April Richardson and Derek Lowery, proprietors of Baked in Baltimore (Courtesy photo)
April Richardson and Derek Lowery, proprietors of Baked in Baltimore (Courtesy photo)

In the run-up to the grand opening of her new Baked in Baltimore shop, District lawyer and entrepreneur April Richardson wondered what would happen when she and partner Derek Lowery opened their doors at a location that was previously owned and operated as a Jewish bakery.

“It was absolutely insane,” Richardson said of the Sept. 22 grand opening at 6848 Reistertown Road in Pikesville, the location where Goldman’s Kosher Bakery operated for decades.

Instead of having to bake just a few dozen of Baked in Baltimore’s signature sweet potato cakes and pies, Richardson said she stopped counting after more than 400 people, including Mayor Catherine Pugh, showed up to support the new dessert specialty shop.

“I thought we’d slide into the city and get away with baking a couple of dozen pies and cakes a day, but the first week has been crazy,” said Richardson, a Baltimore native and lawyer who once worked for a lender that foreclosed on homes and businesses.

Featured last year in the Business Journal as the woman who “Built a $1 million cake shop,” Richardson eventually switched sides to help people avoid foreclosure. She worked on a panel enlisted by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley and alongside then-Sen. Catherine Pugh to create new foreclosure laws.

While helping those victimized by foreclosure and mortgage fraud, Richardson encountered Lowery, who needed help to save his bakery in Prince George’s County.

“There was something about him and I really wanted to help,” Richardson said. “I called the landlord who was on a train and asked her to stop the eviction and she asked why should she. I told her that I know how to get things done and she said, OK, but on the condition that I join the company.”

Baked in Baltimore owners April Richardson and Derek Lowry, surrounded by DC Sweet Potato Cake team (Courtesy photo)

After consulting with her son, Richardson got her sister to quit her job and also come aboard.

Along the way, Richardson landed deals with retailers such as Wegmans and Safeway grocery stores, Starbucks, Nordstrom and QVC. She also secured investments from City First Bank in D.C., Prince George’s Financial Services Corporation in Maryland, and the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Agency.

The business has succeeded ever since, culminating with its opening in Baltimore.

At the grand opening of Baked in Baltimore, she said Pugh spoke to the crowd about not just the first day of the bakery, but the importance of sustainability.

“She left Ray Lewis’ parade and spent at least an hour with us and talking to the crowd,” Richardson said.

At one point, the crowd at the grand opening had gotten so large, old classmates Richardson hadn’t seen since the 1990s volunteered to “jump behind the counter and help out,” she said.

“I think the grand opening was so huge because people was so proud to have a black company in that community,” Richardson said. “It had been a community where black businesses had not traditionally been.”

However, what stood out most for Richardson was what she believes was a message from her two late grandmothers.

“A 92-year-old woman named Geneva Denton walked up to me at the grand opening and said that she needed to talk to the owner,” Richardson recalled. “I said, ‘What if I told you that you were talking to her?’ She said she was so happy to have us in the city and that we were making Baltimore proud and black women like her proud. She said she saw the crowd and came over.

“Well, to understand this, I was the favorites of both my grandmothers, my grandmother on my father’s side, whose last name was Denton, and my grandmother on my mother’s side, whose first name was Genevieve, and they both were from Baltimore,” she said. “So, this 92-year-old named Geneva Denton had delivered this message and I said we have to make sure we take care of Baltimore. It’s not just about the grand opening, but what you do after you’ve opened.”

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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