By 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, Brian and Chemille Weddington had sold out of all their cheesecake and only a few cupcakes remained to be gobbled up by late shoppers during Schweet Foods’ opening weekend of a month-long stay in a popup Boombox store at 5846 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin.
Neighbors, relatives, friends, and fellow worshippers from Mt. Sinai Baptist Church piled in to support the new store.
Raved church-mate Reggie Mitchell, “This cheesecake is of great texture and taste — with a nice atmosphere, family love and great customer service!”
The Leaders Network, a faith-based group working to improve the quality of West Side life, cited Schweet Foods as “Business of the Month” for October.
Schweet Foods’ website advertises the cheesecake and cupcakes: “Fresh fruit, freshly made whipped cream, a wholesome crust and our signature batter is what’s inside. We don’t sell super-fancy pastries that sit on the shelf for a long time, or freeze it up and ship it to you on a plane. We’re known for made-to-order cheesecakes that are simple and tasty.”
Customers from all ethnic groups have enjoyed the cheesecakes, including event planners looking for a special dessert.
The Weddingtons first conceived the cheesecake over 10 years ago, when Brian was looking through his grandmothers’ recipes. Over the years, the Chemilles perfected their own recipe. As a black-owned business, Brian said, “We stand on the shoulders of all the entrepreneurs before us.”
From teaching an entrepreneurship class at Columbia College, Chemille knew Schweet had to spread the word and popularize the product before they could draw people to a storefront.
“You’ve got to know scale, or you will fail,” she said. So the couple sold cheesecake by word of mouth, catering for events and going to where foodies hang out — places like the Randolph Market. This year Columbia adjunct professor Gina Valentine held a social media marketing campaign for Schweet as a class project. She was pleased on Saturday with the results.
“Brian and I are college educators and Austinites, and we believe education should be affordable,” Chemille said. To give back to the community, Schweet Foods has set up a scholarship of up to $300 per semester to pay for the books and course fees of students who attend the City Colleges of Chicago. Students should apply at schweetfoods.com.
The Boombox storefront, like an art gallery, will change often, featuring new stores or exhibits. Until Nov. 26, Schweet will be open on Chicago Ave. from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with longer hours each Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Brian, a poet and actor, plans some community discussions called “Conversation and Cheesecake” during their weekends at the storefront.
The Boombox, according to boomboxchicago.com is “a prefabricated, climate controlled, pop-up storefront constructed from an up-cycled shipping container, available to rent for short term, retail, cultural, community, and marketing.”
Boombox has set up storefronts in Wicker Park and in the historic Englewood commercial corridor, steps from the new Englewood Square development complex anchored by Whole Foods and Starbucks.
The Wicker Park Boombox will host Schweet Foods for a period next spring. Next at the Chicago Ave. Boombox: Chicago Black Woman’s Business Week, Nov. 27 to Dec. 4; and Lady Lord Bath Essence Dec. 5 to Dec. 26.