A small business makes a big difference.
Like many family shops, Sweet Harmony Cafe and Bakery in Middletown took a hit with the pandemic. A partnership with Eversource now allows owners to serve hundreds of meals to crews during storms, guiding them both through the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you can dream it, Sweet Harmony co-owner Trang Tran can make it happen.
“It’s mozzarella cheese, the cheese here melts,” she said as she worked on a homemade pancake. “Everything is made to order, so it’s good and fresh.”
The menu at Sweet Harmony Café and Bakery, located on Main Street, is enormous.
“This is a grilled cheese lover’s dream!” Tran says, while perfecting a Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese on Texas Toast.
However, when the pandemic began in 2020, foot traffic slowed significantly, as did business.
“There were no customers, there was nobody,” said co-owner Laura Conley. “We were very scared. The rent comes in every month, the electric bill comes in every month, you know, the taxes come in.”
It was then that the two co-owners, also sisters, intensified their partnership with Eversource Energy.
“It was a two-way street. There was a need on their side, and there was a need on our side,” said Christa Simmons, Eversource’s procurement officer.
Simmons said at the same time that Eversource was struggling to contract restoration service for its teams who worked for days to restore the network after major storms.
“We have demanding requirements! Simmons said. “I’m talking about the food needed at 5am, breakfast and lunch. And we’re not talking about 10 people, we’re talking over 100.”
They turned to Sweet Harmony to fill the need.
“There have been days where we haven’t, it’s been 72 hours, we haven’t slept. So they’re on storm duty, we’re on storm duty,” Conley said.
In 2021, local businesses provided nearly 72,000 meals to Eversource. The owners of Sweet Harmony said that meant keeping their business going through the pandemic.
“They definitely helped us because we, you know, we’re open and we’ve never had to close,” Conley said.
“When you support a small black business, it’s someone’s dream,” Simmons said.
Even before the pandemic, Conley said, black business owners faced unique obstacles.
“It’s not that all other businesses aren’t suffering, but Black-owned businesses historically haven’t had the same opportunities as other businesses. We don’t have the same opportunities for loans or grants, things just don’t happen that way for us,” she said.
Despite the heightened challenges, their continued success brings the sisters something sweet to celebrate.
“Having a black-owned business these days, living through COVID, is actually quite the feat,” Conley said. “I mean, I feel really blessed with the opportunity, everything that we’ve been through, and still alive.”