Norrinda Brown Hyatt got bit by the entrepreneurial bug about the same time Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein opened his Liberties Walk mixed-use development in Northern Liberties.
As Brown Hyatt tells it, the principal of Tower Investments sought to secure some quality commercial tenants for his new project, and he was open to new and different ideas.
That suited Brown Hyatt, and her mother, Linda Hinton, just fine. The two had a plan for a small bakery whose aromas would surely draw foot traffic.
Fast forward more than six years, and you’ll find Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in the midst of a much-needed transition from its original space to a larger storefront on Second Street in the heart of Northern Liberties.
But that’s not to say Brown Hyatt regrets any of her time at the Liberties Walk location.
“We’re really happy to still be in Northern Liberties, which was one of our main goals,” Brown Hyatt said in a June 17 phone interview from Washington, D.C., where she lives and works by day as a government attorney.
As is often the case with small businesses that grow outward, Brown Betty needed a larger footprint in which to conduct operations. Since opening in 2005, the family-owned business has opened two satellite locations, “petite boutiques,” if you will. One at 269 S. 20th St. in Rittenhouse, the other inside Center City’s Liberty Place.
Both satellite locations are smaller in size than the flagship Northern Liberties “dessert boutique,” which makes all the goods sold in all three places.
Brown Betty was designed with Brown Hyatt’s grandmother, Elizabeth Ruth Hinton, in mind, since the matriarch enjoyed baking. Every Sunday, as the business’s brochure tells it, the brood would go to grandmom’s house, where they would be treated to all manner of cakes, pies and other tasty treats.
“A bakery was a natural pick because it’s something that we had been doing for so long,” Brown Hyatt said on her decision to open Brown Betty.
Surprisingly, the rents in Northern Liberties at the time made it affordable to open her business in that up-and-coming neighborhood, Brown Hyatt said. Today, the spot is undeniably in demand.
Brown Hyatt credits her six years at the Liberties Walk storefront with helping to put her bakery on the map, although it came to the point where the 500 square feet just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
Now, the flagship location is just up the block, at 722 N. 2nd St. The almost tripled-in-size layout enables employees to make more special order cakes for the holidays and special occasions — the red velvet cake is a particular birthday favorite — and gives customers more space in which to lounge.
During a June 17 visit to the new Northern Liberties space, publicist Nicole Paloux talked about the importance of operating out of a larger building.
“It allows us to have more baking facilities to service our other locations,” she said.
The Brown Betty product has grown in demand, Paloux said, from the ever-popular cupcake to the cakes, pies and other one-of-a-kind treats. Count the “sweet potato pot” among the latter, the pie-like square a popular item at the walk-in business.
Cupcakes come in varieties such as the “Alice’s Two Step,” consisting of almond pound cake and buttercream, the “Hattie Don’t Play,” made of chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream, and the “Strawberry Letter,” which contains strawberry pound cake and either strawberry or chocolate buttercream.
Other sweet treats, which are only available at the Northern Liberties location, (the other two stores only offer the cupcakes), include the “Apple Brown Betty,” akin to an apple crisp, consisting of fresh apples, raisins and spices atop a bread crumb crust and finished with oats and homemade rum sauce; and the rice pudding.
The latter, Paloux said, is part of what’s called the line of “nostalgia desserts,” or items that hark back to Brown Hyatt’s grandmother’s days.
The business’s popularity can mostly be attributed to the homemade ingredients used, (nothing is mass produced), and the attention to customer service, Paloux said.
Then, of course, there’s the simple fact that stuff here is mouth-watering.
“Very good. That’s one thing I can say,” sales associate Leah Ingeno said during the visit to Northern Liberties location.
Paloux said the business has gained quite the reputation in recent years, something proved by the fact that two weddings she recently attended featured Brown Betty desserts.
“People are loyal Brown Betty fans,” she said.
To Brown Hyatt, who, at 33, has already made a name for herself in both the entrepreneurial and legal worlds, things have progressed along almost exactly according to plan.
“I couldn’t have asked for it to have happened better,” she said. “Overall, I would say business has been great.”
As for her own taste, Brown Hyatt is not a huge chocolate fan, although her mother is. To her, some of the other cupcake varieties are preferable.
“Sometimes, I like one thing better than the other,” she said, noting while she doesn’t have a favorite, she does enjoy the sweet potato cupcake, as well as the strawberry and almond offerings.
Anyone interested in trying the cupcakes, and the other dessert creations, is welcome to stop by the grand opening party for the new location this Saturday, June 25, from noon to 5 p.m.
The party, set to take place outside the 2nd Street storefront, will include music, free La Colombe coffee and ice cream sandwiches made by the folks at PYT, the burger joint at the Piazza at Schmidts. The cupcakes will be made with Brown Betty cookies.
To learn more about Brown Betty, visit www.brownbettydesserts.com.••