Dive into Lachelle’s inspiring journey from home baking to bakery owner. A tale of passion, pies, and perseverance.
We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. It’s a whole new world out there. Our goal with this website is to share our exploration of the Metro East area. As we find businesses and services we use in our daily lives, we’ll share how these businesses and services have helped make our lives better and easier to live.
We’re calling our move to the Metro East area retirement, but we’re not quite sure what that means. By sharing our story with you, we hope you too will gain a better sense of what the Metro East area has to offer and how their businesses and services can improve your lives and build a better community.
In our home, I’m in charge of quality control. When Karen is baking it is my job to see that everything is kept at high standards. Therefore I must test regularly whatever is being prepared. This also keeps me in good shape because I have to run through the kitchen so Karen can’t hit me with her wooden spoon.
With this philosophy in mind, it is only natural that I am the one to interview Lachelle and learn the story behind Harriett’s Sweet Treats. The only challenge was the way Lachelle’s kitchen area is set up I couldn’t run through. I had to be on my best behavior.
An interview with Lachelle Stevenson
In the cozy ambiance of Harriett’s Sweet Treats, amidst the heavenly scent of freshly baked pies, I had the pleasure of chatting with Lachelle, the heart and soul behind this charming bakery. As she skillfully moved around her baking table, her passion for baking was as evident. Lachelle shared with me the unique journey that led her to the world of baking and how Harriett’s Sweet Treats came to be.
“It all began as a suggestion from my therapist,” Lachelle recounted, her hands deftly shaping a pie crust. “After a back injury took me abruptly out of work, I needed something to fill my days. Cooking was familiar, I had always made desserts for Thanksgiving, and those were the starting point for my business.”
Lachelle’s entry into professional baking was almost serendipitous. A challenge from her pastor, skeptical about her sweet potato pies, turned into an unforeseen endorsement. “He was hesitant at first, comparing them to his mother’s pies. But after tasting them, he was hooked! He even sought me out at church for more,” she laughed, recalling the memory.
March 2015 marked the official start of Harriett’s Sweet Treats, beginning with five desserts – sweet potato pie, chocolate cake, no-bake cheesecake, German chocolate cake, and peach cobbler. “I had a simple trifold pamphlet with a burgundy design, showcasing these desserts. The pastor and his family prayed over it, and that’s how it all began.”
A blessing to begin
By June of the same year, Lachelle had her business license, EIN number, and was gradually expanding her presence at dessert tents. “In 2018, I introduced cookies to my menu,” she said, her eyes sparkling with pride.
A friend’s suggestion led Lachelle to explore the O’Fallon market in 2019, a pivotal moment for her business. “I met vendors, learned about the requirements, and eventually got a sampling license. The market was a game-changer,” she explained, her hands never pausing in their task.
Now, Harriett’s Sweet Treats stands proudly on East Street, a testament to Lachelle’s resilience and passion. As she shared her story, it was clear that Lachelle’s journey was about more than just baking delightful desserts. It was about growing a business, embracing new challenges, and turning a hobby into a thriving passion.
In the midst of our engaging conversation, a light-hearted moment unfolded as we discussed the bakery’s name. I couldn’t help but express a common initial assumption.
“I thought you were Harriett at first,” I admitted, reflecting a common misconception among customers.
Lachelle laughed gently at this, her smile warm and welcoming. “Yes, a lot of people do. My business cards originally had my name on them, but it’s actually both me and my sister involved in this venture,” she explained. “She handles the background tasks like accounting and paperwork. So, I decided to take my name off the cards.”
This clarification added a personal touch to our conversation. “A lot of people assume I’m Harriet based on that,” Lachelle continued. “But when customers come in and talk to me, I make it clear – the picture is Harriet, and I’m Lachelle.”
This exchange not only highlighted the close-knit nature of the business but also Lachelle’s connection to her customers. It set the tone for our conversation, revealing the personal stories and familial bonds behind Harriett’s Sweet Treats.
Lachelle’s creative magic
Delving deeper into the world of Harriett’s Sweet Treats, I was eager to uncover the creative magic behind Lachelle’s delightful array of desserts. As I posed my next question, she was more than happy to share her process of developing new treats, illustrating the blend of artistry and precision that baking demands.
Lachelle, amid her bustling kitchen, began explaining her approach with a sparkle in her eyes. “My process starts with the basics, but then I love to experiment,” she said. “I’ll pick up standard ingredients, and then something extra that catches my eye, something that makes me think, ‘What unique twist can I give this?'”
She shared her current project, the Snicker Shaker, as an example. “It’s about taking something familiar and turning it into something extraordinary. Everyone knows a Snickers cake, but how about a Snickers cookie?” Lachelle pondered, her mind clearly whirring with possibilities.
