More Than Just Desserts

“When that bell on the front door rings, it makes me think of a small-town bakery,” said Kathy Shattuck, co-owner of Sweetened Memories, a bakery that recently relocated to downtown Durham. “I didn’t realize that’s what I wanted, but being a part of the community and having a small business that people can come to and you know who they are and can have a conversation with. It really pulls together that New England small-town feel. I want that for my kids who live in the community. I want that for myself.” 

Sweetened Memories has been in operation since April 2013, serving custom cakes, cupcakes, and cookies originally out of Shattuck’s home in Durham, New Hampshire. It wasn’t until November 14, 2019, that co-owners, Shattuck and Alaina Creswell and the rest of the Sweetened Memories staff relocated the bakery to 13 Jenkins Court in Durham. It was important for the staff at Sweetened Memories to keep and grow the cozy, homey, and welcoming feel that they had found at their previous location. 

“I love going to downtown Durham and walking around and seeing people I know, but being a part of that now, even more so, is really special,” said Shattuck. “I’m hoping it provides people a great place to get good dessert but at the same time know that we’re trying to create a product that they like and enjoy because we care. It’s more than just desserts.”

The idea for Sweetened Memories started as Shattuck making cakes for her friends and her children. About a year later, Creswell joined Shattuck and together made Sweetened Memories what it is today. Shattuck never went to culinary school, so most of her baking and cake decorating skills were self-taught. “I’ve always been artistic. I didn’t realize I liked doing cakes, but I’ve always loved to draw and paint and all that stuff, so it’s kind of in my blood. I took a few classes at Michaels just for fun and I really liked it. With Youtube nowadays and all the things you can watch online, a lot of it’s self-taught.”

Although Sweetened Memoires has grown since, Alyssa Lamontagne, an employee at Sweetened Memories said, “It’s a fairly big bakery, they have a lot of output, they produce a lot of different cakes, cupcakes, cookies and whatnot but they’re still very friendly and homey feel when you come in.

Creswell agreed to that point saying, “we want it to be welcoming, warm, friendly and fun.”

Brian Keegan, co-owner of Oyster River Cycle and Sport, across the street from Sweetened Memories, and customer described the bakery as, “very bright, inviting, and friendly. The customer service level is very good,” he said.

Lamontagne added, “I think it’s really happy. You walk in and it generally smells like frosting or cookies.”

Caitlin Laughton, Durham, New Hampshire resident and frequent customer at Sweetened Memories, sees Sweetened Memories as something extremely positive for the greater Durham community. “[Sweetened Memories] is something local owned by people who have kids in the school system and that live in the area. It’s a really positive aspect to add, it’s nice that downtown isn’t just bars and restaurants, there’s something different and unique.”

Since December of 2018, Shattuck and Creswell had been seriously considering and working to move Sweetened Memories to a bigger space. “I had the vision of what I wanted it to be and what I wanted it to feel like. We’ve dreamt about it for a long time and there’s a lot that goes into it,” said Shattuck. 

Shattuck knew it had gotten to the point where the storefront was needed, “once it became overwhelming and busy all the time and it just exceeded the space. It didn’t make sense and it wasn’t functional and after a certain time when it’s not functional it’s not lucrative. You’re not making money if you’re running into each other.” The new storefront has given the opportunity for Sweetened Memoires to expand beyond their former capacity. 

“If only words could describe how much work was done,” Creswell said of the move. She also said how time was their biggest challenge. Sweetened Memories was originally projected to open in September 2019, in time for the start of the school year for the University of New Hampshire. “It took a lot of time. It felt like I had two full-time jobs for a while, but now that we’re in its so much better.” 

For Shattuck, the most difficult part of the transition to the new storefront was, “being in limbo, because it was in my house and I wanted it out. I hit a wall. It’s kind of like when you graduate from high school, maybe that last month or two before you graduate high school you start to go through this feeling of wanting to move on and I felt that. I was ready for it because I knew how much better it would be for everybody and being able to have our house back,” she explained.

