Nostalgic for your grandmother’s warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? Take a trip to Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, at 1030 N. 2nd St., where impeccable dessert meets three generations of family-oriented businesswomen.
“Our goal is to make [Brown Betty] feel warm and family-oriented,” Norrinda, a third-generation member of the Hinton family, said.
Norrinda and her mother Linda opened up Brown Betty in 2004 in an effort to bring new flavor to Philadelphia bakeries.
“I wanted to open a bakery to do something creative, and to try to get a lot of people to rethink what cake is,” Norrinda said.
Brown Betty is inspired entirely by Elizabeth “Betty” Ruth Hinton. Her talent and innovation in the kitchen led to the creation of many mouth-watering desserts that Norrinda, her granddaughter, felt had to be shared with the public.
The atmosphere of the bakery is warm and inviting, and customers often feel as though they’re walking into their own grandmothers’ homes and watching their own family members bake in their kitchens. Everyone involved with Brown Betty has a real passion for excellence in food.
“Certainly our love of food and what food can do to bring people together is something we all share,” Norrinda said.
It is Brown Betty’s goal to maintain this same work environment as the business grows.
With so many delicious desserts to choose from, the ladies find it hard to pick their favorite. “Certain cakes [that I remembered] from growing up I loved the most at first,” Norrinda said. “But there are [recipes] my mother has developed since then that I have really started to love, too.”
Linda creates new recipes for Brown Betty and Norrinda evaluates them. “It makes it hard because [Norrinda] critiques everything, so when it comes down to chocolate, it’s the hardest for her to do,” Linda said.
In formulating each recipe, Linda works by trial and error, baking over and over again until she feels that her combination of ingredients is perfect. New recipes are created whenever she feels inspired, but customers often provoke action by inquiring about something in particular – a sugar-free cake, perhaps, or an apple pie.
“It has taken a while,” Norrinda said. “Sometimes customers will give me the incentive to try new things, like the apple brown betty, when people said, ‘Oh, your name is Brown Betty, you must have some apple brown betty,’ and we didn’t!”
What makes Brown Betty Dessert Boutique so original are the names of their desserts -every one is named for women in the family.
The walls of the bakery are adorned with pictures of these women, which often inspires customers to reminisce about their own relatives’ baking. “I like seeing the customers, their faces, their reactions, the way they look at our picture wall and compare them to the pictures that their grandmother has at home,” Linda said.
All three women do their own part to make Brown Betty a success. Norrinda is in charge of the business aspect of the bakery. She handles the marketing, works with the accountants and deals with their management company.
Linda is largely involved in product development. She continuously works on expanding the dessert options by experimenting with different recipes. She is also in charge of the kitchen, managing the bakers on a day-to-day basis and taking orders.
Betty, meanwhile, helps by folding boxes and peeling apples, carrots and lemons, and can occasionally be found in the kitchen. “She can still peel apples faster than I can,” Linda said.
The ladies weren’t always so eager to do their duties. “I was very nervous [about starting the bakery], and it took a lot of convincing,” she said. “It was hard to really think about and to get into the commitment, because financially, so much work is involved.” Both Linda and Norrinda are glad they decided to go through with it, though.
Brown Betty Dessert Boutique is a refreshing dose of family and food all in one – truly a great treat. “We are happy when our customers enjoy our recipes and have a good experience,” Norrinda said. “Just the existence of it, in its totality, is rewarding.”
Melanie Menkevich can be reached at email@example.com.