SweetArt Bake Shop in the Shaw neighborhood is a marriage of food and art. And that works out beautifully for owners Cbabi and Reine Bayoc, who happen to be husband and wife.
“Before opening the shop, I had worked from home for years as an artist,” Cbabi says. “It works fine for us. I know that a lot of people say that they could never work with their spouse, but I know that she’s in it 100 percent. She has the business in mind. Employees move on, but we are in this for the survival of the business. There’s definitely a trust factor there.”
While Cbabi’s art lines the walls of their Shaw neighborhood shop, it’s Reine’s sweet creations and savory lunch offerings that fill the air with delightful aromas. “We are a traditional bakeshop focused on creating products from scratch,” Cbabi notes. “And we also offer a vegan, vegetarian lunch menu, as well.”
SweetArt opened in December 2008. Reine had studied English and French at Saint Louis University, but when it came time to start her career, it was baking that brought in the dough. “She was baking at home to feed my sweet tooth,” Cbabi laughs. “But then she started selling cookies to Straub's and at local farmers markets. We realized that she needed a storefront to better serve her customers, and I needed a place to display my art.”
Reine’s sugary specialties at SweetArt include a variety of cupcakes, wedding cakes and pies. “We do seasonal pies like Caramel Apple, Sweet Potato and Pumpkin; but lately, a lot of people have been enjoying her chess pies, which is a Southern style of pie that includes cornmeal as an ingredient. It's a very shallow pie with a custard filling,” Cbabi explains, adding, “Her latest was a Lemon-Lavender, and it was incredible!”
Cbabi says his wife converted many of her recipes to help meet the needs of those with special dietary needs. “She can create vegan and gluten-free options for almost anything that we make with conventional ingredients, and it’s all very tasty,” he says. “And with kids having food allergies, they can have their birthday cake, too, like a layered Elmo cake that we recently made.”
SweetArt also is very proud to feature ingredients (some organic) from local producers like Hosco Farms, Hot Skillet Farms and Good Earth Egg Company. On its vegan, vegetarian lunch menu, look for the Veggie Sweet Burger, the Vegan BLT (with house-made bacon) and the Bánh Mì, a version of the traditional Vietnamese sandwich. The quiche is another specialty of the house, with the Cheddar Broccoli and the Onions Scallions and Shallots offerings being among the most popular, according to Cbabi.
And yes, if you’re wondering, the artwork on the walls is for sale. Cbabi’s style, using acrylics on canvas, is very colorful with children’s book-like images. “It’s simplicity with a splash of cute-ism,” he says of his work. “I draw my inspiration from family—primarily from my three children—but also from people, in general. I am a character artist by trade, so I am drawn to people.” And that, too, works out beautifully, as so many are drawn to SweetArt!