Brenda Hopson is a woman with a personality so large, it spills through the open windows of The Little Tart, a 1950’s reproduction trailer from which she operates, Flour and Love Bakery. At a recent holiday Makers Fair, it was all she could do to sell pastries as she continued tempting passersby with delicious samples of their cookies, pie pops (pies on a stick!), tarts, granola, cakes, and chai infused bread loaves. Each person is drawn in, and then many lingered in conversation over coffee and sweets.
The origin story of Flour and Love is, incidentally, full of both. With the support of her wife Tina Clifford —a therapist with Kaiser Permanente—Brenda left her job, as an unhappy executive assistant, and began exploring new interests. While she had always enjoyed cooking, it was only after taking a course at Cabrillo that she realized a love of baking as well.
“Deserts are love, and that’s what Flour and Love is,” Brenda says. “It’s a little bit of flour and a whole lot of love baked into each thing you make. I started with the baking and I just haven’t turned away.”
Having only been in business for four months, the biggest challenge came before the bakery even opened. When it became clear that Flour and Love would be priced out of the new Aptos Village, Brenda says she had to change the shape of the dream. It was while searching for an alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar location that they happened upon the precursor to “the Little Tart.”
And so the dream-shape took the form of a vintage trailer. Built from the ground up specifically to serve as an upscale bakery platform, the Little Tart includes a copper backsplash, two refrigerators, and a sleek La Marzocco espresso machine manned by their barista, Hani. Internally, the Tart is decked out, but on the outside, it was designed to be unassuming and thus easy to incorporate for any type of event.
“She’s retro and comfortable for Santa Cruz by day, but then in the evening time she can dress up and go out too,” Brenda says, pointing out the understated logo etched into the glass of the long pop-open window. The rich, wooden counters, filamented lighting, and retro pastel green cake stands add more charm.
As it turns out, the shift away from a brick and mortar has had some unintended benefits. Santa Cruz doesn’t lack for bakeries —there are new ones opening all the time— but there’s nothing quite like Flour and Love.
“We have a lot of great bakeries in this town,” Brenda says, “But they all start to look the same after a while. And there’s a whole bunch of young people, here in Santa Cruz, with a palate different from the old-school bakeries.”
Their business model gives them the flexibility to attend events across the county. Equally at home at a winery, wedding, or farmers market, Flour and Love also has the capacity to serve beer and wine or signature cocktails, with or without their baking fare, at private parties and events.
Additionally, without the crushing press of monthly rent, Brenda can keep the quality of her products high. She speaks constantly about her community partners, whose products she displays proudly on the counter. The coffee they use to make a killer cappuccino, for example, comes from Aptos locals, 11th Hour Coffee. A partnership with Terra Prana Farms will supply edible flowers for their baked goods next season. “We purchase locally and try, always, to support locally owned businesses.” When we spoke with them at a recent Beer Thirty event, Brenda had used a bottle of Beer Thirty Cake Stout to flavor some German chocolate cake bites and a bottle of Cherry Chocolate Stout to infuse their Salted Caramel Tart.
These relationships are borne of the fact that the community is what makes the business of Flour and Love. Even as I stood by, asking them questions between orders, a customer started with a coffee, then ordered a cookie and ended by inviting them to set up at her winery. By establishing relationships with their community members, they have no shortage of clients. Most weekends find them at one place or another. And almost all of their orders are coming through their social media channels, something Brenda admits has been new and challenging to master.
Moving into 2019, Flour and Love will be looking to expand their vegan line of products. They are quick to have people try their vegan products to show that taste never has to be compromised to meet dietary needs. In addition, they are already filling up with events, including March’s, “She is Beautiful,” run on West Cliff Drive.
(All photos used courtesy of Flour and Love.)
(All photos used courtesy of Flour and Love.)
Thank you to our discoverHER Blogger: Amanda Heidt