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    Saturday, October 01, 2022

    Sweet Momma’s Bakery is a family affair

    Jean Smith, owner of Sweet Momma’s Bakery in Norwich, poses with her top-selling carrot cake. (photo by Kevin Gorden)

    The newest bakery in Norwich is truly a family affair some 40 years in the making. Sweet Momma’s Bakery opened Dec. 29 at 87 Town St., near the Norwichtown Green. Owner Jean Smith, though, has been baking as a side business since 1978, offering desserts and, later, catering service. She also worked part-time at Shop-Rite Supermarket, on top of her full-time job as a judicial marshal at Norwich Superior Court.

    “Actually, I first got interested in baking while in grammar school,” said Smith. “I noticed my classmates had homemade treats from home, while I had store-bought items. I vowed my children would have homemade goodies.”

    Smith retired from her judicial marshal’s job in 2017. but returned in a part-time role two years later. The COVID-19 pandemic then forced her being laid off.

    “I was then just sitting at home, doing nothing, when my sister, Brenda Stone, who’s also my life coach, told me it’s time to get my business going,” Smith said. “I was skeptical at first, but then my daughter kept pushing me as well.

    “I was getting pushed from two directions,” she laughed.

    Smith says she kept eyeing the Town Street location for years, but it had been occupied, most recently by a hair salon. When it did become vacant, she immediately contacted the landlord, who Smith says, got back to her in five minutes.

    Sweet Momma’s menu changes daily: “whatever I feel like cooking that day,” said Smith. “My number-one selling item is carrot cake. People ask me for the recipe, but I don’t give it out.”

    She also lists Hungarian nut crescent cookies as a big seller, noting it’s something you can’t get in the area. Her chocolate chip cookies are also popular.

    “I can’t keep them in stock,” she said. “I have to sometimes make as many as three batches a day.”

    The bakery also offers other delicacies, such as quiches. Breakfast items are offered on Saturdays, but there are plans to expand that to other days. There are also plans to expand the bakery’s space, with lease negotiations underway for a vacant spot next to the existing business.

    “I want to use that so I can have a full kitchen for my catering business,” said Smith.

    The additional space could also be used to host tea parties, according to Smith’s daughter, and bakery business manager, TeNasha Smith. Once the pandemic eases, plans are in the works to add some tables for patrons to sit down and enjoy their bakery purchases.

    One thing you won’t find at Sweet Momma’s, though, is vegan and gluten-free items. A slogan painted on one of the interior walls states “It’s all about the butter,” and that advice is strictly followed.

    “Everything I cook with has butter in it,” said Jean Smith. “The butter is what gives everything its flavor. Real butter. If you want vegan or gluten-free, sorry, this isn’t your place.”

    Smith says her catering business offers a wide variety of food — Spanish, Italian, soul — a little bit of everything.

    “This is fun”, she said. “This is a family business. My two sisters, my daughter, my granddaughter, and my mother all help. It’s something for all of us to do.”

    Smith’s sister and life coach, Brenda Stone, is especially pleased to see the business thriving.

    “Jean always loved baking. She never got tired of doing it. I told her there was no better time to start something like a business, than in the middle of a storm, such as a pandemic. It was a process I had to take her through to convince her to start the business.”

    Smith says they already have their regular customers, who stop in on their way to work, or who are walking around the neighborhood.

    “They say they’re so glad we opened, and that we fill a need here, since a lot of people don’t want to get their bakery items from a large store. Just not the same as what you can get from a small, neighborhood bakery.”

    Norwich resident Kara Kochanski-Vendola and her daughter Berkley are among the regulars.

    “We love it”, Kochanski-cendola. “It’s our treat every Friday after school. Go to the gym, and then to Sweet Momma’s. I love the atmosphere. It’s makes you feel very comfortable.”

    Sweet Momma’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Artwork on the front window of Sweet Momma’s Bakery in Norwich. (photo by Kevin Gorden)
    Kara Kochanski-Vendola of Norwich is a regular customer at Sweet Momma’s Bakery. (photo by Kevin Gorden)
    The display case at Sweet Momma’s Bakery in Norwich. (photo by Kevin Gorden)
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