Aside from space, the connection to the Durham community was something that the staff had trouble establishing when running the business out of Shattuck’s home. “Getting to know all these people, and they can come in and grab something and we can talk. I couldn’t do that [in the house]. It’s kind of isolated and removed,” said Shattuck. “It’s a sense of community from a business perspective as well as getting to know more people in town. Before, I would recognize someone coming in once or twice, but now I’m actually able to make an association. It’s just more connected to the community.”

Keegan sees a major benefit in Sweetened Memories’ new location. “It another layer of connection and place for people to go that’s actually in the downtown area,” he said. 

Creswell said, “one of the things that’s fun about us is that we have so many clients that we did their wedding, and then we do their first anniversary, then we do their baby shower, and then we do their child’s first birthday so I think that we really like having a client-base and not just the one-off.”

Laughton is one of these returning customers. She has been using Sweetened Memories since her wedding in 2016 and has since used their services for her baby showers, family members birthdays, and various functions at her work. “It’s nice to support a local business but also their atmosphere is very family like and we strive to shop at places like that.”

Shattuck explained that Sweetened Memories stands out from other bakeries in the Durham area because, “we offer a unique product. It’s not just tasty but it’s a work of art. We have a lot of people who are very talented that work for us. It’s something that’s unique and visually appealing but at the same time tastes good.” Shattuck continued by saying, “we have a lot of different flavors, so it’s not just chocolate and vanilla. There are lots of different flavors and things to do. You can customize it as much as you want to.”

You don’t necessarily need to commit to a large, customized cake when purchasing at Sweetened Memories. As explained by Laughton, she said she would recommend Sweetened Memories to, “really anybody. We’ve used them for various life events but even just popping in to get a cupcake just because. I think anybody who has an event or something they need it for or they just have a sweet tooth and just want something.”

Lamontagne also talked about the positive aspect of being able to just walk in and grab a baked good with no wait. “Kathy and Alaina have already done such a crazy job of blowing up this particular cake business. Now that we are here, it’s grown even more, especially with having the cases with items are for sale every day. So, there’s that whole dynamic. People can come in and actually taste things rather than just ordering.” 

Creswell spoke about how the expansion to the storefront has allowed the employees to branch out past only serving custom orders. Now, at Sweetened Memories there is a display case made up of different cupcakes, cookies, whoopie pies, and macarons. This was something they had no way of having at the previous location. 

“Being here allows us some creative freedom,” said Creswell. “[Shattuck and I] have both really enjoyed brainstorming for the cakes because before it was customers bringing us ideas and we were recreating what they like. What we have the opportunity to do here is to make what we like. We can put them in the case, it’s not like they have to be ordered for us to make them,” she explained. 

With the expansion to the new storefront, Sweetened Memories had to hire six more employees. “We hired them [before moving to the new location] because we started the business in my house and it was really important to take the vibe that we had going on in my house over to the shop. We’re like a little family and I really established really nice relationships with everybody. Everyone’s really tight and so I wanted the newer people to be a part of that as we’re going to the store,” explained Shattuck. 

Lamontagne, who has been with Sweetened Memories for only about two months, agreed saying, “this is a really great group of people, everyone gets along really well. Everybody is really helpful and we are all trying to figure it out together.” 

Shattuck and the rest of the Sweetened Memories staff put a lot of time and effort into the new storefront, and continue to do so as it’s been opened for a few weeks. “Especially now at the shop, it’s a totally different ball game. It’s a lot more of a financial involvement. It’s all-encompassing. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I have a job and I make cakes.’ It takes over everything,” said Shattuck.

With the new storefront, Shattuck sees it as an opportunity to connect with other businesses in the area. As to where she sees Sweetened Memories going in the future, Shattuck said, “I would like to expand on working with other businesses. I would like to expand on connecting with more wedding venues and building up the small parts of our business.”

Creswell agreed with Shattuck, but added, “I’ve already thrown out a second location, you never know. The sky’s the limit. We are always looking to do more things and add more things. We are definitely not settling here. We’re still looking to build.”   

Photos by Kathy Shattuck