Entrepreneurial Spirit Mixed with Chocolate
I will admit it. I stalked the new bakery Sugar & Salt—A small batch bakery and confectionary specializing in all things sweet. I watched the entrepreneurs David, Mary and Amy plan and then open their new bakery in Palmyra, Virginia. Social Media stalking at its best. I love anyone’s entrepreneurial spirit, and I love chocolate. Win-Win.
One morning, I noticed a specific FaceBook post. Why were customers standing in line in front of Sugar & Salt, just waiting for the shop to open? What is a Cannonball?
Cannonball: A hand-crafted, round bundle of joy. Available in a multitude of custom flavors. Loved by kids and adults alike.
I watched as the love of Cannonballs grew across the region. I cheered as Sugar & Salt announced that their beloved Cannonballs would soon be available for national shipping through online commerce.
In February 2018, I sat down with Dave Renfro, new Owner, and Editor of the updated DW&S Magazine. We were discussing unique bites and the concept for a new magazine column. We needed to launch the column with a unique product from a local company. The Cannonball by Sugar & Salt. It is unique and has built a cult following, in under a year. I told Dave that I would write a story about Cannonballs. It is a story that was a mixture of the entrepreneurial spirit and chocolate that made the Cannonball famous.
I have been a casual FaceBook friend of David Shockley for a few years. I watched David, his wife Mary and partner Amy launch Sugar & Salt in 2017. I sent David a FaceBook message and admitted to being a Cannonball Stalker. I told David that I wanted to visit and learn about the phenomenon of the Cannonball. He immediately replied, “Stalker…LOL”
Now, when you walk through the front door of Sugar & Salt, you will immediately note that they are far more than just the crafters of Cannonballs. The storefront is laden with shop-made sweets. Plus, locally roasted coffee and even retro candy. Paradise. (I also saw unicorn cupcakes) But, I was there to learn about Cannonballs.
Kim: I describe a Cannonball as a hand-crafted, round bundle of joy. What’s the Sugar & Salt official description of a Cannonball?
David: I like that! We refer to them as “A chocolate dipped smile.” Although, I’ve heard Cannonballs described in far less Family-friendly terms.
Kim: David, I know that you perfected the Cannonball over a period of a few years. What was the original, flagship Cannonball flavor? What started it all?
David: The original flavor was one giant amalgamation of flavors. It usually tasted something like a chocolate – theme park. …We all laugh at this description…
Kim: Has the success of the Cannonball been a surprise? Did you think that you would be taking online orders and shipping Cannonballs, nation-wide?
David: As soon as we unveiled them at Shockley’s Sweet Shoppe, they were an instant hit. So much so, we had to start limiting how many a single customer could walk in and purchase! We began doing Cannonball Weddings instead of Cupcake Weddings; we started taking orders for them, we had catering companies wanting them. So to answer your question, yes – it was a HUGE surprise! (Shockley’s Sweet Shoppe was located in Virginia Beach, VA and was the original home of the Cannonball. The official home of the Cannonball is now at Sugar & Salt)
Kim: I have to ask. How many Cannonballs did Team Sugar & Salt make for the Christmas 2017 shipping season?
David: We made over 5k Cannonballs, and about 3K of those were sent all over the country. The rest were purchased locally.
The Sugar & Salt Team engineered a custom box to ensure that the Cannonballs arrive safely and at the optimal temperature. Cannonballs travel in style.
Kim: What’s your favorite flavor? Is it Oreo? (Inside Social Media Joke—David tries every Limited Edition Oreo that he can find)
David: LOL. If I don’t say Oreo, does that put into question my unabashed love of said cookie? I do like the Oreo cannonball, but I have to say, right now, my favorite Cannonball is the Lake Monster / Cookie Monster Cannonball. That one is only available in-store, but we’re working on making them available online.
Kim: On a serious note, I know that you and Mary saved, sacrificed, worked multiple jobs and planned Sugar & Salt for years. You posted a behind-the-scenes countdown to your grand opening. The hard work was transparent. If you could advise a start-up entrepreneur, what would it be?
David: [blockquote align=”none” author=””]Don’t give up.
Don’t spend your own money, get your loans approved under the name of your business entity.
And don’t try and do too much. Anyone can be good at a lot of different things, but only a select few can be the very best at one, maybe two things. That’s why the best restaurants have a single-sided menu, and feature one or two main items. If you sit down to a menu that’s nine pages long, I don’t care what establishment you’re visiting; you’re setting yourself up for a mediocre at best adventure.
Kim: Sugar & Salt has two of my passions, chocolate, and coffee. Nitro Coffee, an obsession of mine. A Cannonball with a side of nitro cold brew from Snowing in Space Coffee Co is a dream. Plus, Snowing in Space Coffee Co is a Virginia start-up company based in the region. Package all of that together, and it is a win-win for Sugar & Salt and the customer. Tell us about some of the other packaged goods or retail partners that are available at Sugar & Salt. You are far more than a community bakery.
David: Thanks! We try and get the best of the best locally. Especially if it’s something, we don’t do. Bagels are one instance. If you’re not in the business of making AMAZING bagels – don’t try – that community of Bagle Lovers will crucify you over a mediocre bagel, it goes back to what I said before, stick to the things you do best. So bagels, for instance, we bring in The Bagel Ladies bagels. I’ve known the owner of that company for years. We also have Hudson & Henry Granola, Amy, Jen, Rebekah, Miriam, and I have all worked for Hope at Hudson & Henry, and we know her granola is the best around, so we have that as well. We bring in locally roasted coffee beans from Orange County Roasters, and the Nitro coffee you mentioned above. We also carry Peg’s Salt, who is local and I encourage all local artists to hang their art here if they would like to reach a broader audience.
Kim: So, Sugar & Salt is a melting pot of flavors. Some created on location, and some flavors are from unique products that you have sourced from local partners. Very nice.
David: Exactly! If we can get some beautiful apples from Fruit Hill Orchard down the road, those are going into our dishes for sure. Same goes for local produce like hot peppers! We have a Cannonball called the Heat Seeker which utilizes locally grown hot peppers as it’s ‘fuel source’ so to speak.
Kim: One last question. Can you tell us about the next Cannonball flavor debut? We are all poised to place our online orders
David: – I can give you a hint! It involves Leprechauns. …A Wink from David…
I visited Sugar & Salt in late February to meet David, Mary, and Amy. By the time you read this interview, I am sure that Sugar & Salt will have sold out of their St Patricks’ Day creations. They will be creating the next Cannonball flavor sensation.
Congratulations to David, Mary, and Amy on the opening of Sugar & Salt and the success of the now-famous Cannonball. You can visit Sugar & Salt at www.SugarAndSaltSweets.com or walk into the retail bakery at 265 Turkeysag Trail, Suite 112 Palmyra, VA.
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