5 minute read

How The Sweet Chalet Became a World Renowned Business

From a Weekend Hobby to a

WORLD RENOWNED BUSINESS

What once started as a weekend hobby now has Maressa Valentin fielding calls from the Food Network, theme parks, and some of the world’s top chefs to collaborate with. This wasn’t always the plan: She had a full-time career in the pharmaceutical industry with the occasional love for weekend-baking as a therapeutic outlet. A now 30-year culinary journey would have her give up the briefcase for a different kind of passion: baking. Before moving to Florida, Maressa started her journey in Puerto Rico, where she was featured in a local newspaper for her baking trends. Over the years, Maressa received requests for her decadent desserts for private events then stridently changed from a hobby to a new profession. She wanted to succeed and commit to investing in classes, learn the art of baking and become diligent on her new journey. “Baking is an expression: it is the only form of art that you can eat after all. From planning, to baking and executing a finished design, there is something unique that allows  an edible project to be turned into a happy memory for someone special. That immediate gratification inspires you to move forward.” 

Maressa’s hobby turned into a new adventure. “Suddenly, I had a business in my hands that required new techniques, new ideas, discipline and the challenge to learn more. When your talents are commissioned to create a celebration piece, you want to get it right and have it end with a smile.”

Through her journey, she joined the International Cake Decorating Society for inspiration and trends to share with other talented bakers. With that, she started a mission.

Once in Florida, she learned about a new opportunity: The Cottage Food Law, which allowed her to conduct a “home base business” from out of her kitchen. Resulting in a new venue of opportunities ready to be revealed. She took over her whole house with so many tools and gadgets that her husband finally said it was time for a storefront.

“…it took time to think and digest all the challenges ahead to this idea because I wanted something unique; a place with a mission, to gather, to get inspired and open to everyone. Like the inspiration you get when you visit an arts and crafts store. Your mind can go all over with ideas. I wanted to provide that same feeling for those in the edible art world.”

Maressa and her husband worked for 7 years to come up with a concept. Inspired by her own travels and colleagues, Maressa and her husband got to work, and a new creative venue emerged: The Sweet Chalet Shoppe. “We want to provide a blank canvas for people to get inspired, create sugar work, edible artwork, and masterpieces.” In Spring of 2016, she opened the doors in Sanford with a baker’s supply store, a school, and a place to gather and learn the business of sugar art.

In the first few months, it became a trendy place with an opportunity to network and share new skills with local and international pastry chefs. “There are bakers that just need encouragement, inspiration and new ideas to keep moving with the trends. That is where we come in,” Maressa said. “We found a great opportunity to reach that kind of audience and help them with their creativity and business ventures.”

The Sweet Chalet Shoppe becomes known as the home of the cake & sugar artist and a great tool for those who are operating their home base business under the Cottage Food Law. You cannot find commercial products at the grocery store for professional results. The Sweet Chalet Shoppe is the place to shop for those unique supplies. On top of that, they will be at your side, teaching you how to use those products to support your initiatives. Need ideas? Bring your list, tell them what you want to do, and they will help you get started. You can even learn the business part to succeed in your new venture.

“After The Sweet Chalet Shoppe appeared on the Food Network at least four times, we realized that our popularity had become global. We started getting emails from fans overseas, and we didn’t know why until discovering that our store had been featured on a tourism show that aired in Germany. We also notice that people who travel to Orlando from far away places, like Africa and Australia, make a point to stop by the store during their visit. If that is not enough, one of the best-known international baking publications listed The Sweet Chalet Shoppe as one of the top five retail stores in the U.S. by popular choice.” 

Sweet Chalet staff (l-r): Sam Rivera, CFO; Megan Scala; Maressa Valentin, Owner/CEO; Debbie Martinez and Jarid Altmark.  Not pictured: Camille Rivera, Product Development
Courtesy Maressa Valentin

It has not always been easy; the pandemic of 2020 makes certain of that. During this time, TSCS adjusted to the new reality, provided curbside services, brought easy baking solutions to the community, and changed their ways to keep moving forward. They expanded their online store and shifted their business approach with no hesitation.

But every sacrifice has its reward and in 2020, The Sweet Chalet, acquired the rights for an established line of Kosher food colors called Artisan Accents & Chocolate Chameleon, as well as their own line of flavors and professional baking solutions like pre-mixes, cake pastry fillings and so much more. The baking community loves it and it sold out last year. Now production for the Artisan Accents Color System is part of The Sweet Chalet Enterprises, LLC, which is new to Sanford and committed to bringing more business to our beloved city.

As big as her business has grown, Maressa never forgets her humble beginnings and her mission to share the love of baking to everyone on her path. Families can gather back in the kitchen. “It doesn’t matter what your budget is, if you bring a homemade sweet to someone’s house, it will speak in volumes because you created that with your hands of love.”

This little jewel has become an ambassador of our beautiful Sanford! Drawing visitors from over 57 countries around the world, this business has put our city on the map for international tourism.