(This article appears in the February issue of VIP Magazine, and is republished here with their permission. Look for VIP at restaurants, salons, barbershops, the library and other public locations.)
Story by Gray Bostick —- Original Photography by Judy Quick Sharon
“You must remember this,
A kiss is still a kiss.
A sigh is still a sigh.
The fundamental things apply,
As time goes by.”
And it’s as fundamental as sweets for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day — and an emphasis on “fun” on any other day that you feel needs to be made exceptional for office-mates, business clients, teachers, or just that someone special, over at the Sweet Café and Bakery at 1257 Celebration Avenue in Florence.
But that’s exactly the goal a group of local restaurant entrepreneurs had in mind when they took over ownership and day-to-day management of Sweet back in December, 2016: creating an upbeat, can-do, thanks-and-have-a-great-day atmosphere to match Florence’s positive economic outlook of late, offering deliciously upgraded baked goodies to area diners, but while still doing so in a down-home, how-ya-doin’, Pee Dee manner that makes you glad you stopped by. And offering treats so tasty they’ll make you want to hurry back.
A win-win for everyone says, Kyle Hardee, speaking for himself and fellow Sweet partner/owners, Ryan Toniolo, Steve Toniolo, and Travis Miller, who are also partnered in some fashion in several other Florence-area eateries.
“We saw this as a good opportunity, for us and for the customer,” Hardee points out. “We see this as something right in our wheelhouse, something where we can bring our unique, fresh perspective on food service to the consumer, something beyond the typical run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter places and service that most people are accustomed to.”
And with all of its baking done from scratch, they’re off to a great start. Sweet boasts freshness, quality ingredients, and, most importantly, a personal touch – along with a twist of pride, and a pinch of love – when it comes to their products, having brought well-known local baker Allison Carlton onto their team and into their kitchen when they assumed ownership.
Just another step toward setting the standard ever higher, Hardee notes. “There are plenty of places where you can go and get a cake, but there aren’t many of them making ’em from scratch.”
Knowing that little goes better with finely-prepared pastries than a good cup of java, Sweet’s is spot-on there also, with fresh coffee always available, as well as specialty coffees such as cappuccinos, espressos, lattes, and such.
Sweet Bakery takes the term “specialty” to a whole new level, as their delicious cakes can be special-ordered and decorated to commemorate any occasion, from birthdays to weddings, celebrations, or sporting events, even TV, movie, and video game-themed activities. The only limit is your imagination.
And the calendar.
Hardee and Carlton ask that special orders, and especially Valentine’s Day specialties, be ordered 24 hours in advance, and that, when possible, those interested in more intricate or more complicated designs make arrangements to stop by and consult directly with the baker to ensure a perfect result.
“Special people deserve special treatment, so we ask that customers seeking something unique help us help them make it even more special. We love being part of that celebration process. We’ve done some things that have have amazed even me,” Hardee says, shaking his head, specifically noting a “Game of Thrones”-themed cake that featured Dragon Eggs. “Allison can do anything. All we ask is that you give us a little lead time and a good idea of what you want, and, given that, I feel certain we can produce a cake, or whatever it is you desire, that you will be very happy with.”
In addition to its tasty baked goods, Sweet also serves delicious fare such as chicken salad and pimiento cheese sandwiches, as well as ham and cheese wraps, both in their Celebration Avenue location and at a popular satellite storefront located within McLeod Hospital, which receives standard daily, fresh-made deliveries.
Sweet Bakery also maintains an active presence on Facebook where they post the “Name of the Day,” the winner of which receives a free cupcake, and which is also frequently used to announce specials and new offerings, as well as offering customers a forum for providing feedback to help Sweet better refine its operations.
All part of a long-term plan, Hardee says.
“We understand that the foundation of our business success lies in customer satisfaction, and very little is more important than the opinions we get from our customers. Every person in the door is our most important customer, ” he says. “We just want people to give us a chance to let us show them what we can do. I promise we won’t disappoint them.”
So, whether it’s special occasion cakes, cupcakes, truffles, macaroons, or chocolate-covered strawberries, be it on-line as a Facebook “Friend” or via Messenger, on Celebration Avenue as an in-store customer or a patron seeking something just a bit extraordinary, or a visitor at McLeod Hospital hoping to brighten the day of an ailing friend, give Sweet Café and Bakery a shot, and let life be Sweet.
Remember: The fundamental things still apply.
Sweet Cafe and Bakery is located at 1257 Celebration Avenue in Florence, and is open Monday-Friday 10:00 – 6:00, Saturday 11:00 – 5:00, and may be reached at 843-407-7071.