For Lachelle, the foundation of any new cookie creation begins with deciding the base. “It could be a sugar cookie, a chocolate chip, or maybe something old-fashioned. The seasons play a huge role too. Around the holidays, it’s all about those warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg,” she explained.
The excitement in her voice was palpable as she talked about the fun of experimentation. “Then comes the best part – the taste tests. I love seeing people’s reactions, figuring out what works and what needs a little tweak.”
I couldn’t help saying, “I’ll bet you have no shortage of taste testers. Lachelle smiled and said, “Oh, I do.” With a growing smile on her face.
In Lachelle’s kitchen, it was clear that each new dessert was a journey – a blend of intuition, experimentation, and a dash of whimsy. From the ingredients on her shelves to the ideas in her head, Lachelle’s process was as much about the joy of creation as it was about the final product.
As I watched her move around her kitchen with ease, it struck me that Lachelle’s bakery was more than a place for sweet treats. It was a canvas where creativity met flavor, where each new concoction was a testament to her imaginative spirit and baking prowess. And for anyone lucky enough to taste her creations, it was a chance to be part of a deliciously inventive adventure.
Amid our engaging conversation at Harriett’s Sweet Treats, I was curious to discover the crowd-pleasers among Lachelle’s creations. Her eyes lit up as she shared the customer’s favorites, each treat holding a special place in the bakery’s heart.
“Chocolate chip cookies are a classic favorite,” Lachelle began, her hands moving deftly as she prepared a batch of dough. “But what sets my bakery apart is our focus on Southern desserts. We’re talking about rich German chocolate, creamy banana pudding, and of course, the pies.”
Lachelle’s excitement was palpable as she talked about her diverse range of cookies. “I’ve had to streamline my cookie selection a bit,” she shared. “So now I offer twelve regular types and four specialty ones, including ketos and gluten-free options. The pecan chocolate chip is probably the top favorite, closely followed by the oatmeal raisin.”
Her approach to these desserts was what made them so popular. “Each of these treats has its own special touch, its own reason why people love them,” she explained. “When customers ask me which is my favorite, I always say all of them. Each has a unique quality that I adore.”
Lachelle’s bakery was more than just a place to satisfy a sweet tooth; it was a culinary haven where traditional Southern flavors met modern baking techniques. Her ability to blend the familiar with the new, to offer a range of options that catered to different tastes and dietary needs, was what made Harriett’s Sweet Treats a beloved spot in the community.
As I listened to her, it became clear that Lachelle’s success lay not just in her baking skills, but in her understanding of her customers’ preferences and her commitment to offering a little something for everyone. The popularity of her treats was a testament to her culinary creativity and her dedication to keeping the essence of Southern desserts alive in every bite.
Continuing our heartwarming conversation in the bustling kitchen of Harriett’s Sweet Treats, I turned our discussion towards Lachelle’s involvement in the community. It was evident that her dedication went far beyond the confines of her bakery.
Lachelle, with a sense of pride in her voice, shared how her community ties were a blend of her business and personal commitments. “Being part of the O’Fallon market has increased the bakery’s visibility. It’s a wonderful way to connect with the community business-wise,” she explained.
“But my heart is still deeply connected to Belleville, where I started,” she continued. “That’s where most of my volunteer work happens. I’ve been involved with the Metro East Diaper Bank, an organization close to my heart. “I’m selling their women’s calendars,” she said. “It’s a small way to give back, but it means a lot to me.”
We wrap diapers and distribute them to families in need of the community and Scott Air Force Base. I’m a member of the VFW,” she added, her commitment to service evident in her words. It’s incredibly fulfilling.”
Lachelle’s role in the community
It was clear from our conversation that Lachelle’s role in the community was as layered and rich as her desserts. Her involvement, both through her business in O’Fallon and her volunteer work in Belleville, highlighted a deep commitment to giving back and staying connected to her roots.
As Lachelle shared these details, I couldn’t help but admire the way she balanced her thriving business with her dedication to community service. Her story was not just about baking delicious treats but also about making a positive impact in the lives of those around her, one dessert treat at a time.
In the heart of Harriett’s Sweet Treats, as Lachelle shared her experiences, I asked about the memorable moments that come with running a bakery. Her response illuminated the joy and satisfaction she found in her customers’ reactions.
Lachelle, with a fond smile, recalled the special instances that stood out to her. “One of the most memorable moments is when a customer tries my desserts for the first time,” she began. “Some of them decide to enjoy their treat right there in the bakery. The moment they take that first bite and their faces light up with delight, that’s something truly special.”
She described these experiences with a warmth that filled the room. “They often exclaim, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so good!’ Seeing that immediate reaction, that genuine joy, it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Lachelle also mentioned the feedback she receives outside the bakery. “Sometimes, I get text messages or comments on Facebook from customers who have taken their desserts home. They’ll share how much they loved it, often describing it as ‘divine.’ It’s heartwarming to see such positive responses on my page.”
