehicle and died at the crash site, the release said.

The crash happened shortly before 3:30 p.m. Sunday on County Road 200 North west of County Road 800 East, which is also known as Dan Jones Parkway in Avon and Hornaday Road in Brownsburg.

The investigation of the crash was not yet complete Monday, and the news release provided no additional information.

The man’s name was corrected in this story after an error in the sheriff’s office news release.

AVON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The boards of directors and members of two Indiana agricultural cooperatives have formally approved a previously-announced merger. Avon-based Co-Alliance LLP and Harvest Land Cooperative, headquartered in Richmond, say the merger will officially take effect on February 1.

The deal was first announced in August. Together they will operate as Co-Alliance Cooperative, headquartered in Avon.

“Co-Alliance Cooperative brings together two extremely strong cooperatives with a successful history of servicing member-owners at the highest level. I anticipate this strong combination will provide synergies and resources that will enhance our customers’ experience and prepare us to meet the needs of our future stakeholders,” said Kevin Still, who is the current president and chief executive officer of Co-Alliance and will serve in that capacity in the new venture.

Current Harvest Land President and CEO Scott Logue will become executive vice president in the new cooperative.

While the merger will officially take place next month, executives from both co-ops say the deal has been in the works for years.

“These talks actually started back in 2011. And they progressed and you know how these things take time. And finally, this last summer, we really got down to talking and fortunately here in January the first couple weeks, our boards voted, and our shareholders voted unanimously almost to approve this merger,” said Still.

Still and Logue say the companies individually had strong balance sheets and no long-term debt, so together they have more negotiating power and can provide a return to its members.

“As we stand today, we were determined to keep a strong equity redemption and patronage payment program to our shareholders,” Still said. “And you know, we really think with the savings and synergies that we get with the new company, will maintain a good income and we can maintain that patronage.”

Logue added, “This historic merger creates a cooperative that can proactively navigate the ever-changing industries we service and provide an environment in which our customers and employees thrive.”

The newly formed cooperative services customers in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan & Illinois. Logue says there was very little business overlap in coverage areas.

“And where we did have some overlap there in Central Indiana, we had a very successful joint venture that Co-Alliance and Harvest Land had worked together since 2001 and operated that joint venture so that that relationship goes back nearly two decades,” said Logue.

It has four core divisions, including Agronomy, Energy, Grain and Swine & Animal Nutrition. Together, the new cooperative will have over 1000 employees and $1.3 billion in sales.

Co-Alliance CEO Kevin Still said co-ops need to scale, like many of their customers.

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — One of the biggest nights of the year for bars and restaurants could be even bigger for some as Marion County is left out in the cold due to coronavirus restrictions.

Although Marion County is mandating all bars shut by midnight Thursday, there are no similar restrictions across the county lines.

“I absolutely believe we’ll see a lot more business because people will leave Marion County and they will still want to celebrate,” said Mike Nyland, owner of Legends Pub & Grill in Avon.

Nyland opened Legends 16 years ago. He said New Year’s Eve is usually worth celebrating. “In a normal year, it’s one of our best nights of the year.”

Still, since he reopened during the pandemic, he’s done just fine. It’s a fact he attributes to being located in Hendricks County, not Marion County.

“It’s forced people to come out and see us,” Nyland said. “So we’re doing pretty well.”

But, he’s not celebrating. Building his own business from the ground up, he feels for other bar owners like him.

He says it’s a shame Marion County officials didn’t loosen things up for New Year’s Eve.

While Marion County is continuing with its nightly midnight closure restriction, Fishers is closing even earlier on Dec. 31 at 10 p.m.

“Everyone needs a win this year,” Nyland said. “That could have been the one win that they would have enjoyed for this year and tried to move into next year with a win. It’s a shame.”

So, Thursday night, he plans to staff like a Friday with 13 employees, all hands on deck.

While masks are required to come in the door, as per state code, they aren’t required when eating, drinking and smoking. Enforcing social distance means he plans to fit from 150-180 in a space that normally would have a capacity of 262.

For New Year’s, he’s staying open until 3 a.m. Friday, bringing in a DJ, and allowing dancing.

“Adults are people over the age of 21, so we cater to adults, and adults can make proper decisions,” Nyland said.

Nyland said business has been good so far this week so he’s hopeful that Thursday night brings more of the same, thanks in part to Marion County’s rules.

But, especially this year, there are no guarantees that one of the best nights of the year traditionally will go according to plan.

“Having a good New Year’s is always key,” Nyland said. “We’re hoping it’s the same this year, but it could go either way.”

Hendricks and Johnson counties are among the ones with no special restrictions for New Year’s Eve. In the words of one health official, they’re more worried about mask-wearing and social distancing than they are about hours of operation.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Hannah Blakley urged her husband to stay with his parents when she was assigned to a COVID unit at IU Health West.

Blakley, a registered nurse, feared she would expose him to the coronavirus and begged him to consider his own safety.

He refused to leave, telling her, “Whatever you’re going to go through is what I’m going to go through.”

This Thanksgiving, Blakley is grateful her husband insisted on staying by her side while she navigated the traumas of frontline health care work.

He sometimes holds her while she cries after returning home from 12-hour shifts in the COVID unit, knowing he can’t do much to ease her fears.

Blakley worries about the pandemic’s toll on frontline workers’ mental health, the state’s shortage of nurses and whether her patients – all of whom she develops relationships with – will live until her next shift.

“[My husband] just needed to let me sit there and kind of feel what I’m feeling,” she said in a video blog shared on the hospital’s Facebook page.

