When COVID-19 brought business as usual to a halt, something special happened at Sugar Bakeshop, 277 Broadway. “The most beautiful and exceptional thing was that the community helped us so much,” explains owner Natalie Slevin, “They especially wanted the popster, and that was the pastry that we kept cranking. There were some weeks where we would sell out so fast.”
The popster, Slevin’s vegan take on a classic Pop-Tart with fillings like strawberry, blueberry and lemon lavender, was a bestseller at the bakery pre-pandemic, too. Slevin opened the shop in 2010 following six successful years selling cupcakes and other pastries at local farmers’ markets, though the decision to actually open the doors was not an easy one. Three weeks after signing a lease with her father as her business partner, he was diagnosed with cancer. Slevin nearly decided to move home, but with her father’s support, she forged on, and now, eleven years later, she and her all female team serve nostalgic American sweets with an elevated twist and a focus on inclusivity and community.
“We live in a crazy world,” Slevin says, “so if our customers can come to Sugar and feel safe and seen for a little bit, then it means a lot to me.” Slevin is always working to find ways to make the shop more inclusive. It’s built a large customer base in the deaf community, for example, so the staff uses written notes to communicate and make the ordering process as easy as possible.
Sugar Bakeshop also raises money for causes it feels personally connected to with its quarterly “cookies for a cause,” donating at least 75 percent of revenue to organizations like Black Girl Ventures, which was the beneficiary of the bakery's recent Black Lives Matter fundraising effort. “The community loves and supports our cookies for a cause,” Slevin says. "People seem to love to give them as gifts and quite often post them on social media to make their own pastry statement.”
In May, the shop partnered with Counter Culture Brewery for a fundraiser for the Asian American Pacific Islander community in which a gift card and a large cookie emblazoned with the words “Stop Asian Hate” were auctioned off. For Pride Month, the bakery will hold an online auction the second week of June for one of its rainbow shag cakes, with proceeds donated to the Trevor Project.
Along with retail sales, Sugar Bakeshop sells pastries wholesale to a variety of coffee shops including Noble Coffee, Black Eye Coffee and Pinwheel Coffee, relationships that helped the business survive during the pandemic. The shop’s wedding business also went on pause thanks to COVID-19, but now those orders have begun to pick up again.
Even as most aspects of the shop return to normal, some COVID-related changes remain: The pandemic prompted Slevin to rethink the store’s setup and transform it to a takeout establishment, which allowed for the addition of an office and expanded kitchen area. More room in the bakery has created smoother production processes and allowed the staff to become more creative, Slevin notes, so that setup will remain.
Sugar Bakeshop is located at 277 Broadway and is open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit sugar-bakeshop.com.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.