The last two months have been busy for Mary Graham, the sole owner of dessert shop Canvas & Cake.
But not in the way you’d expect.
Mary, the wife of Arizona Wildcats running back coach Scottie Graham, runs a business — now in its seventh year of operation — dedicated to artwork and baking desserts, her two favorite passions.
Since January, Mary has spent the majority of her time commuting between Gilbert and Tucson, dropping off orders, collecting new ones, baking them and then mentally preparing to repeat the process the following week.
“I go back and forth a lot now,” she said. “I’ve only been able to make a few sales in Tucson so far.”
Mary and Scottie are in the middle of settling down in Tucson, where Scottie was hired in January to be an assistant coach on the Wildcats football staff. Currently, the Graham’s have two places of residency: their home in Gilbert where they’ve been since 2014 and a new one in Tucson.
Scottie was an administrator for ASU Athletics during their time in Gilbert.
Split residency and moving isn’t an uncommon balancing act for the Graham’s. The two met as freshmen at Ohio State in 1987 — Mary was pursuing a degree in Fine Arts and Scottie was the Buckeyes’ running back at the time.
After getting married, Scottie played in the NFL for three teams between 1992-97, so moving to new cities became a somewhat normal part of the early years of their relationship. Mary said she “became used to the dizziness and the travel.”
Now, between the frequent 200-mile round trips across Arizona and restrictions due to the pandemic, Mary’s had little time to get to know the Tucson community and promote her business. She prides herself on bringing a personal touch to her business in order to develop relationships with her clientele.
“I’m here to help with birthday parties, holidays, whatever occasions people need me,” she said. “I just really enjoy seeing the positive feedback from people. As long as the people I bake for are happy, I’m happy.”
Previously, she had created two separate businesses, one for baking and the other for her art projects.
In 2014, Graham decided to combine the best of both worlds.
Growing up in a household of bakers — her mom and five sisters all bake — Graham is a natural at crafting desserts for any occasion.
One of her specialties are cakes for children’s birthday parties.
“That’s the best part for me because I get to do both things,” she said. “I get to make it taste delicious and then do art for the cartoon characters on the cake for the kids.”
Every now and then, she will have leftover ingredients from a cake or extra cookie batter — that’s when her No. 1 fan gets to help.
“(Scottie) eats anything I make,” Mary laughed. “Sometimes he will share with his co-workers.”
As they both get adjusted life in Tucson, Mary hopes to become a regular face in the UA community and within the football program. She recently put in request to be insured in Tucson to cater public events and those hosted by the UA football team.
Scottie’s co-workers now are Wildcats as opposed to Sun Devils.
It’s no issue for Mary, though, who’s already had practice designing the ‘Block-A’ and Wildcat paw print into her treats.
“I’ve made several Wildcat-themed desserts before,” she said. “I’ll be well-prepared.”