Have your cake and eat it too at The Sweet Shoppe

The Sweet Shoppe is perhaps Mount Clemens’ best-kept secret.

Sweet ShoppeTucked in the corner of Gumbo’s on North Walnut Street, the charming bakery stands ready for business. Like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory, the counters are filled with delectable sweet treats—apple turnovers, lemon poppy seed muffins, cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, and more.

Owner Christina Taite is new to the baking world, but she’s already running her business like a pro.

“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Taite says. “I’ve worked here at Gumbo’s with my mother-in-law for years. So when the opportunity arose, opening a bakery here just made sense.”

The business is a family affair. “After working 10-hour shifts at his own job, my husband Craig still comes to the shop to help me out. My daughters visit the Sweet Shoppe every day. Most of the customers know them already, because they grew up in the restaurant,” Taite adds. “It’s my daughters’ dream to own a bakery one day, so hopefully I can build something for them to take over.”

Gumbo’s, owned and operated by the Taite family, is an authentic Cajun/Creole restaurant with some of the best po’boys ever made outside of New Orleans. It’s no wonder, then, that one of Christina Taite’s favorite Sweet Shoppe items are beignets: a traditional New Orleans dessert similar to a fritter.

Sweet Shoppe 2But Taite wants you to know that her shop offers more than just delicious pastries. “We have coffee and tea, as well as floats, shakes, sundaes, and smoothies. My personal favorite is the strawberry-banana, but our mango-pineapple is very popular too.”

Another reason Taite’s products are so scrumptious? They are made with local ingredients.

“Recently I got some freshly picked blueberries from a farm near here, so I decided to make blueberry cobbler with them. And of course, all our floats are made with Faygo. Whenever I can, I try to use Michigan-based products,” says Taite.

Sweet Shoppe 3As for me, I tried the pineapple upside-down cake—warm, melty, and drizzled with caramel sauce—and immediately fell in love-at-first-taste. Now I can’t wait to go back and try everything else on the menu!

The Sweet Shoppe is open from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday.  Whether you get dessert after a hearty meal at Gumbo’s or you just pop in for a refreshing smoothie, it’s the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth.

JennaJenna Russell is an intern at the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.

Register now for All about Food: From Farm to Fork conference

All about Food: From Farm to Fork is an annual event that is hosted at the beautiful Macomb Community College University Center and put together by the Macomb Food Collaborative. People from across the food system gather here to learn, grow and share about food. It is a great place to meet other food lovers, small business owners, agencies that regulate food safety and economic developers who work with food businesses.

Macomb Food Program pic 2There will be breakout sessions with experts discussing a variety of topics including the future of farming, dairy farm trends, conserving agricultural land, organic urban farming and the viewpoint of running a small farm in Michigan.

Your ticket gets you into all aspects of the event from the wonderful presentations, to the pop-up market, to a great lunch that satisfies many types of nutritional needs.

One of the very fun parts about the event is the pop-up market that has small business food vendors offering samples of a diverse line of products. There are also businesses offering information about many different food and health programs in the area, along with nutritional and essential oil businesses. This was a huge hit last year when the businesses were added to the event for the first time.

Macomb Food Program picThe event this year will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 6 at the University Center, 44575 Garfield Road, UC-1, Clinton Township, 48043. Signage will be at the road and main entrance.

Tickets are $30, and the deadline to register is May 30. Tickets are $35 at the door as long as there is capacity, which is not guaranteed. You can register online at www.macombfood.org (online registration fees apply) or fill out this registration form and make checks payable to the Macomb Food Collaborative. Send to Macomb Food Collaborative/MSUE, 21885 Dunham Road, suite 12, Clinton Township, 48043.

Click here to view the workshop schedule.

Macomb Food Program logo

Johns, Jack IMG_0030Jack Johns is a project coordinator for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in working with food, agriculture, energy, robotics, autonomous vehicle and retail businesses. If you are a business owner and would like to contact him, email jack.johns@macombgov.org or call (586) 469-6293.

