LT: Dan and Ellen, Sweet 16 is a true neighborhood bakery. Is it what you had envisioned when you both decided to open your own bakery?
Dan: Sweet 16th is at its core what we had envisioned when we opened in 2004. The neighborhood was very different then. The diversity was even greater than it is now. There were not that many options when it came to retail, restaurants, bars and clubs. What we set out to do was to make a living, as well as to provide the community with a gathering place to meet their fellow East-siders. Ellen always said that it was not her goal to become a “Mrs. Fields.” Rather, she—and I—wanted to pay our bills, have the ability to travel and to be able to pay our employees.
LT: Your shop doesn’t feel like other places in the area. Maybe it’s the size, but it’s very warm and inviting and seems to be always filled with people you know. I’ve seen little boys bring Ellen flowers and sweet kisses. How does it make you feel when you are such a beloved spot in the neighborhood?
Dan: It makes us feel very fortunate to be a part of our neighbors’ lives. We are able to be a part of their life cycle events…see them dating, getting married, having kids. We have tragically lost some very special people, too. That is real life when you engage with people. It’s great that we are a safe place where kids can come down on their own and hang out with other kids. It’s also fun to connect people, which we do actively—Ellen has great radar—who should know each other but don’t. And, oh, by the way, we’re serving fresh baked goods every day.
LT: What are your own personal favorites you make and sell in your shop?
Dan: This is a tough question...like picking your favorite child. The savory champion for me is the breakfast sandwich. As to sweets, I think Ellen makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.
Ellen: Our signature chocolate cake. It’s the foundation on which we started the bakery.