YUM Sweet Shop fulfils a nostalgic dream with oversized retro treats
By Bakers Journal
Michael Gorenstein’s career became sweeter when he decided that creating happiness meant treats, not clothing design. “After being in fashion for 25 years, I realized that I did not want to put one more person in a $300 pair of jeans. I took a step back and just really asked myself, what I would want to wake up and do every day.”
His ice cream and bakeshop, “YUM Sweet Shop” in Vancouver, BC is home to sweets that appeal to children and adults alike. YUM’s claim to fame are the oversized cereal bars dipped in Callebaut chocolate, appealing to hipsters who want an upscale iteration of the treats they grew up with, and today’s kids who taste them for the first time.
Gorenstein’s love of candy and nostalgic baked goods started from his childhood in Gimli, Manitoba. His weekly treat involved a visit to the local bakery. “I would choose between an imperial cookie, or some other yummy treat and then they had one rack of candy,” Gorenstein recalls with a smile. “The experience was what I took away, and when I went to open Yum, I said, ‘that is the experience that a child needs to have.’”
As a father himself, his love and respect for the childhood experience of “being a kid in a candy” store was more than nostalgia; it was his business model. Gorenstein models his place as a cross between a 1950’s diner and a Parisian patisserie. He knows the demographic is a wide one: “I think you have to have a well-rounded business. You can’t just be the hipster-cool ice cream shop, you have to appeal to the five and the ninety-five year olds.”
Keeping both the young and young-at-heart clients happy may seem daunting, particularly during a pandemic. Fortunately, Gorenstein had an online presence through UberEats, DoorDash and Skip the Dishes prior to lockdowns, and kept his business running. However, he noticed something interesting during worst of the lockdown.
“We saw our online business quadruple it was, it just a bonanza, then we also started doing curbside delivery. We adapted pretty quickly, but I would say the online became 70 per cent of my business at that point.
“I think that the pandemic put me two years ahead of where I thought I would be. It was quite massive, shocking actually.” With that revelation, Gorenstein expanded YUM’s delivery radius and menu. He realized the pandemic turned his “niche market” in to a staple. “We expanded to other neighbourhoods that had never been to Main Street, you know, the kids were on lockdown, and they still birthdays; they need treats for their kids.”
Beyond a taste for nostalgia, Yum served a place for those looking for comfort foods. Yum provided offerings of baked goods and retro sweets for Mother’s Day, Easter and Father’s Day, every holiday, all online. “And then we started to do corporate stuff, for those working from home. So we did 150 Halloween baskets for a tech company.”
Gorenstein saw opportunity in finding a way to beat the pandemic: He marketed his treats online and opened YUM as a venue that also provided gift baskets and themed treats for holidays, and gifts to celebrate milestones.
What Gorenstein quickly realized with a pandemic is that it took what he called, “this small niche market” and expanded it. Although he doesn’t sell his baked goods or candy selections online, he’s increased in-store traffic dramatically. His secret weapon? Social media. “I’m lucky because I find that the customers are posting for me, almost.” By re-tweeting and reposting Instagram posts, he increases his visibility online, which translates to more sales for his packaged candy bags and treats.
While Yum still looks forward to a time when events can be celebrated in-store, he reflects on how his business model has changed in light of his pandemic-related online popularity. “We’ve kind of pulled back a little bit from that, because we are getting so much business walking in the door now, that, that I don’t need to do it. If someone wants to order a tray of desserts, they come in they pick them, we’ll resize them if they want, cut them up and make platters for them. We’ll deliver them for them.”
Where is the future headed for YUM? “we’re working at developing relations hotels because of all of our package candy.”
Gorenstein highly recommends diversity of goods as a tactic to any entrepreneur. “My advice for other confectioners or bakers is the wider the spectrum of product that I could offer, the more reasons people had to come in.” He reflects on a competitor in a similar industry who was closing his shop for good: “They were so narrowly focused on their product, that only if you wanted that one item you would go there. Whereas at YUM, you can get baked goods, an ice cream sandwich and you can get popcorn, cotton candy, and all kinds of chocolates. You can really tap into a lot of different desires.” / BJ