Macomb food entrepreneur lays groundwork for growth

Daves-Sweet-ToothMarch is Food and Ag Month in Michigan. Agriculture, food processors and related businesses employ 22 percent of the state’s workforce, and the state has 2,166 licensed food processors generating nearly $25 billion in economic activity. Macomb County is no exception to this growing trend. With 502 farms spanning 67,960 acres and 1,409 food manufacturing jobs, Macomb County boasts a healthy food and agricultural industry. Here is a close-up look at the path one Harrison Township food processor is taking to build a successful food business in Macomb County.

You may have heard about Dave’s Sweet Tooth when CEO Andrew Chmielewski made the Crain’s Detroit Business “20 in their 20s” list or landed on the Forbes “30 under 30” food and drink list, or you may have even seen the company featured on Good Morning America last year. Their toffee is carried in stores across the state and country, including Kroger, Marshalls, Whole Foods Market and Nino Salvaggio, as well as sold online. They will even be featured once again on Good Morning America as the Deal of the Day tomorrow, March 30. In business for only five years, this company is expanding at an incredible rate.

Dave’s Sweet Tooth manufactures delicious handmade toffee made from Chmielewski’s father’s homemade recipe. While touring the 5,000-square-foot facility, I was able to watch workers take the cooled toffee from baking sheets and break it into pieces by hand. In another room, employees were stuffing the toffee pieces into packages. Seems simple enough. Yet, a lot of hard work went into establishing the business, and more lies ahead to ensure the company’s growth is sustainable. And that’s where the experts come in.

daves-sweet-tooth-toffee-pouch-collection_1024x1024Chmielewski is tapping into all of the resources and services available to entrepreneurs. He is currently enrolled in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s economic gardening program. The Michigan Manufacturing Technical Center is also helping the company prepare for their Safe Quality Food (SQF) inspection as well as prepare the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is offering the company support through providing information about export programs which could help the company tap into markets in Canada, China or anywhere in the world. MDARD offers trade missions and participates in international trade shows where companies can become familiar with foreign markets and even meet one-on-one with buyers to discuss their products. The state also offers the Branding Program which reimburses companies up to 50 percent for translation services, airfare, hotel costs and vendor table space for international trips and toward expenses such as creating bilingual labels and websites geared toward a foreign market.

Jack Johns, program coordinator for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, also met with Chmielewski to discuss any needs the growing company has. Johns informed him that when Dave’s Sweet Tooth finds itself at capacity in its current space, Macomb County can help the company locate a new facility and take advantage of all the cost-saving incentives available to food processing businesses, which may include a tax abatement.

If you are a food or agricultural business in Macomb County, reach out to Johns at jack.johns@macombgov.org or call (586) 469-6293 to see what kinds of programs, incentives and partners are out there to help your business succeed.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

Healthy food just became a lot more convenient

Clean Planet Foods was born from the same food entrepreneurs that created the very successful Garden Fresh Gourmet brand, which most of us know from their salsa, tortilla chips, hummus and dips. When I first tasted the products from Clean Planet Foods, based in Clinton Township, I was amazed how fresh it tasted and how simple it was to prepare. A light bulb immediately went off in my head: This is how I can eat healthy at work and at home with only a minute or two to prepare my meal. The selection keeps growing as well, from chicken to turkey patties, and now I just had some great meatballs.

Cp2One of my favorite parts about Clean Planet Foods is that they want a really healthy, fresh product with the highest food safety that can be delivered. They put each product into a High Pressure Pasteurization machine that seals in the freshness and helps keep your product safe. Another great part about this is you can order online at CleanPlanetFoods.com, and fresh products will show up at the door in a 10- or 30-count box, and you can reorder automatically. Continue reading for what owner Jack Aronson says about his newest product line.

Jack Johns is a senior economic development specialist with the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in assisting food and agriculture, automotive, energy and retail companies.

Cp1

Dear Fellow Food and Fitness Lover,

I founded Clean Planet on simple, down-to-earth principles. Make honest and healthy food, make it safe and out-of-this-world good, and make it easy to get and prepare. After all, what’s the point of being healthy if you can’t enjoy life? So, I got together with some of my favorite chefs, and along with nationally-syndicated health and fitness coach Peter Nielsen, we set about creating a line of outrageously tasty, fully-cooked whole proteins using some of my best recipes. As a team, we worked hard to make them delicious, nutritious and quick. When we finished, we knew that we had before us the cleanest, most convenient, most mouth-watering line of proteins the world had ever seen. It seemed only appropriate to name the line something special, so we called it Clean Planet.

