Krista Brazel and Carla Biggs, co-owners of Sips & Sweets Café in Riverside, opened their bakery and coffee house on Dec. 18. (Melissa Elsmo/Food Editor)

Krista Brazel and Carla Biggs, co-owners of Sips & Sweets Café at 1 Riverside Road in Riverside, opened their doors to the public on Dec. 18. 

Brazel and Biggs both lost their jobs due to the pandemic in 2020. Harnessing their entrepreneurial spirit, they formulated plans to start their own businesses. Brazel sold hot chocolate bombs and cinnamon rolls out of her car to 2,000 loyal Facebook followers. 

Simultaneously, Biggs dreamed of a startup coffee truck. The two merged their love of sips and sweets after expressing interest to one another on Facebook.

The prospect of heavy foot traffic and convenient placement next to the downtown train station drew these Westchester residents to Riverside. They fell in love with the town’s charm and authentic sense of community. 

That community returned the love by responding to a Kickstarter online fundraiser with $11,500 to help get the business off the ground. 

Despite local support, opening day was pushed back three months due to unexpected building challenges. Brazel said the delay was a blessing in disguise, allowing them more time before opening their doors.

When guests walk through the doors, they can expect an assortment of from-scratch treats ranging from cookies and cupcakes to toaster pastries. Unlike the well-known commercial pastries, Sips & Sweets stuff the tarts with fresh strawberry or brown sugar and cinnamon fillings. The shop’s cinnamon rolls are also a customer favorite.

The coffee selection may at first seem standard, but flavor options are plentiful. Customers can pair lattes and cold brews with combinations such as caramel fudge waffle cone or white chocolate and Irish cream. 

Sips & Sweets Café sources their coffee from Aspire CoffeeWorks, which provides kids and adults, with and without disabilities, an opportunity to work together. Sips & Sweets Café also encourage workers with developmental delays to accompany their team of six women employees. 

Brazel and Biggs said they feel driven to support Aspire Coffee Works not only for its artisanal quality and depth of flavor but for its personal connection to them. Both Brazel and Biggs have family members on the autism spectrum and believe supporting this local business is a must. 

Cross community connections are a key element for these businesswomen. Connie Brown, a Brookfield resident who owns Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor at 7347 Madison St. in Forest Park, rallied around the two with valuable support and advice.

 Brown said she is proud of her former employee Brazel. Sips & Sweets Café will have pints of Brown Cow ice cream for sale within the next couple of weeks and anticipates selling scoops and cones in time for summer.

Additionally, they hope to round out the menu with soups, salads and natural energy drinks. A handful of keto-friendly items are available, and gluten-free and vegan options are coming soon. While tasty treats and signature drinks are the café’s origin, the pair has a clear vision of what their cafe will one day be.

“We want this to be a place where kids go after school, a place where moms and dads spend their mornings. We want to be part of the community,” said Brazel.

This shop is located in the circa-1870 Arcade Building, the oldest commercial building in Riverside and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both owners see their job as an opportunity to show their young kids the importance of independence. Although these mothers miss their kids during their 12- to 15-hour workdays, it makes their day when they can visit. Brazel says it is rewarding working for herself.

“I have always wanted my own business.” said Brazel. “It was now or never.”