These sweet interactions, as Lachelle described, were more than just business transactions; they were connections made through the universal language of delicious food. Each smile, each expression of delight, was a testament to the love and care Lachelle poured into every dessert.
As our conversation continued, it was evident that Harriett’s Sweet Treats was more than just a bakery. It was a place where simple moments of joy were created, where customers’ days were brightened with every bite of Lachelle’s lovingly crafted desserts. These memorable experiences shared between Lachelle and her customers were the true essence of her bakery’s charm.
I was keen to delve into the more challenging aspects of running a bakery. Lachelle opened up about a significant hurdle she’s been navigating, highlighting the resilience and adaptability required in the food industry.
“The biggest challenge I’ve faced, and am still facing, is inflation,” Lachelle began, her tone reflecting the seriousness of the issue. “The cost of ingredients has risen considerably and balancing that with keeping my prices customer-friendly has been a delicate task.”
She explained that her dessert pricing has remained the same since 2019, pre-COVID. “I’ve managed to adjust the prices of my holiday boxes slightly to help offset some of the increased costs, but it’s a continuous process,” she said.
Home-based to store-front
Lachelle shared that the transition from a home-based business to a physical location brought additional financial considerations. “The overhead costs are significantly different. It’s not just about the ingredients anymore; it’s the entire operational expense of running a shop.”
Despite these challenges, Lachelle’s determination was evident. “I’m not sure if I can say I’ve overcome this challenge yet. It’s more about finding ways to adapt and continue providing quality desserts to my customers. I’m focusing on building a strong clientele, selling as much as I can, and seeing how it goes.”
In her story, there was a lesson about the complexities of running a small business, especially in the food industry. Lachelle’s experience highlighted the importance of flexibility, perseverance, and the constant pursuit of balance between quality and affordability.
As I listened, I realized that Lachelle’s journey was a testament to her entrepreneurial spirit. Her ability to navigate these challenges while maintaining the essence of Harriett’s Sweet Treats was not just inspiring; it was a reflection of her commitment to her craft and her community.
Next, I sought Lachelle’s insights for those dreaming of opening their bakery. Her advice, grounded in her journey, was a blend of practical wisdom and encouragement.
“Take your time and go through the process,” Lachelle advised, her voice reflecting the depth of her experience. “Don’t rush into it. It’s important to scope out your locations carefully and see what works best for you.”
She recounted her beginnings in 2015, how she started by driving around to barbershops and beauty salons, selling her desserts, and then expanding to selling at her church. “These steps were crucial. It was a progression from a home-based operation to needing a location due to growth. That’s when I realized I needed to hire help.”
Lachelle’s journey wasn’t just about expansion; it was also about staying true to her vision. “You’ll get a lot of advice, some good, some not. I’ve had people suggest I make smoothies or add items that didn’t align with my brand. It’s essential to stick to what you know and are passionate about.”
She emphasized the importance of product selection and understanding the market. “For example, I don’t just make any cookies. I create ones that will sell to my clientele, like oatmeal raisin or oatmeal walnut cranberry. Understanding and catering to your customer base is key.”
Be patient, be strategic
Lachelle’s advice to aspiring bakers was clear: be patient, be strategic, and most importantly, be true to yourself and your craft. “If you have a good product that’s been tried and tested, don’t give up. And don’t let others deter you from your vision.”
In Lachelle’s story, there was a powerful message about perseverance, adaptability, and the courage to follow one’s passion. As she shared these insights, it was evident that her success was not just due to her delicious desserts, but also her thoughtful approach to business and her unwavering commitment to her bakery’s identity.
As our conversation at Harriett’s Sweet Treats drew to a close, I asked Lachelle about her vision for the future. Her response was filled with hope and ambition, painting a picture of growth and creative exploration.
Lachelle pondered the future of her bakery with a thoughtful expression. “I’m focused on establishing this location, or possibly another, but the goal is to get this one off the ground,” she shared. Her dedication to her current shop was clear, but she also harbored bigger dreams.
“One of my biggest aspirations is to write a cookbook,” Lachelle revealed, her eyes lighting up at the thought. This goal spoke of her desire to share her passion and expertise with a wider audience, extending the reach of her delightful treats beyond the walls of Harriett’s Sweet Treats.
As I left the bakery, it was evident that Lachelle’s journey was far from over. Her plans for the future were as rich and promising as her desserts. Whether it’s solidifying the success of her current location or turning the pages of a new chapter with a cookbook, Lachelle’s journey with Harriett’s Sweet Treats is one to watch.
Her story is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and the sweet taste of dreams turning into reality.
We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we share our adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, This is an exciting area and we are so happy to be part of this area. Our lives are being fulfilled by the people we are meeting. Bruce & Karen.
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