Sweethearts started out like a lot of small businesses do – a dream. This dream was that of a little girl who loved being in the kitchen baking. Whether it was cupcakes, brownies, cookies or pies, it didn’t matter because she loved it all!
Now like most dreams it would take a little encouragement from others and several years, in this case nearly 25, for it to become a reality. For this to make sense you’re going to need a little backstory… fast forward through childhood, high school graduation and my first apartment and this is where I meet Aaron. The One! Call it what you will, but I just knew he would be my husband one day. As Aaron and I got to know each other, you all know the usual questions, one evening he asks what I want to do when I grow up. Ah, that was an easy one - open a bakery! Now little did I know, but Aaron tucked that tidbit of info aside and 10 years later it would resurface.
Okay now, let’s get to the good stuff… In 2012, Sweethearts location (a building we own) has become available for rent. And this is when Aaron reminds me of our long-ago conversation and says "What do you want to do with the place?" Hmm. I say “Open a candy shoppe. I mean that’s what it has been for the past 40 years.” Wait. What?? A candy shoppe!? What happened to the bakery? Now just hold on. Some things just need a little push. You’ll see. And a few weeks later while watching Cupcake Wars© with my sister, Emily, she says "You should bake cupcakes at the shoppe." Ah-ha! And there you have it, the little push needed for me to realize my dream was about to become a reality - a Cupcake Bakery and Candy Shoppe!
With an idea in mind we set to work on the business plan and soon after the vision for Sweethearts fell in to place – strawberry red walls with mint green accents and white cabinets. Perfect! Renovations started in July and the next three months were a blur as the empty space came to life. We transformed a back office into a little kitchen that only has enough space for a refrigerator, oven, triple basin sink and shelving. With no room in the kitchen, the storefront was designed to accommodate the needed useable workspace. The retail space and storefront received a fresh coat of paint and once that was complete cabinets, shelving units, and the remaining equipment was moved in.
Next up, a name for the shoppe and finalizing a menu. You wouldn’t think picking a name would be that hard. But man, you couldn’t be more wrong. So many ideas were thrown around as we brainstormed. While the criteria were simple – there had to be a personal meaning – this proved to be harder than I expected. I knew Aaron and I would marry someday, so using my last name, Fortune, was out. Sugar Shack? Nah. Sweet Shack? Nah. Enter Emily, again. One day she calls and as I answer the phone I hear "I've got it! Sweethearts!" And… It. Was. Perfect. Sweethearts is the nickname that was given to me when I was a little girl by my Dad, whom my love of baking comes from. Now, what could be more personal than that?!
The menu. Another tough one. It was nearly impossible to pick between flavors as the options are pretty much unlimited. Our original menu started with more than 150 flavors! Over the years with help from our customers we have been able to narrow down to 30 of the most popular flavors; like Peanut Butter Cup, Pineapple Upside Down and S’mores; with 40 or so seasonal flavors, and craft the perfect menu.
Finally, the hard work was done and the fun could begin, making the shoppe pretty, so we could open for business. We baked a test batch, or two, of cupcakes with our shiny new mixers and oven; the shelves were filled with glass jars full of brightly colored candies from gummi bears to lollipops and everything else in between; the confectionery cases received tray after tray of Asher’s Chocolates; and pictures were hung on the walls. And then the big day arrived. Sweethearts opened on October 8, 2012 with our very first customers waiting at the door!
The response we received from our little town was overwhelming. Orders started to pour in and we settled in to our daily routine of baking cupcakes and making friends with our customers. While the original plan focused on cupcakes, we quickly had to alter it per our customer’s requests to include custom decorated cakes. And soon after that we booked our first wedding!
I know Sweethearts may not be a traditional bakery, heck our story isn’t even traditional, but the concept is pretty much the same – “bake” a living doing what I love and enjoy while providing customers, young and old, something they enjoy – fresh, scratch baked cupcakes and nostalgic candies and gourmet chocolates. And since we bake on-site, the wonderful smell of fresh baked cupcakes is the first thing to greet customers as they walk through our strawberry red door.