Running the length of the room, an expansive table is set as if for The Last Supper. Although in addition to bread and wine, it’s arrayed with quinoa salad, faux gras and quiche, and instead of apostles, attendants are the pillars of Brooklyn’s dessert community–including delegates from Blue Marble, The Good Batch, Megpies, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Baked, Granola Lab, Whimsy and Spice, Raaka Chocolate, Salty Road, Liddabit Sweets and Bien Cuit, and–holding court on either side of the banquet–the congregation’s co-organizers, husband-and-wife owners from One Girl Cookies and Ample Hills.
It’s quite a sight, this assembly: a sit-down between successful entities who could so easily be cast as competitors. But instead of having a parley about a variety of sugar-related betrayals, the goal of these monthly get-togethers–christened Brooklyn SweetUps–is very much the opposite, calling for a coming together for the betterment of all of their businesses.
“When I was a teacher, I had colleagues, a team of people I could commiserate with and bounce things off of. But as a small business owner, you can feel very much alone,” Ample Hills’ Jackie Cuscuna explained. “So instead of just crossing paths at tasting events every so often, I wanted to see what would happen if a bunch of us made a point of meeting up, partly for the sake of simply joking and chatting, but also in order to figure out how to collaborate.”
And indeed, joint ventures are already commonplace amongst the group, from Ample Hill’s own crossover with Baked on their Black & Walt ice cream sandwiches, to One Girl and Raaka’s synergistic chocolate cake. These have paved the road for fanciful musings about an all-star super dessert (if it happens, we call dibs as front page fodder for our magazine), as well as large scale tasting events like a “Butter Ball,” with proceeds going to charity.
“The level of support between all of us is so normal, it’s almost weird. Before I met the guys from Baked, I assumed it would be awkward because we both sell whoopie pies, but it’s just not that way,” mused David Crofton from One Girl. “A company that’s been around forever goes through the same challenges and hardships as one that’s just starting out, and while we’re at different stages in our careers, we have insight to share that could potentially benefit us all. Ample Hills has an outpost in Disney World. None of us have that. Megpies has a deal with Starbucks. None of us has that. Raaka has national distribution. Everyone has something to bring to the table.”
“When you’re running your own independent business, you can’t exactly sit around the water cooler and complain about your boss,” Crofton continued, “but if you connect with others in the same boat, you can share ideas or rag on the NYC health department. Hell, with the relationships we’ve developed with our neighbors in Industry City, we can literally borrow sugar–just on a really large scale.”
Photos by Max Branigan