All American Sweets was the confection of chef Bill Kloos Jr., who moved from St. Louis to Memphis to take over the operation of Yia-Yia’s Euro Café and later would go on to open Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar.
His dreams, though, were bigger and sweeter, and once he convinced his parents, Bill and Lynne, to relocate from the Midwest to the Bluff City, the specialty dessert business was off and running.
Well, maybe not quite running.
Bill Kloos Jr. and his parents, Bill and Lynne, have opened Frost Bake Shop in the Laurelwood Shopping Center, where they will sell their line of “engineered cakes.”
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
“This really started in their apartment making a cake a day, or two cakes a day,” Kloos Jr. said. “Where now we’re making 75 to a hundred a day.”
And beginning earlier this month, there was a need to bake even more as the Kloos family opened Frost Bake Shop, the retail arm of All American Sweets. Located in Laurelwood Shopping Center, just down the walkway from another sweet Memphis institution, Dinstuhl’s Fine Candies, Frost sits in a corner bay recently vacated by clothier James Davis, which has hemmed in its total retail space.
A week before the grand opening, Frost’s 2,000-square-foot store was a tangle of conduit, extension cords and cabling as work was underway to ready the space, designed by Veronica Tansey of Fleming Associates Architects PC, for its big day.
Kloos takes pride in the business being family-owned, and the tradition of baking with family recipes and only from scratch with no commercial mixes. The menu has custom birthday, wedding, layer and seasonal cakes, along with cupcakes, pies, cheesecakes and cookies. A staff of 15 works the 5,000-square-foot All American Sweets baking facility in Bartlett, and Kloos said the biggest problem for them is a good one to have: “How do we make sure we make enough stuff to keep this place going?”
Product will be delivered daily to Frost for purchase, pickup for custom orders or eating in at the small seating space. A few items will be baked onsite and some light decorating and detail work will be done as well.
“Our goal is if somebody comes in and wants six cakes, we’ll have them,” Kloos said.
When the idea for a retail space was initiated, Kloos thought immediately of the heavily trafficked East Memphis intersection of Poplar Avenue and Perkins Road Extended. As to their specific location, credit is given to the management of Laurelwood, particularly leasing and management agent Leonard Lurie, who took the time to discuss the business plan and visit the Bartlett facility. Kloos said Laurelwood “made them feel wanted.”
Kloos appeared unfazed as the sounds of saws and hammers clanged around him. And he doesn’t have much to worry about as demand is high and his creations are well-known, even if their origin is not yet.
The cakes are served at restaurants all over town, including Lucchesi’s Ravioli & Pasta Co., Fleming’s, Bogie’s Delicatessen & Catering Co., Soul Fish Café, Boneheads and new neighbor Bronte Bistro in the Booksellers at Laurelwood.
At Lucchesi’s on Sanderlin Avenue at Mendenhall, manager Mike Robilio said the treats they offer from All American Sweets – strawberry, caramel, coconut, lemon and banana cakes, Mississippi Mud and cupcakes – all sell well. Despite the opposing nature of retail over wholesale, and the dessert competition in town, Robilio has high hopes for the Kloos’ newest venture.
“I think it’s great,” Robilio said. “I welcome them and I hope they do well. I think they will, they seem to have a great group of people there.”
“We’re kind of the best-kept secret,” Kloos said. “There are hundreds of thousands of people eating our cakes every year and they have no idea who’s making them.”
Kloos said he believes a retail presence will push people to those restaurants as his staff is able to better share their availability.
“We’ll sell 10,000 cakes to restaurants this year,” Kloos said. And with 300 wedding cakes made in a year, he added, “The great thing is that everybody loves cake.”
Bill Kloos the elder is an engineer by trade and Kloos the younger took that to heart nearly 10 years ago when new to the bakery business.
“We engineer cakes,” Kloos said. “We took cakes apart to find out what makes it moist, what makes it tender, why it’s so good. That’s how we got here today.”