Venter, left, and Quirion own South Boston’s Sweet Tooth Bakery (371 W. Broadway). Visit www.sweettoothboston.com for more info.
To walk along West Broadway through South Boston is to walk through a neighborhood in transition. Upscale new condo buildings shoulder up to snack shops offering lottery tickets and cigarettes, and a woman in a Statue of Liberty costume stands in the street on a blustery day advertising Liberty Tax, a tax preparer. Right in the midst of it, you’ll find Sweet Tooth bakery. Open since 2006, its windows display the wide array of decorated cakes the bakery is ready to create, from Barbie cakes to wedding cakes to Mike from “Monsters, Inc.” Inside, you’ll find the requisite beautifully decorated cupcakes, cookies the size of dinner plates and a wide selection of cake pops for those looking for a lighter snack.
Friends thought an interracial gay couple opening a bright pink bakery in conservative Southie was a little crazy, says David Venter, co-owner of Sweet Tooth along with his partner, Glenn Quirion. Despite those warnings, the neighborhood has always embraced them, and both Venter and Quirion immediately shot down the notion that anyone would be less than friendly. “People in the neighborhood were very welcoming,” says Quirion. Venter, who is black, thinks that once people saw him there, their customer base got much more diverse. “I was the visual,” he says. Now, everyone stops by. “We have drag queens come by in the middle of the day,” says Quirion.
Quirion is the head baker at Sweet Tooth, having learned from his mother who operated a bakery out of their home while he was growing up. But it was something more basic that inspired the two to open a bakery: A desire to get out of corporate life. Operating a bakery is no easy matter though: “I don’t know if anybody loves getting up at 2 o’clock in the morning six days a week,” says Quirion.
But running a bakery has its own rewards. “One of the things that Glenn and I said is that we want our bakery to be [a place where], when little kids are walking by, they smile. You’ll see the kids pointing. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you come into a bakery. People are just generally very happy,” says Venter.
They’d like to see the neighborhood bring in some more lifestyle businesses like their own, while still maintaining the flavor of the neighborhood as it’s always been. “One of the things that I hope that South Boston doesn’t become is like the South End, where it pushes all of the artists and families out,” says Venter. “I’m hoping that with the growth of South Boston we can maintain some of the local feel.”
Business seems to be thriving. Sweet Tooth now offers a wholesale business, caters benefits and has even made cakes for private celebrity events, the details of which they’re not allowed to share with a humble reporter eager to learn what kind of cake famous people might like. While wedding cakes may be a big seller, they do big business in children’s birthday cakes, too. The most requested kid icon currently gracing cakes? Justin Bieber, of course — but Barbie is a close second. There’s a reason she merits a spot in the window display.
The two have received requests for every kind of cake design. “I still don’t get or understand when people want sculpted cakes of their pets. How do you cut it? I always joke around and say, ‘Please don’t make it red velvet,’” says Venter.
While Sweet Tooth may be expanding into new locations, expect the two to be in Southie for some time to come.