Frost Me Sweet makes cakes for weddings, baby showers, milestone birthdays and all manner of happy occasions.
Soon, it will have its own happy milestone to celebrate, an expansion that will double the size of Richland's iconic aqua-colored bakery and cafe on The Parkway.
But for owners Megan and Jason Savely, the road to success was occasionally bumpy, paved with ramen dinners and occasionally, tears.
Frost Me Sweet will embark on an expansion next month that will double its seating and provide much-needed space for cooking, baking and everything in between. The move, its largest ever, comes as the business hits its seventh year.
Like many entrepreneurs, the Savelys weren't looking to create a business. Both had worked in restaurants and were pursuing non-food careers. She worked in a doctor's office. He was in property management.
Their career paths shifted when Megan discovered cake decorating videos. Intrigued by the marriage of baking and art, her two passions, she decided to give it a try in her own kitchen. She fished a fondant recipe off the internet and prepared the blanket-like sheet of icing. She covered a cake and used the leftovers for flowers.
Her first effort wowed family and friends, who began asking her to make special occasion cakes.
What started as a hobby quickly grew. Before long, she was making cakes for "cousins of cousins." Jason called their kitchen a "caketastrophe" and challenged his new bride to consider making a business out of her hobby.
For Megan, who grew up baking with her Danish grandmother and always reveled in the food industry, it was an unexpected moment. She'd never thought of cake making as a profession. But she jumped in with both feet.
The couple leased a tiny drive-though in Richland because it had the requisite three-basin sink and grease trap, health code musts.
They sold cupcakes and coffee through a window, and took orders for special occasion cakes on the side. When Megan found herself with too much cake and not enough refrigerator, the couple looked for roomier digs.
The search extend far. Megan was set on The Parkway. Her sites settled on the lone available building, an old tavern at 710, one of the first buildings ever built on the street.
Unfortunately, tavern operators beat her to it and secured a lease. When the tavern didn't materialize after a month, she called the operator, an acquaintance.
"If you don't want that spot, I want that spot," she told her.
Her gambit paid off. The would-be tavern operator's partner had deployed to the Middle East and pulled out of the business. She was looking for a way to get out of the lease and Frost Me Sweet proved to be a perfect new tenant for the landlord.
But there was a hangup. The Savelys didn't need or want the entire 2,800-square-foot building. The landlord insisted on leasing it in its entirely, noting it had only one set of bathrooms. The Savelys, grateful the landlord took a chance on a tiny cupcake start-up, took a deep breath. Frost Me Sweet moved to The Parkway and put the "extra" space to work as a restaurant.
Today, Jason is lead chef and the couple employ about 30 people, including cooks, servers and bakers.
But it wasn't always easy.
Megan recalls sitting on the black leather sofa, crying as she contemplated shutting the doors. There was only enough money to pay workers for two more days. Paying employees in full and on time is a top priority for the couple and she worried she wouldn't be able to keep the commitment.
But Jason counseled faith.
Frost Me Sweet opened the following day, its busiest day to date. The crisis was past.
"I'm not a super religious person," she said. "But one busy day kept us going."
It also also injected a healthy dose of "never again" into the way they ran the business. The Savelys, who have a 16-month-old daughter, spend every day at their business and cultivate a family atmosphere with their employees.
Business stabilized and three years ago, the couple purchased the building. Now, they've purchased the 2,800-square-foot brick building next door. They began planning the expansion last summer and expect work to begin in about a month.
The project is funded by personal savings and a Small Business Administration-backed loan from Washington Trust Bank. Richland-based Booth & Sons is the contractor.
Savely said the spring timing isn't ideal, but the three-part expansion will double the seating and dramatically increase the size of the kitchen. The bakery will gain its own seating area as well as a kitchen.
Baking takes place a few doors away, but it will relocate to the new space.
"It just feels like we're on top of each other here," she said.
Savely said she can't bring herself to paint the brick building with Frost Me Sweet's aqua, but she is working with designers to ensure there are thematic elements that link the two buildings, which are separated by mere inches.
The couple have been reluctant to tinker with the "Frost Me Sweet" name, even as the restaurant business overtakes the bakery one.
"This is Frost Me Sweet," she said.
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