Baking every day in her own bakery, even though she sometimes works more than 12 hours a day, is a dream come true, according to Sweet Revolution Bakery co-owner Sarah Ray.
The 33-year-old pastry chef of 13 years opened the downtown Lafayette bakery in mid-June.
“Overwhelming. It’s exciting,” she said when asked how having the business feels. “I’m not a crier, but when we did our opening, I was bawling. And it was embarrassing because I’m not very emotional.”
Her brother Jonathan McGregor, 24, who is also a remodeling contractor, is her business partner. He also helps at the bakery during special events and on weekends.
“He was in between jobs and he knew this was my dream,” she said. “He just kind of jumped in and we just started it.”
Ray’s day usually begins at about 4 a.m. and although she tries to get out the door for the day by 3 p.m., she sometimes works past 6, she confessed. Other days, she does push herself out the door for a break before coming back to finish for the day.
But she wouldn’t change a thing, she said.
On this day, she’s preparing to bake between 200 and 300 macarons for the next day’s daily special.
“The macarons are our busiest day,” she said. “Macarons are kind of an all-day project, just the time that goes into them, making the meringue, making the fillings.
“We switch up the flavor every week, and we do something seasonal and fun, too.”
The bakery sells hundreds of many of the things Ray and her staff make. Liz Currie, 24, of Lafayette, is the cake master here and she loves the job. She and Ray banter back and forth and laugh quite a bit while creating deliciousness across a large table from each other.
“I have someone who just does our pie dough, so we can keep up with that, and I do all of the other things,” Ray said.
She has five employees, not including her mom Debbie McGregor, who works the front counter. She doesn’t bake. Yet.
“Nope, but she’s gonna learn,” Ray said with a laugh as Currie and front counter worker Callum Amigleo joined in.
The store at 109 N. Fifth St. is small, but there is seating for 10 between two counters by the windows and a few small tables. If you somehow miss the sign or the brightly painted door trim, the smell of freshly baked sweets will likely draw you in when you try to walk past.
Everything here – croissants, turnovers, cupcakes, pies, cakes, cookies, quiches, muffins, brownies, blondies and galettes – is made from scratch. There are vegan and gluten-free items as well, and the bakery takes special orders.
“All of the icing is cream cheese, butter and vanilla bean-based,” Ray said. “We’re just trying to make everything yummy.”
“Especially the vanilla bean,” Currie added. “It makes everything extra delicious.”
The inside is decorated with hand-lettered menu boards and a calendar that tells you the daily specials. And the Star Wars figures, if you can find them? Those are left by Jonathan McGregor for Ray’s son Auden to find when he visits the shop.
Ray has been baking since she was young, coming up with a new bread each day when she was just 10 years old. She chuckles when she talks about “going up against the grannies at church” with her bread competing with theirs.
“I always wanted to have a bakery,” she said.
She has helped start a few restaurants along the way while perfecting her baking skills at places, including being the executive pastry chef of the 21C Museum Hotel in Cincinnati.
She moved to Lafayette when her son was 5 and she decided “it was time to be near family.”
She then began baking at the YWCA commercial kitchen and taking her goods to the Purdue and Lafayette farmers markets for two years.
“It was time to pop up a business,” she said. “We kind of got too big and people wanted more stuff and we needed more room to handle orders.”
When she saw the lease sign in the window of her current location, she had her mom check it out. From then on, everything just fell together perfectly, she said.
Her brother came up with the name.
“We went through a bunch of names,” Ray said. “He thought it was cool and there was no other bakery that had that name and we were done. We’re gonna be a sweet revolution.”
Through the farmers markets, the bakery developed a loyal following. Michelle Zanker counts herself as a regular – she has been coming here at least once a week for about five months.
“This is my Tuesday treat. I come every Tuesday,” she said. “This is my treat to myself because it’s so wonderful.
“And I love the quiche,” she added. “I splurged for Thanksgiving and got a bourbon chocolate pecan pie because it’s my husband’s favorite. It was amazing.”
Zanker was sitting at the counter with Jonathan McGregor, who she learned did remodeling and he is now working on her home, she explained.
“I am connected to this bakery!” she said while laughing.
Ray’s favorite thing to bake is pie. You might guess that from the bakery’s phone number, 765-743-7437, which spelled out is PIE-PIES.
“Because I like you can do anything with one vessel for something,” she explained.
Keeping the business going and growing is easy, Ray said.
“You learn what people like and what I like to make, and you just kind of grow and expand on that.”
She also makes cakes to order, including wedding cakes.
“We have five or six tastings coming up for weddings next year,” she said. “I don’t take on a lot of them because it’s a lot of work.”
The business also does catering for all types of occasions, from birthday parties to weddings and corporate events.
Sweet Revolution is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and closed Sunday and Monday. Prices for baked goods range from $1.95 for macarons to $15 and $18 for large loaves of bread and pies. Call 765-743-PIES or go to www.sweetrevolutionbakeshop.com.