Pam Jesseman and Heather Marquis say it has been challenging at times but the pair is pleased at the success and growth of their business.
They have found a steady and loyal stream of customers for their delectable and luscious baked goods, which include whoopie pies, snowballs, cookies, cakes, bread, cupcakes, Danish, tarts, and seasonal treats such as meat pies and hot cross buns.
Then there is a whole line of canned goods such as fiddleheads, cucumbers, pickles, dilly green beans, smoked pickled eggs, relishes, and jellies.
All of the baked and canned goods sold at Sweet Mamas share one thing in common.
"Our stuff is all homemade," said Jesseman.
Two years ago both Jesseman and her daughter were correctional officers at Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility. Marquis was also enrolled in the culinary arts baking program at White Mountains Community College. As part of her course she was required to do a 400-hour internship. Working full-time 3 to 11, Marquis said she knew a traditional internship would be impossible. Her college advisor agreed she could fulfill the requirement by setting up a booth and selling baked goods weekly at the Farmers Market.
Marquis said she already knew she wanted to start her own baking business.
She turned to her mother to partner with her in the venture. Jesseman liked to cook at home and had taken some classes at the King Arthur including a four-day class on bread making.
"She talked me into it," Jesseman said. "I liked taking the classes but it's not like I wanted a business."
The pair worked out of Marquis's kitchen, which she had got inspected and certified. The two would cook for two days, sometimes working though the night, to generate enough products for the market. Both were still working full-time at the state prison although Jesseman used some time she had accommodated. The two also credit the support and help of their husbands.
Jesseman recalled their first market was a flop because they didn't have the right produce mix and people did not know them. But they learned and word got around about the two women and their baked goods. By the end of the summer, they were a hit. People were stopping Marquis on the street and at work to ask about placing orders.
"We were doing extremely well," Jesseman said.
Encouraged by Laura Jamison, coordinator of the market and local WREN employee, the two began looking for a location to establish a full-time business. Driving by one day, Marquis noticed the empty storefront at 751 Main Street.
"We liked the location," said Jesseman.
There was a lot of space and the owner was willing to allow them to extensively renovate and install a commercial kitchen. With the help of their husbands and friends, the women did most of the work themselves, avoiding the need to get bank financing.
The city allowed the two a four-day permit to catch the Valentine Day business but the business opened formally in March 2012. Right after the opening, Jesseman quit her job at the state prison to focus on the bakery full-time. Marquis still works at the prison, working at the bakery before and after her shift at the prison and on her days off.
The bakery is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
The two women report Sweet Mamas is famous for its snowballs and whoopie pies. The shop serves eight varieties of whoopee pies ranging from the traditional chocolate with crème filling to pumpkin, carrot and cream cheese filling, maple flavored with syrup from Bisson's sugar house, an orange blossom special and even a breakfast whoopie pie made with an oatmeal cake, maple filling and bacon.
Then there are snowballs – a local favorite sweet treat. Sweet Mamas makes the traditional snowball rolled in coconut. But they also offer a muddy ball, which is rolled in crushed Oreos and has proven popular with customers.
The bakery offers nine types of homemade bread – white, wheat, harvest grain, oatmeal, English muffin, cinnamon swirl, cinnamon raisin swirl, jalapeño cheddar, and bacon cheddar.
Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies are always in stock and the bakery makes a variety of other cookies as well. One specialty is a breakfast cookie, which is an oatmeal peanut butter cookie with apple, carrot, coconut, and raisins mixed in to provide energy for the day ahead.
There are seasonal items like meat and holiday pies, hot cross buns, dipped strawberries, cannolies, and white chocolate fruit tarts. The bakery also does special orders including cakes for all occasions and dessert tables.
Jesseman specializes in canning and the list of items for sale is long – dilly corn, green beans, carrots, asparagus, fiddleheads, cucumbers, eggs, hot picked sausage, and dilled garlic as well as jellies, relishes, and piccalilli.
"If it can be canned, I do it basically," she said.
The bakery even makes homemade dog treats for the four-legged members of the family.
A new addition to the menu is coffee by the cup and Jesseman said the pair plan to expand their breakfast offerings as well.
The bakery has the distinction of being the first vendor to take advantage of the Farmers Market to test the market for their products and develop a customer base to allow them to successfully open up a year-around business. Despite the fact they now have a thriving business on Main Street, the two say they will continue to participate in the Farmers Market again this summer.