Not far away from the corner of Broadway and Country Club, on a street shared with the west edge of Broadway Village's cluster of businesses and at the end of a row of quiet retail fronts, you'll find a call-back to your childhood: a bakery that makes everything from scratch, as if it were their own kitchen, complete with chocolate milk for the drinking.
Sugar Sweet Bakery, owned and operated by husband and wife Don and Tina Scheer, has been open for a year, since July 2013. In that time, they've worked to turn their space at the corner of a slowly-waking strip of stores (next-door neighbor Cashew Cow Dessert Parlor plans to open later this summer) into a place where Tucsonans can get a taste of homemade treats, no matter how near or far their home actually is.
Surprisingly, the Scheers aren't bakers by trade. Both Don and Tina are graphic designers (most everything in the shop, from menu boards to business cards, are their designs), working for years at a local travel marketing firm before striking out on their own with the basic desire to "create their own thing," Don Scheer says, telling me that the couple just couldn't find the desserts they wanted in this town, so they filled the niche themselves.
Everything in the shop is as fresh as possible, they say, made that morning and often with new batches throughout the day. Rarely a day goes by that the offerings stay the same from day to day, with a new selection of cookies daily.
With cookies and layer cakes as their focus, Sugar Sweet seems to be making a statement that the most basic desserts, when made lovingly and from scratch, are best ... even when they veer from traditional recipes toward the kind of surprisingly delicious homemade experiment that one might stumble upon while trying to clear a bit of pantry space.
Sitting on plates next to standards such as the chocolate chip cookie and the lemon cookie are what the Scheers call their "over-the-top" varieties, concoctions that are loaded with ingredients and, often, limited edition. The Bombshell cookie bar, for instance, was initially an effort to create a Father's Day-type treat for dads, loaded with "manly" flavors, such as toffee, pecans, bourbon ... and during the testing process, bacon.
But as Don says, the pork was just "too much." For the Scheers, the process of coming up with new recipes isn't unlike graphic design. "It's like working with typefaces and color pallets, you have to know what's going to work (together)," he tells me. "You have to know when you've gone too far ... when what you're adding is just flair, and not really bringing anything to it."
Thinking about it, design and baking aren't all that dissimilar; both jobs require a deft touch, an ability to predict what their client needs and, quite literally, a sense of taste. The difference, though, is fairly obvious:
"Well, we have to talk to people," Tina says, laughing, moments before a customer walks in to further clear out another plate of Sugar Sweet's cookies. Don agrees, saying "Yeah, instead of sitting at your desk and putting your head down, we actually have to talk," though in the bakery's case, at least they're less likely to deal with irate clients. "Not many people can get angry with a cookie in their hand," he says.
If anything, the problems have been in meeting broader customer expectations. In a world of character cakes and pastries that have been built in any shape you can imagine, Sugar Sweet's niche—basic desserts done well—doesn't fit all needs. "We get a lot of calls wanting 'Dora the Explorer,' or 'How to Train Your Dragon,' and it's unfortunate that we can't do everything for everyone," Don says of their "simple but elegant" cake stylings. "But the people who want taste over an elaborate, 'Ace Of Cakes' style cake are totally into it."
The Scheers are still looking to do a bit of expansion of their business, they say; special cake and cookie orders make up a good chunk of their earnings, and they've spoken with a few businesses and coffee shops regarding selling products, but nothing to date has quite matched what they're looking for. Ideally, Don says, they'll be able to offer fresh cookies and cakes as desserts within local restaurants, but that's not in the plans, as of yet.
For now, the Scheers will be content offering their cookies, cakes, brownies and weekend cupcake specials to their storefront customers, along with a side of homemade lemonade, just like one might have growing up.