Sugarbot Sweet Shop is hard to miss. Situated on the corner of Jackson and 5th Street in historic Saint Charles, its vibrant exterior is as inviting as its name. The moniker tells you exactly what is in store: delicious desserts and lots of robots.
But not very long ago, this over 100 year-old building stood vacant and in need of major attention. "You could stand in this house, look up, and be able to see the sky," owner and baker Jackie Huebbe recalls. "It needed a lot of repairs." Jackie and her engineer husband, Mark, worked tirelessly to restore the building to its original charm. They take pride in the sweat that revived the building and the extraordinary effort to match the ceiling tiles, light fixtures, and other furnishings to coincide with the age and history of the home.
Built in 1900, a German family constructed and owned the home. It remained a residence until the mid-1990's. It was actually the childhood home of Lindenwood University board member and Saint Charles philanthropist Jerry Scheidegger. And now its door is open to the public, with new desserts made daily.
"We are the only place in Missouri that, as far as I know, does everything 100% from scratch, in-house. Even the marshmallows!" Jackie is the mastermind behind each dessert in the display case and her mission is this: to make her desserts with high-quality, whole ingredients and no substitutions. "They're as clean and as healthy as baked goods can be," Jackie asserts with a smile.
While baking has not always been her profession, it has always been Jackie's passion. "I've loved baking for as long as I can remember. It's not a family trait, it's just something I started doing," she recalls. With a job in a corporate office during the day, at night she would figure out how to make desserts from scratch. Starting with basic recipes, she'd experiment with how certain flours reacted to other ingredients, modifying the recipes as she baked until the changes she made were exactly what she wanted to taste.
She quit her corporate job to pursue baking and pastry training from a Saint Louis culinary school, and is now a Certified Pastry Culinarian through the American Culinary Federation. After graduating, Jackie worked evenings and weekends at any bakery that would take her on. "I just wanted to learn from anyone who would teach me," said Jackie, and her determination led her to become a small business owner in 2012. She rented a storefront in Webster Groves and purchased The Very Best Cookies company from its owner to build her own business on top of it. As she gained momentum for Sugarbot, the Jackson Street property was found and a plan was set in motion. In May of 2015, the couple closed on the property and in November of last year, Sugarbot Sweet Shop opened in Saint Charles.
"When we were debating where to move our business, we found there were no bakeries or sweet shops in Saint Charles," explains Jackie, "and we just love the people. People are genuinely kind here. It's rare to meet rude people; we've maybe had one rude customer. People in Saint Charles support small businesses." Many of her customers come in often to pick up their favorite desserts; Jackie's scrumptious brownies and homemade marshmallows are her most popular items.
"I get to know people through Sugarbot. I know that this family loves snickerdoodles and that family loves center brownies," she says. "I've had the opportunity to make desserts for someone's wedding shower, then wedding, then baby shower, then a first birthday party! It's been cool to be a part of people's lives."
The Huebbe's show their appreciation to the people of Saint Charles by giving back to causes in the area. "We want to support a community that supports us," says Jackie. Sugarbot commits to an event sponsorship for various causes each month and donates leftover pastries to Youth In Need. Mark and Jackie were Community Sponsors for the Foundry Art Centre's Trivia Night fundraiser earlier this year and look forward to supporting the FAC in the future.
"I love the Foundry Art Centre because they support the community, it's accessible, and it's welcoming," remarks Jackie, "and you display children's artwork! No one does that. If I had been able to go to a legit art gallery when I was little and see kids' art right next to adults' artwork, I would have loved that."
The shop is bedecked in flying bat silhouettes and Halloween decor for Jackie's favorite holiday. Her treats are just as fun and spooky with sugar cookie zombies and jack-o-lantern cake pops tempting visitors as they walk in. These scary sweets and more will be available for purchase at the Foundry Art Centre Film Series, beginning next week with Halloween favorite Hocus Pocus on Wednesday, October 26. The doors open at 6:00pm for families to enjoy free crafts and trick-or-treating upstairs. Visitors can purchase popcorn and sweet treats before the movie begins at 7:00pm. Sugarbot will be back for each of the films in the series with special treats for each movie.
Jackie and her husband Mark complement each other in life and in business. "Mark designed the kitchen and he's memorized the weights and volumes of materials - he's my logistics guy," she muses. "I thought I was meticulously organized... and then I met Mark." He also creates the yeast breads for sweets like cinnamon rolls and brioches.
"Occasionally, he'll give me ideas," adds Jackie. "He'll say something like, 'I was thinking about how much I like peanut butter and caramel together.' He's good inspiration."
When she's not concocting creative treats, Jackie and Mark are snuggling with their dogs Scout and Paisley, hiking and spending time outside, and flying through the skies in Mark's experimental aircraft.
Visit SugarBot Sweet Shop at 433 Jackson Street, along Fifth Street, Tuesday - Saturday from 8:00am - 5:00pm or Sunday from 10:00am - 3:00pm, for the sweets you need to get through the week. Contributions to their lawn ornament collection are also welcome; feel free to deposit any unneeded flamingos or gnomes in the front lawn.
Article & Photographs by Jillian Schoettle.