Kenosha’s Marty Perez is no longer Smarty Marty.
Some days she’s Smarty Cakes. Other days she’s Grandma Cakes. She’s best known throughout the community as just Smarty.
The longtime surgical nurse is owner of Smarty’s Sweets & Treats. Perez runs the dessert shop with her three daughters – Vanessa White, Gabby Ramos and Alex Perez – with the same core values she learned from her father Eugene Lara.
Lara migrated to the United States from Mexico. He was employed at American Motors in Kenosha and was a firm believer in working hard and giving back.
It’s been a recipe for success at Smarty’s Sweets & Treats.
“He worked a lot,” Perez said. “He had us working at a very young age, which I make my daughters do. They had to work at a young age too. Even if it was volunteer, we worked.”
Lara died when Perez was 14 years old. The values he instilled in Perez, and now her three daughters, lives on.
“I remember him going to get his citizenship and I remember him getting it and how proud he was to be here,” said Perez, a 1986 Bradford High School graduate.
Marty got the nickname Smarty from a local surgeon, who thought she looked extra smart in her new set of glasses. She became Smarty Cakes in 2020 after following her love for baking and opening Smarty’s Sweets & Treats.
The store’s success has allowed the family to fund numerous coats drives and back-to-school events. With five grandsons, Perez is an avid supporter of local youth athletics.
“We’re extremely, extremely proud of our mom,” Gabby Ramos said. “She started in nursing. She still does nursing. We’re proud that now she’s an entrepreneur, leaving her legacy behind for us.”
When the business first opened, Perez donated the store’s tip jar to those in need.
“It’s all about putting a smile on somebody’s face,” Perez said.