We asked five questions of Bobby Hamilton, owner of Sweet Talk in Greensboro.
How did you come to own a cake shop?
As I was growing up, my mother always raised me and my siblings saying, “Don’t no woman want a man who can’t cook and clean and take care of himself.” Now I know how to clean and cook.
I’ve always loved cake. Over the last three-and-half years, as I was traveling for work — I was in HVAC as a store manager and then a territory manager — I would see other cake shops when traveling. I was like, if someone else can do a cake shop, I can do it, too.
Last year, I got the opportunity to leave my old company and the question was to either go to another corporation or step out in faith, to take the opportunity to say, “We’re just gonna do this.” I drove around Guilford County and Kernersville looking for businesses that were for sale. Sweet Talk was number 11.
I walked in and loved the atmosphere. I would stop by two or three times a week and sit there and watch their business. Eventually, they started asking me, “Do you mind watching the counter and serving the counter while we go get some supplies?” They believed in me that much. We signed the contract Jan. 1. (He moved the shop from its original location in July.)
You were raised by a single mother, and then you yourself became a single father of two daughters that are now grown. What impact did your childhood have on your parenthood?
When I was 11, I got to meet my father. That was the last interaction I had with him. I said to myself, “For every Bobby after me — the 21, the 47 — you’re going to be in your children’s life.” That 11-year-old holds me accountable ‘til today ‘cause I know how much he wanted a father in his life.
I worked third shift at Cone Mills. My brothers helped me get through those early years. I did everything I needed to do because I owed it to an 11-year-old boy who said he would be in his children’s life. The hardest things were learning to braid, but once I learned to part and braid, I guess I made some of my female family members mad because I did it so effortlessly. You’ve got to get them up every morning to get them ready for a bus that comes at 7:45, so, you learn.
I had to do it for 12 years. Girls will change a man. My daughters made me sensitive to stuff. Was it hard? Yes. But I’d still do it again because I love them.
Tell us about the helpers in your shop.
Donovan and Linda Simmons are a wonderful couple I met almost seven years ago at church. Ever since then, we’ve been great friends and working partners. Donovan bakes cakes. He bakes a Red Velvet cake that we serve now. I was like, “This is not the Red Velvet I’ve tasted before. This is moist. This is so much different.” We now feature that Red Velvet cake in the shop.
Me and Donovan have a great working relationship. I asked him, “If I was to do this, would you be interested in helping me out?” He was like, “Absolutely!” I’ve always looked at them as family. They’ve always been there for me.
What are your most popular cakes and why?
The Red Velvet and the White Velvet. The White Velvet is our shop’s special blend. We call it White Velvet because it is very smooth, not because it has chocolate in it. It’s not yellow cake, it’s not white cake. It’s our flavor.
We don’t put water in any of our cakes and we don’t put shortening, vegetable oil, palm oil or lard in our icing. We use butter and cream cheese and powdered sugar which makes the icing a lot smoother. People love our Hummingbird Cake because it’s vegan, other than the icing. It has no eggs or milk in it. It has pineapple, bananas and pecans. People love our Salted Almond Caramel. You can taste the higher quality of ingredients. My favorite cake is the Pineapple Hype. I love pineapple.
What else do you offer besides cake?
We make cookies and cupcakes to order. I always say we’re a cake shop, so you’re not going to come in here and find 20 different flavors of cupcakes. You might find a few when I bake extra for an order. We’re doing some ice cream. We also offer coffee and espresso drinks.
— As told to Carl Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-373-7145