Blakley recorded and shared a series of vlog entries in April that reached millions of viewers across the nation.

The unfiltered videos offer a glimpse into the grief, fear and hope COVID unit nurses experience daily on the job.

The overwhelming exhaustion and stress are not limited to working hours. 

In several vlogs, Blakley documents her feelings of mounting anxiety while commuting to work and describes her lengthy sanitization process before allowing herself to reenter her home after work.

“Is this the day that I bring COVID home to my husband? Is this the day that I walk in and my patient is on hospice?” she asks, sitting alone in her car. “Am I going to lose it? Is my coworker going to lose it?”

Her videos also capture fleeting moments of joy and a palpable sense gratitude. 

Blakley’s accounts of COVID unit work convey her deep passion for nursing and her ability to recognize hidden blessings amid despair.

Despite mourning the loss of patients, she is still able to give thanks for her fresh set of scrubs, the new coworkers she meets and the time she spends bonding with patients’ families.

In one vlog, she reveals two of her patients improved enough to be discharged. 

During discharge celebrations, Blakley and her colleagues cheer and clap, and play The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” while wheeling the patient out the door.

Those moments keep her going. 

She hopes pulling back the curtain on the daily realities of her life – the good, the bad and the unthinkable – will serve as a reality check to people continuing to flout public health guidelines.

“There were a lot of elderly people that were healthy, who were dying because of COVID,” Blakley said. “Had the people around them just protected themselves more, wore their masks [and] washed their hands, it might have saved their lives.”

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Managers at Majestic Care of Avon refused to answer questions about the source of a possible coronavirus outbreak at the 140-bed nursing home, located on South County Road 525 East.

Dozens of residents tested positive within days, according to daily updates from employees.

On Tuesday, relatives received a recorded message from the facility reporting 48 positive COVID-19 cases among Majestic residents and 13 cases among care team members.

The previous Friday, a message from the facility reported only three positive COVID-19 cases.

Families of residents said they were unable to access timely information about patient care and questioned the nursing home’s adherence to public health recommendations.

“Every time we try to call or anything, they never want to respond,” said Gerald Miller, an Ohio resident whose mother Cheryl Miller had been living at Majestic since early 2020.

Cheryl, 73, began complaining of chest pain Oct. 19 and tested positive for COVID-19 four days later.

Her family suspected she contracted the virus from her roommate, who exhibited symptoms first. Cheryl requested a room change but was not moved until she tested positive, her children said.

On Monday, her daughter called an ambulance for her after learning she was dehydrated, vomiting, disoriented and had difficulty breathing.

Majestic staffers “turned the ambulance away” and told paramedics Cheryl was “fine” and “asymptomatic,” Gerald and his sister told News 8.

Gerald’s fiancée, Rebecca Hess, called a second ambulance but it also left the facility without a patient.

“There are multitudes of workers getting sick, too. We just want to know what’s going on,” Hess said.

The state health department’s website shows 11 positive COVID-19 cases among residents at Majestic Care of Avon. The data was posted Oct. 21 and is scheduled to be updated Wednesday at 12 p.m.

Majestic Care of Avon managers did not respond to calls and emails from News 8 seeking comment.

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Parents called for increased mental health awareness and anti-bullying measures at Avon schools after a series of abusive social media posts targeting local students.

The anonymous Instagram user behind the defunct “avonconfess” account began posting photos of students with insulting captions last week. Several posts urged children to take their own lives.

The account used the Avon Middle School North logo as its profile picture but has no affiliation with the district.

On Thursday, authorities said Avon school police identified and detained a juvenile who claimed responsibility for an Instagram account “targeting young female students.” 

Officials and administrators did not confirm if it was the avonconfess account, which no longer appeared to be active Thursday night, and declined to share further details about the juvenile.

“Each time I looked, it was just updated. More and more students were being targeted,” said Ashley Staley, whose 12-year-old son attends Avon Middle School North.

On Oct. 2, her son’s photo appeared on avonconfess. 

Staley tried to shield the seventh-grader from cyberbullying. She told him he had been featured by the notorious account but refused to show him the post.

“It’s troubling. It’s scary,” Staley told News 8. “We have got to take this stuff seriously.”

She reported the account to Instagram and went to her son’s school to share her concerns with administrators. The district responded days later, she said.

The Avon Community School Corp. (ACSC) addressed the district’s handling of the matter after fielding complaints from parents, students, alumni and community members.

“ACSC filed multiple complaints with Instagram regarding this egregious fake account,” a district spokesperson said Thursday in an emailed statement to News 8. 

The district has a “strong Mental Wellness Team” of counselors and social workers who help students and staff address bullying, administrators added.

Parents feared cyberbullying could escalate to cyberthreats if administrators and authorities did not respond swiftly to alarming social media posts.

On Thursday morning, police increased their presence on Avon campuses after residents reported a post shared by another anonymous Instagram user.

The “avon_sucks2020” account posted a photo of nearly a dozen firearms with the caption “Which one should I use to shoot up Avon?” followed by a laughing emoji.

“Law enforcement responded immediately and investigated this to ensure the safety of staff and students in our schools,” administrators said in a letter to school families. “The threat was not deemed credible and was not directed toward any school.”

The school shooting threat remains under investigation, according to Avon police.

A avonconfess parody account with the same profile picture is sharing uplifting content. The anonymous user behind “realavonconfess” posts photos of Avon students with complimentary captions.

“Not only is this young woman gorgeous, she’s also sooo caring and an amazing person!!!” one post said.