CHICAGO – It started with the intent to replicate her grandmother’s cake. Now, a South Side bakery owner is taking on a new challenge, acquiring a historic candy company while keeping Chicago’s sweet tooth satisfied.
For the last 16 years, customers have been traveling for miles to get their hands on Brown Sugar Bakery’s delicious cakes.
“who doesn’t love a good German cake or red velvet or pineapple coconut? Which was the cake my grandmother made for me,” owner Stephanie Hart said.
Hart opened up the shop on 75th Street in Chatham. Brown Sugar is one of several African American-owned businesses in the neighborhood.
But the coronvirus pandemic has brought an unexpected turn of events.
“I was closed for a solid seven weeks,” Hart said. “It was really devastating.”
Hart said there is resounding strength among Chatham business owners. She knew that Brown Sugar Bakery would eventually reopen its doors.
“I can tell you that I’m so glad to see that in my community, most people are,” Hart said. “And I think African Americans just in general are extremely resilient especially people who are in business, you have to be.”
Not only resilient, Hart stays determined. With the help of a small business grant, she announced last month that Brown Sugar Bakery would be acquiring another Chicago favorite, Cupid Candies, located at 76th and Western.
“It’s just an amazing opportunity to actually dream a dream like that,” Hart said. “And I’ll tell you it was a big dream to me.”
For the last 84 years, Cupid Candies has delighted the taste buds of customers all over the city. Founded in 1936 by Paul Stefanos, his son said he had other business suitors but Hart’s ties to the community and willingness to preserve the iconic store’s recipes made her the right fit.
“That’s what’s most important to me,” John Stefanos said. “To keep it Cupid Candies.”
Hart plans to move her kitchen to the candy store and sell her famous cakes out of there.
Stefanos will continue to run the candy operation during the transition.