Brown Sugar Bakery has become a Chicago favorite of residents and tourists alike. In February of 2019, Stephanie Hart, the owner and founder of Brown Sugar Bakery. Her goal was to find a space to expand her business and begin shipping her famous cakes around the country. She scoured the Chicagoland area looking for the perfect location and nothing met her needs. When she learned of the upcoming sale of the Cupid’s Candies factory, she became excited. The 84-year old factory, located on 76th and Western, aligned with her needs. The location was not far from the Brown Sugar Bakery. The factory was also already equipped for food production and commercial-sized equipment.
Paul and Pauline Stefanos founded the Cupid Candies shop in 1936. Their son John took over the business and carried on the family tradition. Stephanie and John developed a great friendship working together. They bonded over a shared passion for food and their commitment to their communities. John planned to focus on Cupid’s Candy retail shops due to his failing health. He was exiting the manufacturing portion of candy making. The Cupid’s Candies shops are staples in the Chicagoland area. Stephanie assured John that she would continue the Cupid Candy’s tradition.
Stephanie searched for ways to secure funding to buy the warehouse. She learned of a small business grant through the State of Illinois for $500,000. She assembled a team of talented individuals to help her produce a funding package. This would put her in a prime position to be considered for this grant. At the close of summer 2020, Stephanie learned she secured the small business grant. The grant allowed her to buy the brand, products, equipment, and building. They will continue to produce chocolate, ice cream, and Brown Sugar Bakery cakes.
In September 2020, John Stefanos passed away. His death forced Stephanie to spring into action sooner than expected. Hart has added a new staff member to test and create her new dessert ideas. This allows her to focus on the business of managing both brands.
The recent acquisition was a massive undertaking for Stephanie and Brown Sugar Bakery. She did not waste any time enhancing the Cupid’s Candies business. Stephanie developed a new website, creating an online presence for the candy shop. She also has plans to build a blog to highlight tributes to Mr. Stephanos and memories of Cupid’s Candies. She recently fixed the drive-thru window for the Oak Lawn shop. This has become an integral part of their success during this pandemic. This allows them to service their customers during the pandemic safely.
Ms. Hart continues to serve her community, often surprising frontline workers. She provides cakes and other desserts to show her appreciation. Brown Sugar Bakery remains a staple in many homes during the holidays. Yet, Stephanie stressed the need to support small black businesses.
“These small businesses are an integral part and the backbones of our local communities. “Spend money with the small black-owned business and let the owners know that you appreciate their goods and services, especially now with the uncertainties of COVID-19. This pandemic hurt many companies over the last eight months, so we need to work together now more than ever. Remember, when you support small black businesses, you are supporting someone’s dream! “
To learn more about Brown Sugar Bakery and Cupid’s Candies, check them out on Instagram @brownsugarbakeryusa and @cupidcand.