Rocky River pastry chef Ann LoParo restarts baking classes post-pandemic
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — Some businesses collapsed during the pandemic, but not Rocky River pastry chef Ann LoParo’s Signature Sweets.
That is not to say she had an easy time of it, though.
LoParo is bringing back her baking classes, which she now conducts in person as well as virtually. The journey has not been easy, but LoParo has grit and never quits.
“This fifth year has been my trickiest year yet,” said LoParo. “A year ago, right after my fourth anniversary, I found out I had to move out of the space I had been teaching in since 2018, and have had a difficult time finding a new location.
“I have had to turn down so much business as a result of having no location, and it has really been frustrating and defeating, to say the least.”
LoParo said not having a space limited her ability to “sell mass quantities of desserts and I have not been able to host classes as I did before the pandemic. My virtual classes slowed significantly, and it’s been tough.
“I am going into my busiest season of the year and am doing my best to stay optimistic and hopeful for the future.”
But LoParo is always positive and confident — and she gets results.
“I finally found a kitchen to teach in-person classes again, at Dave’s midtown (grocery store) at East 61st Street and Chester Avenue,” she said.
LoParo’s students are an important element that helps to keep her going.
“I have taught almost 600 classes since February 2018. My students truly keep me going on the toughest days, when they may not even know the struggles I deal with as a solo entrepreneur.
“My students join me from all over the world,” she said. “One student has taken more than 60 classes in 18 months, and several others have taken over two dozen classes each.”
For returning baking students or for new students, LoParo has some important upcoming dates.
“I will be hosting pop-up shops at Little Spark Refill Shop in Rocky River on Oct. 15 and Nov. 19 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. I will be selling my ‘Signature Sweets.’ Desserts and baking kits will also be sold on both days.”
(Note: At Little Spark Refill Shop, customers can bring their own containers and stock up on bath and cleaning products.)
LoParo said she also is teaching on Zoom for corporate events, kids’ classes and private classes for any occasion.
Just a few of her many new classes include:
· Challah bread. A braided bread often eaten to celebrate Jewish holidays.
· Japanese cheesecake. A jiggly cheesecake that is a cross between a soufflé and a cheesecake.
· Cake decorating classes on Zoom. The students will prepare the cakes ahead of time.
· Cookie decorating classes on Zoom. Learn decorating techniques
· Pie dough basics. This class will go over how to work with pie dough and some tips on how to use it for a few different desserts.
· French macarons (gluten free) classes. Including raspberry, coffee and gingerbread flavors.
· Butternut squash bread (similar to a banana or zucchini bread).
LoParo noted that she has posted several classes online and has included her rates. Kids’ baking camps are ever popular too and can also be found at https://www.davesmarkets.com/ and www.anniessignaturesweets.com.
LoParo stresses that she has a meaningful connection with her baking students.
“We connect in class, after class, and many students text me and email me their bakes beyond the classes,” she said.
“It is the greatest gift to know that I have brought something into their world that they enjoy and are proud of. I teach baking, but I also give people confidence and support and go through everything, step by step, with them.”
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