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Cakettes Coffee Shop selected as “new” home for #BigDOCC

If you’re not familiar with #BigDOCC, you should start by telling yourself to ignore all of the “I’m not a morning person” messages your brain is sending you right now, and set your alarm to be on time for 8:00am next Tuesday morning. This is the golden hour where we, your local startup community, connect over hot coffee and delicious breakfast items to discuss what’s on your agenda, and we encourage our attendees to help us source stories throughout the week on our Flipboard that we use to guide each weekly discussion. There are local Open Coffee Clubs that meet all over DFW (9 in total), and you can check out a full list of them here.

The downtown Dallas Open Coffee Club has recently moved back into one of its former spaces (formerly Serj), so we thought we’d interview the new owner to learn a bit more about this downtown gem. We recently sat down with Tessa Dagger, the founder and owner of Cakettes Coffee Shop to hear her story of how she ended up taking over and reviving the space.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Tessa, and I was born and raised in Western Massachusetts. I’ve been married to my husband, Chris, for almost 12 years now, and he comes all the way from England. We live in Richardson with my brother and grandfather, who are both disabled. I’m a homebody, so my hobbies are quiet and self-contained– reading, writing, graphology, art… I’m a huge sci-fi and fantasy nerd, but never had the social energy to join any particular groups and get involved much beyond reading.

What is the story/inspiration behind Cakettes?

So (what feels like many many) years ago when it started becoming popular, I came across the recipe for Red Velvet Cake Balls online. I tried a batch, and immediately fell in love with the process– and my friends and family fell in love with the results. I couldn’t resist tinkering with the recipe, developing new flavors and playing with decorations, until finally one day my husband (newly arrived in the country after an incredibly long immigration process) in the kitchen filled wall to wall with balls in various stages of completion, turned around to me and said: “Do you want to just open a business?”

I laughed. “Of course not!” Entrepreneurship was NEVER a part of my life plans. I was going to be a teacher; I’d decided the when I was six years old (shout out to Mrs. Aucoin from Warren Elementary… sorry I never made it happen)!

“No, seriously,” he said. “I’ve run some numbers and I think we could really make this something. You’re obviously good at it. Why not give it a try?” I shrugged my assent, and thus began the crazy ride that resulted in what you see today.

How long have you been in business for?

We opened our first Cakettes Coffee Shop in Warren, Massachusetts on December 6, 2012.

When/why did you make the move to Dallas and decide to open a shop downtown?

About three years ago, my husband was offered a promotion at his job which would require relocating to Texas. After he had tirelessly supported my surprise career in a field I’d never even thought about, how could I deny him the opportunity to pursue his own dream? My heart broke to leave everything I had worked so hard to build… but holding him back would hurt more, and there was truly no other choice I could have made.

Photo credit: Tessa Dagger


I sold Cakettes to Rachel, the young lady who had worked beside me for the last few years in MA, gave her my blessing, and washed my hands completely of the brand. Surely it would be far too much work and silliness to start ALL over again in a new state. No, I was saying goodbye forever, I had done it well and I could just get a regular job and… yeah. That would be fine, just fine.

…or not.

After a year of working a regular job in Texas, I was depressed and frustrated and totally lacking any kind of creative outlet. I dabbled with drawing, painting, baking, but there’s only so much amatuer art and practice pastries one house can contain. I eventually returned to making cake balls. Chris noticed, and suggested we look into starting up again. After a few months of token resistance, I agreed that it seemed like Cakettes was where I really felt like I belonged, and we began working towards the eventual goal of opening a shop, while applying for the proper licensing to operate out of our home in a much smaller capacity in the meantime.

Those long term plans received a big push to the immediate future when, thanks to our HVAC unit dying in July of 2017,  I landed a corporate client, Rescue Air. I prepared a box  of Cakettes to say thanks for the great service, and they instantly wanted to send them to their customers as a way to say thanks for the business. Suddenly our “yeah, maybe someday” plans were given a turbo boost into “holy cow, right now– if not sooner!”

Finding the spot in downtown Dallas was entirely my husband’s doing again.

“What would you like for Christmas?” I asked him in late October. “A Go-Pro or a fancy pilot’s jacket?”

“Ooh! Go-Pro!” he replied instantly. “What do you want?” I shrugged and replied, tongue-in-cheek, “A coffee shop.”  

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. He starting combing the internet for commercial property listings to rent that would be suitable. By December, we had signed the lease at the Hartford Building in downtown Dallas. I had my coffee shop for Christmas.

What makes you different than other bakeries & coffee shops in downtown Dallas?

Cakettes! We really focus on the specialty cake balls that bear our trademark, and work to constantly improve and evolve that main product. We are also one of the only coffee shops in the area that actually does all of our own baking and preparing of all of the treats we serve.  Nothing is bought in, it’s all handmade right here with lots of love! Another difference is the coffee– noticing that nearly all the coffee shops in the area had the same one or two brands of coffee, we opted to use Addison Coffee Roasters after shopping around for something different, but still local. Their coffee and their people are truly amazing, and we really wanted to offer customers something they couldn’t also get everywhere else. We know we have a loooong way to go in terms of offering entertainment and variety compared with other coffee shops, however, and we are working towards expanding our appeal.

We are also one of the only coffee shops in the area that actually does all of our own baking and preparing of all of the treats we serve.

Photo credit: Tessa Dagger

Have there been any challenges along the way?

Dallas is certainly different than any city I’ve ever lived or worked in. When one is new to the experience, there will of course be new challenges. For one thing, I’ve never had a business anywhere that didn’t have a dedicated parking lot. Finding ways to adapt to this new environment is sometimes daunting, but still invigorating and inspiring in many ways.

Do you rent out the space or host any events there regularly?

We absolutely rent out the back room. In the few short months we’ve been open, we have already had the pleasure of hosting such events as training workshops, bridal showers and ladies’ luncheons. And of course we’re delighted to have the BigDOCC on Tuesday mornings. To me, a coffee shop is about community. It’s about that safe place to share experiences and talents and passions, not just grabbing a cup of joe to survive the work day (although that is nothing to dismiss either). Once things are a bit more settled and I can step back from the grind a bit, I am determined to pour my efforts into expanding those evening opportunities. In the meantime, we’re looking to add a couple couches and a variety of secondhand books for purchase or perusal, and generally make the space more homey and inviting.

Is there anything else you’d like our audience to know about you or your business?

I care. I care so, so much. I derive a lot of my personal worth and value from working hard and pleasing people. There’s nothing I hate more than not feeling proud of what I am offering, and nothing more soul crushing than what I proudly offer not being enough. Running a business is kind of like raising a kid. You love it and it can be immensely rewarding, but it’s hard and thankless work, you have no idea what you’re doing most of the time, the entire world will judge your efforts, and everybody has a “better” idea of how to do it!

Thank you, Dallas. Thank you for being here with me, and for allowing me the opportunity to serve your cake(tte) and caffeine needs.