It’s not really surprising that Susan Sarich is the owner of the expanding bakery chain, SusieCakes, which had a “soft” opening this past Saturday on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park. The Chicago native went off to Cornell because of its reputation as a premier school in hospitality management. It then took her a decade of working for others to realize the best option for a woman was to start her own company.
“Throughout my career, I kept seeing too many phenomenal women leave jobs in the hospitality because it was too challenging to balance work and family life,” she said, as workers were putting finishing touches on her newest retail bakery. “I kept thinking there had to be a better business model that would allow women to juggle family and other non-career commitments.”
The newest SusieCakes is the seventh store that began in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. There are now four retail bakeries in Southern California and, with the Menlo opening, three in Northern California. In addition to cakes, the bakery offers cupcakes, pies, cheesecakes, cookies and bars, including Whoopie Pies, which are currently very popular.
“Originally the idea was to franchise the business,” she said. “But, I really wanted to be a presence at each store. With this seventh store, I’m realizing that’s getting increasingly more difficult.”
At the same time, Susan believe that the more stores she opens, the more there will be opportunities for women. Each store has a general manager and head baker, as well as sales people and assistant bakers, most of whom are women.
The official opening of the Menlo Park store is Saturday, March 24. Between 1:00 and 4:00 pm, people who stop by will be treated to 50s music and dancing, kid’s games, photos with a vintage Mustang, and other activities.
All of the baked goods sold are make from scratch at each bakery, many from the recipes Susan inherited on note cards from her two grandmothers, Madeline and Mildred.
“My favorite is the vanilla celebration cake, which was one of Madeline’s recipes,” she said. “I view cakes as part of life’s milestones.”
“The blue color of the frosting was the color of Mildred’s mixing bowl. I have it, but I don’t use it because I’m afraid I’ll break it.”
“Most important, I think a bakery should stake its claim on great vanilla!”
Photo by Irene Searles