Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Old Orcutt gets a little sweeter with the addition of Heart & Sugar
BY SHELLY CONE
Finding a tiny specialty shop among the more common strip mall scene is a treasure. Discovering it’s a candy shop is a dream. For a chocolate lover, actually walking into the Heart & Sugar shop is almost heavenly.
Sunlight streams through the small shop, filling it with a golden tint as powder blue chalkboards hanging on the soft white walls display information about the various confections. Gold trim and the occasional pop of pink color give the shop a fun and flirty vibe.
Alexandra Thompson officially opened the Heart & Sugar shop in July but she’s built a reputation around the Santa Maria Valley by selling her sweets at farmers’ markets and artisan markets. She said having a permanent location in Old Orcutt has been exciting because of the business and cultural growth that is happening all around her.
“Things are starting to happen. A year and a half ago it [was] pretty dead, but now [there are] so many new places and cool shops, I think it’s starting to happen,” Thompson said in a deep Russian accent.
In her shop, pastel macarons sit in neat rows in white and gold boxes with flavors like vanilla-basil and sparkling lemon-raspberry. Chocolate truffles tempt with flavors like dulce de leche, raspberry, malted milk, and peanut butter. The best part is each adorable little treat tastes as incredible as it should.
Thompson initially moved to Orcutt from the Los Angeles area to find a good place to raise her young son. At the prompting of her cousin who lived in Orcutt, Thompson paid a visit. She was impressed by the lack of traffic, friendly people, and the temperate weather. “I thought, my God, that’s heaven,” she said.
It didn’t take long after that for her to start plans for her shop. Because her clientele was originally meant to be the children at her son’s birthday parties, she wanted to create a fun and exciting atmosphere—a look contrary to her personal preference. “Because it was more for the kids, it needed to be something exciting—light and bright—because I’m like black, gray, stainless steel, clean contemporary. But for the kids, you want to do something exciting,” she said.
Tucked into a small space on Clark Avenue next to an art gallery and a winery, Thompson has so far enjoyed success. She nearly sells out of her confections most days that she is open, and she definitely sells out on the weekends.
She’s also found the business community supportive. She said she has collaborated with other businesses to host joint events like gallery showings and wine tastings at places like Nagy Wines and Presqu’ile Winery.
“Everyone is so supportive. They send me clients. It’s unbelievable,” she said.
Her biggest support comes from the very person who inspired her to start Heart & Sugar: her 6-year-old son, Vlad. She called Vlad her No. 1 supporter and salesperson. He even created a commercial for the shop and placed it on YouTube. “He loves it. How can he not? His mama’s making candies,” Thompson said.
True to her word Vlad walked into the shop recently after playing outside with friends, and quickly pointed out his favorites to me.
“I love the macarons the most. I like the scones as my second. My mom is planning to bring them in but she’s still working on them,” Vlad said.
As infatuated as he is with the idea of his mother owning a candy shop, it was Vlad himself who was the impetus for the endeavor.
Thompson was looking for birthday party ideas but she was worried about nutrition. “I’m very obsessed with organic, and health, and not processed foods, but I cannot find any desserts or sweets like that,” she said.
So she decided to lean on her education—she has a master’s degree in food science from Russia—and make her own. Thompson incorporates a lot of organic ingredients in her confections and high quality Belgian chocolate.
Vlad said he gets to enjoy being the occasional candy taster when his mom is working on something new. And a kid after my own heart, he said he never tires of having chocolate around.
Sun Editor Shelly Cone can be reached at email@example.com.
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