How the creative chef behind online treats business Swank Desserts baked up a sweet new shop in Summerville’s historic downtown
CM: You turned Swank Desserts from an online store into a brick-and-mortar through a Kickstarter fundraiser. How was that experience?
DR: It was a helpful way to raise money, but keeping up with the site while running my online business was like having a second job. In the end, we raised $23,900 to open the storefront! When I first started looking into doing a Kickstarter, I reached out to many other small business owners who were also using crowdsourcing. I still keep in touch with Lucia Merino, who, like me, was able to turn her online concept, Lucia Patisserie, into a storefront in Puerto Rico.
CM: You started the online shop in 2015. How did you get into baking?
DR: I have always loved eating sweets, but I didn’t grow up baking at all. Actually, I wasn’t too fond of making desserts, even when I was in culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, North Carolina. Things changed after I graduated in 2008. I started baking pies around the holidays at my dad’s house. People loved my gooey brown sugar pecan pie. Soon, they wanted to order more sweets. That’s when I realized I could turn this into a business.
CM: What inspires your style?
DR: I try to be as seasonal as possible, so our flavors are always changing. I get inspiration everywhere: it could be something I see in the grocery store, on TV, or even a craving I’m having. For wedding cakes, I keep it classic: intricate, detailed, and no fondant; most of the time it’s a semi-naked or simple buttercream cake with gold and silver accents. Most importantly, I focus on building flavors and creating an experience for our customers’ palates.
CM: What’s one thing on the menu that might surprise your customers?
DR: I offer savory chorizo potato hand pies nearly every Saturday because they’ve been such a hit. They look like empanadas, and you can eat one in a few bites. The dough is a buttery pie crust made from scratch.
CM: What else can customers expect from the brick-and-mortar store?
DR: On a regular basis, we serve macarons, brownies, Nutella-stuffed cookies, cake snacks, brioche cinnamon buns, cookie sandwiches, ice-cream sandwiches, and local soda and coffee. I’m also planning to create more plated desserts for customers dining inside the store.
CM: The shop’s been open for three months. How does it feel to have your own place?
DR: It feels empowering. It’s hard for people to understand what it takes behind the scenes. I didn’t just get lucky. I did all the renovations, designed the layout of the dining room, and worked hard, and my friends and family have been there to support me the whole way. Swank Desserts turned into more than just an idea because I made it happen.