Marie Stanley and Cathy Stanley say it was their grandfather who inspired the name for Honey’s Desserts, the loafs, cakes and tarts served at their Southwest coffee shop Sacred Grounds Café (222 M St. SW).
“All his grandchildren called him Honey,” said Cathy of her grandfather, “because that’s what we heard my grandmother call him,” interjects Marie. “And that name stuck with him, all his life, he was ‘Honey,” finishes her sister.
Their grandfather was a sweet and successful man who operated multiple businesses, said the two. The family approved of the title, including their grandmother, now 108 years old and still living in Connecticut. “Our cousin said, ‘If you’re using ‘Honeys’ then it’s definitely going to be successful,” said Cathy. The cafe is a family affair, with Marie’s son (and Cathy’s nephew) Nigel Broadnax working closely on all aspects of the business.
After three months the family has reopened Sacred Grounds Café, where Honey’s Desserts are featured. The shop is open Fridays and Saturdays for front door pick-up of coffee beverages, sandwiches, salads and Honey’s Desserts and is about to also launch on the GrubHub delivery platform.
The reopening has been going well, said Cathy, and it is great to be back in business after the public health crisis compelled District restaurants to close March 13.
The closure was a disappointing time for the sisters, who held the grand opening of the Southwest cafe Saturday, March 7. Hundreds of neighbors came to meet the two proprietors and pick up a free coffee. “It was wonderful,” said Marie. “It was better than we thought. It was busy from the moment we opened to the moment we closed.”
Only a week later, COVID-19 hit the food service industry. After only three months of business (the shop had a soft opening in December 2019), the two had to close the doors of the coffee shop. “We couldn’t believe it,” said Marie. “It was so disappointing.”
“But we had to make sure that our customers were safe and healthy,” Cathy adds. She said the two did not waste any time. They continued to work on their business, knowing throughout the four months of closure that they would one day reopen.
The sisters came from Connecticut to the District in the eighties. Cathy came to attend Howard University, later convincing her sister to join her. Initially, Cathy worked as a television producer and writer for companies like BET and Fox Network. Maria worked as a large-scale meeting and events planner for decades in the District before moving with Cathy into local television programming, especially the 705network musical productions.
Still, they found time to open bakery Honey’s Desserts and to open new Southwest cafe Sacred Grounds. They say it was easy not because they loved the work, but it is obvious that the two, who not only finish but contribute to one another’s sentences, work well together.
“You know, sometimes when you do things that you love,” begins Cathy,
“Yeah, it’s not really work,” says Marie.
“—it’s work,” Cathy counters,
“–but you enjoy it,” said Marie.
“You just enjoy it,” Cathy agrees.
“It’s something you’re passionate about,” Marie adds, before the two chorus, “You love to see the end results.”
Maria and Cathy may look familiar to some of the customers. The two sold Honey’s Desserts for the past two years in the spring and summer at Eastern Market. The seed of that business was planted almost twenty years ago, with the sisters returning to it off and on before deciding two years ago to devote themselves to the concept. They do the baking in the commercial kitchen on-site at the café, a dream situation, said Marie, who has loved baking since she was very young.
“I can remember Marie baking when we were really young kids,” said Cathy. “I might have been 12, so she maybe she was fifteen –she would make these cinnamon donuts and they were just awesome. My parents would have parties and she would do the baking.”
A Partnership With St. Matthew’s
When an opportunity came to open a café, they seized it. The two are local residents and members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, which built a brand-new church building opened in January 2019. The building had a café space but no operator. The sisters decided to step in and partner with the church to operate the café, putting all the skills they had learned throughout the years as they prepared the shop.
The location is perfect, said Marie. “It was Southwest, and southwest is not only up-and-coming, it’s here,” she said. Besides the coffee shop in the Waterfront Safeway store, there are no other coffee shops in the neighborhood. There is also a lot of foot traffic, with an apartment next door and with the location set perfectly between Nationals Park and The Wharf.
“We’ve met a lot of great people,” said Cathy. “It was great to see how our desserts sold in another part of DC, and its been wonderful, really rewarding to see how much people like the desserts.”
The shop serves banana bread, carrot, sweet potato and apple loafs. They offer sweet potato and apple crumb tarts and a new chocolate espresso cake with coffee icing.
Honey’s baked goods will return to Eastern Market after the public health emergency. And if the sisters get their way, you will begin to see it in a lot of other places, too. The two are looking to put Honey’s Baked Goods into stores and cafes all over the District, and eventually, nationally into stores like Whole Foods and Nordstrom.
“If you put it out there, its going to happen,” said Cathy.
Sacred Grounds Café is open Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn more by calling 202-725-8642, by visiting Sacred Grounds Café is at 222 M St. SW, between Valo Apartments and St. Matthews Lutheran Church. Follow @SacredGroundsCafeDC on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Visit HoneysDesserts.com to place orders for pick-up at the café or email [email protected]