It's a hard knock life, as any baker will tell you: the long hours, the heat of the oven, the precision required.
For Robin Broughton-Smith, running a bakery is actually more calming than her previous career: She was Jay-Z's accountant for 12 years until, she says, she decided to "stop working like a crazy person" and settle down.
Broughton-Smith this week opened Sweet Nectar Dessert Kitchen, a bake shop, at 547 N. 20th St. in Spring Garden, just north of Spring Garden Street. She bakes with no artificial food dyes. Her signature red velvet cupcakes get their color from beets that she roasts. There's also brewed One Village coffee, Weckerly's ice cream, Li'l Pop's ice pops, and jams from Fifth of the Farm.
The sunny space is dominated by baking equipment, a display case bearing muffins, cakes, pies, biscuits, bagels, and baked doughnuts, and a marble counter with stools (which she plans to use for classes, kids' classes, and demonstrations). Black-and-white photos of family and friends form a collage on one wall.
She may have ninety-nine problems, but a kitchen ain't one.
It's actually more like walking into someone's beach house than a bakery. The white, almost bleached decor reflects Broughton-Smith's first shop, Sweet Nectar Cupcakery, in Stone Harbor, N.J., which she ran for several years before 2014, when the building was sold and she had to leave.
So it was on to the next one.
She decided that her next shop would be in Philadelphia. She credits real estate broker Brittany Goldberg of MSC Retail with sticking with her through a long search, during which time she set up a test kitchen at Sherman Mills, near her home in East Falls.
Spring Garden is perfect, Broughton-Smith said. "It's a great community - very diverse. I love the way it looks and feels and how walkable it is," she said.
Broughton-Smith grew up in Willingboro - baking as a young girl - and studied finance at Howard University before heading to New York City. She said she, as a junior employee at a firm, landed Jay-Z as a client around the time of his Reasonable Doubt album, in 1996. She and a partner in the firm later went in-house with the entertainment mogul.
In her last two years, she got married (Jay-Z and Beyonce attended her 2008 wedding to Ronald Smith Jr., who works for the State Department, just before their own secret wedding ceremony) and she had her son, Tre, now 7. The couple also has a daughter, Linden, 2.
A trip to France, where they ate their way through Paris, rekindled her love of baking. "My lifestyle changed to something amazing," she said. She took baking classes and opened the bakery at the Jersey shore.
Hours at Sweet Nectar are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.