More than three months have gone by since Krista Steinbach and Ly Lo welcomed St. Paul neighbors and dessert enthusiasts to the grand opening of their joint venture, Sweets Bakeshop. Born from the merger of Steinbach’s upstart cupcake and macaroon business and Lo’s St. Paul cake shop, the new Sweets Bakeshop relaunched at the cusp of the holiday season, and business has been steady and growing since then, with higher-than-expected walk-in sales, a boom in requests from brides-to-be, and numerous mentions in local media. Steinbach and Lo recently took a chance to catch their breath and re-live the past few months with the Heavy Table.
“It feels like just yesterday, but it also feels like it was so long ago,” remembers Steinbach of the bakeshop’s Nov. 14 grand opening.
That successful event kicked off a marathon for Steinbach and Lo, who found themselves sleeping on cots in the kitchen for a week over the holidays to fill all the orders that came in, as well as the walk-in demand for the duo’s gourmet cupcakes, macaroons, brownies, and blondies. They even had to recruit their husbands, both of whom have busy day jobs, to help keep the shop running smoothly during the holiday season.
“It’s more fun looking back at that time than the experience itself was,” Lo laughs.
January and February have proved to be busy as well, with Steinbach and Lo working 10-12 hours per day, six days of the week. But the pair can’t complain, even as they outgrow their back-room kitchen, since their business is thriving and their partnership has been turned into a fun and educational collaboration for the two bakers.
“I think [our partnership has] worked out really well. I learn a lot about baking. Some people would die for the knowledge I have about baking French macaroons,” Lo says.
The interest in those macaroons has been a big surprise to the Sweets team, who continue to draw in new customers searching for the French delicacies. (Cupcakes remain their top-selling item, though.) Steinbach and Lo have also been pleased to see a demand for their custom dessert tables, which bring together larger cakes with the individual-sized treats in an elaborate display.
“We did a wedding at a hotel recently and the staff had never seen one before, but now they say they have all these plans for us,” Lo says excitedly.
Though naysayers may question their decision to launch their bakeshop during one of the roughest economic periods in recent history, Lo and Steinbach are proud of their hard work and don’t see the down economy as a necessary obstacle to success for other entrepreneurs.
“With the economy, a lot of people think it’s a bad time to start a business, but it could be a good time. It could spark the economy,” Steinbach says.
“Be adventurous and don’t just do what is expected. I think some people are surprised we only sell three things because they’re used to going into a bakery and seeing 20 things. But just do what you love and do it well,” Lo adds.
The increase in local competition, with the recent opening of Cocoa & Fig‘s Gaviidae Commons store and the anticipated debuts of Seward’s Cake Eater Bakery and The Sweet Retreat in the 50th and France shopping district this spring, doesn’t faze the pair, either.
“That’s part of the fun — meeting other business owners doing similar things. I think it’s good that we can support one another. We don’t necessarily see each other as competitors,” Steinbach says.
Sweets Bakeshop is open from 11am to 6pm Tuesdays through Sundays at 2042 Marshall Ave., St. Paul.