Although our principles are modest, our goal is not. Simply put, we’re out to change the way the world eats for the better. It all starts with your visit to another planet, a planet without compromise.

No need to compromise on taste. From our juicy turkey patties to our tender, melt-in-your-mouth, Jamaican-style jerk chicken, these chef-inspired proteins are as good to eat as anything you’ll find in your favorite four-star restaurant.

No need to compromise on nutrition. Our gluten-free, center-of-plate meat products are loaded with delicious, whole protein, as many as 26 grams in a single serving, and contain no artificial additives.

No need to compromise on convenience. Each Clean Planet protein serving comes individually wrapped in a special food-safe pouch designed to steam in all the natural juices. And variety? Trust me, with our wide assortment of flavors, you will never get bored.

Don’t look for us in the grocery store. The only way to enjoy Clean Planet proteins is to order them direct online or purchase them through one of our affiliates.

Looking to build lean muscle? Interested in shedding a few pounds by eating right? Maybe you just want to feel better. Only you can know what’s in your heart. And only you can do what’s best for your heart. It all starts with you.  So make Clean Planet a regular stop as you travel through the galaxy of food choices in this land of abundance. We know your life will change – for the better.

Jack Aronson is the founder and chief protein officer of Clean Planet Foods.

 

Soup with a cause

Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns recently went on a retention visit with Utica-based Motown Soup and shared their incredible story with me.

beef barleyMotown Soup is a nonprofit company that assembles dried soup ingredients and packages them as convenient, ready-to-make mixes. Some of their most popular soup mixes are chicken noodle, white chicken chili and chicken pot pie. Most soup mixes make two quarts, cost $8 and are ready to serve in around 20 minutes. They have expanded their product line to also include mixes for dips, cookies and corn bread as well as sampler packages that come in beautiful, Michigan-themed boxes.

This businesses operates out of the state-licensed kitchen in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church on Van Dyke in Utica. Food companies headquartered in church kitchens is not a new concept, but it is perhaps not well known. Yumbitz, a growing Macomb County cookie company, bakes in the commercial kitchen at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, and Ethel’s Edibles also started making gluten-free baked goods in a church kitchen until they purchased a commercial retail and bakehouse space in St. Clair Shores.

Measuring in lineWhile some businesses can make food out of their home under the Cottage Food Law, they can only conduct direct sales to customers. In order for a food company to sell their products in retail stores, restaurants or over the Internet, the food must be prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen that adheres to strict codes, undergoes regular inspections and often contains expensive equipment.

“It can be difficult for a startup business to find an affordable commercial kitchen to work in,” said Johns. “Churches give entrepreneurs the opportunity to start their business and get their products out there, even before they have the money to buy their own commercial kitchen. Many companies in Macomb County have started this way.”

As a result of their meeting, Johns was able to provide Motown Soup with a list of distribution companies that may potentially lead to savings on supplies. Additionally, he put them in touch with another Macomb County small business about the possibility of including locally-made noodles. Motown Soup is also interested in starting to sell at farmers markets, so Johns connected them with the Mount Clemens Farmers Market director to submit an application.

While delicious sounding, this narrative isn’t quite the incredible story I promised in the introduction. That part comes now. Motown Soup is completely staffed by volunteers – and there are more than 100 of them. Why are so many people willing to give up hours each week to make soup? Because Motown Soup donates nearly all of their profit to other area nonprofit organizations.

Michigan sampler boxIn 2014, Motown Soup donated a whopping $100,000 to soup kitchens, free clinics, homeless shelters and food pantries. Locally, that includes Roseville-based Lighthouse Outreach Center and MCREST, Fraser-based Hope Center and Samaritan House in Washington Township. Since 2005, they have donated nearly half a million dollars and are certain to beat that by the end of this year.

Motown Soup’s products can be found at Art-Is-In Market at The Mall at Partridge Creek and can also be ordered online through their website. These mixes are great to have on hand at home for an easy meal and also make a thoughtful gift. And when you support this local business, you’re also helping many other great organizations that are fighting hunger and poverty in metro Detroit.

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.