Brooklyn’s custom confection shop Mini Melanie is thriving after shifting to e-commerce during the pandemic.
Founded by sisters Melanie and Diana Moss in 2015, Mini Melanie started after Melanie decided she wants to forge her own path in the culinary space.
“I worked at Babbo & Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and those were amazing places to learn a lot about baking and catering to very luxury clientele and food allergies,” said Melanie. “I wanted to get out of male-dominated kitchens and start my own thing, so it was time to leave the farm and come back to New York.”
After doing some recipe testing, Mini Melanie landed on truffles and mini cakes as the signature items. The sisters started running the business out of Hot Bread Kitchen in Harlem while building up an impressive clientele in corporate catering and private events.
Mini Melanie eventually moved to its own space at 630 Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn and even secured a place in the Chelsea Market. However, in March 2020 Mini Melanie found themselves needing to make a huge shift in their business with the COVID-19 lockdown in place.
“Our first thoughts in March were about our staff, they all rely on us. We’re not going to furlough them, we are like family. We are a small business, how are we going to survive?” said Melanie.
“We were following the news, reading all info to figure out where we fit. Are we essential workers, how do we keep our kitchen open, how do keep our staff safe, how do we keep our team paid?” said Diana. “The first shock was closing the retail location that we only recently opened at Chelsea Market. We saw a lot of cancellations in the corporate catering, people left the office through April. Our weddings for May, June, people started canceling all those events. Now that everything was happening, we knew that this would change things dramatically.”
The duo found that many of their clients still wanted to support Mini Melanie by having truffles and custom cakes shipped to their homes. For two weeks, Diana and Melanie completely revamped the Mini Melanie website to focus on e-commerce and launch a whole line of products that were not offered before.
“That was also off the back of our loyal customers who were asking us to send them things. They had left the city, they had wanted to get friends, family, colleagues, even some of the corporate clients that we did office catering wanted to send their teams things at home and now they were all over the country,” said Diana. “We took two weeks, and Melanie and I refocused on creating an e-commerce site. We had a little bit of that, we shipped one or two products, but we quickly redesigned the site and launched a whole line of products, and all throughout the summer launched products every few weeks.”
In addition to the truffles and cakes, Mini Melanie launched products like brownies, cake pops, cookie cakes, and DIY cookie decorating kits. With the popularity of the decorating kits, Mini Melanie started to host virtual classes with decorating tutorials for the public.
“We knew the nuances of shipping perishables on ice, transit time and the right packing we needed. It’s important for us to have everything land perfectly. We launched during summer when it was hot and stressful,” said Diana. “We did test shipping to lucky friends and family, we have all new products we launched, went through all the motions to get this right and we’ve been lucky to have a loyal following as well.”
Though it was a goal for Mini Melanie to eventually have a stronger e-commerce presence, Melanie and Diana agree that the pandemic really accelerated the process.
“We always wanted to focus more on the e-commerce side, but since it’s the two of us running the business it was in our goals for the year but it came about much faster and in a much better way,” said Diana. “We had to focus all of our efforts on that because of the business we had.”
With New York City opening back up, Melanie and Diana say that the events business they had before the pandemic is starting to return.
“We’re completely bombarded by custom cakes for every theme, every party — everyone wants a party for every occasion,” said Melanie. “It’s been surreal having what we used to do come back. We believe that we are stronger than ever. We have an e-commerce business and we’re on FreshDirect now.”
“The event business, birthdays, weddings, christenings, briss, those are all coming back,” said Diana. “We haven’t seen corporate catering come back, that was a third of our business in 2019. It’s still not back but we know it will be.”
In the meantime, Mini Melanie is committed to its customers and plans to keep up the e-commerce site and virtual classes.
“We like when we’re busy, so what we learned is that Mini Melanie can survive in any situation. We are here for our customers, we are here for New York, and for nationwide,” said Melanie. “We love every aspect of the business, our services are truly unique. Our dessert table for events all summer long is so reliable from the moment you send in email, phone call or text to Mini Melanie to when you get your cake delivered, it’s really an experience you won’t get at another bakery.”
For more information or to check out the desserts, visit minimelanie.com.