Story and photos by Michelle Porizkova
Michelle Porizkova is visiting local businesses in Raleigh this semester for the Peace of Downtown feature, sharing their stories in text and images with an eye toward capturing how businesses are faring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Do you ever find yourself seeking a homemade, comforting treat? One made with the finest sourced ingredients and boasting with flavors you couldn’t possibly recreate yourself at home?
That’s basically everything sold at Anisette Sweet Shop.
Even if you don’t find yourself to be someone with a giant sweet tooth, they have something for everyone.
And I’m not just boasting about this with no references. I’ve been coming here for years, and they always have something new. As I met with Jason and Nicole Evans Groth, the masterminds behind Anisette, it was clear they love what they do.
“We found each other because of music, but the food was a huge part of our lives, too,” said Jason.
As they both were part of the blossoming music scene in Bloomington, Indiana, Nicole was given her first opportunity to work with food. A few record labels were taking off in the area, and she was hired regularly to cater for one, specifically vegan and vegetarian catering.
She did it for several years while Jason toured with his band.
A few years later Jason was given the opportunity to host interviews at an Italian-indie-rock music festival in Italy. Those two trips changed Jason and Nicole’s lives, as the idea of what Anisette would become grew during Jason’s time abroad.
“These two particular trips to Italy in 2015 and 2016 really solidified the idea of what Anisette became,” said Jason. “It would be a neighborhood cookie-cake shop that was really small, everything was made by a single set of hands, it was seasonal, it was up to the whim of the person making it, but it is all really beautiful in the way that it’s so personal. It gives a feeling of nostalgia and everything is made with really high-quality ingredients.”
Jason and Nicole also found their love of coffee and decadence in Istanbul, Turkey.
Jason describes generations of families working together to create beautiful candy, pastries, and other delicacies.
“Those things were so inspiring to see,” said Jason. “You see them in larger cities like New York and LA, but in other parts of the country those things are sort of lost.”
Jason noticed a lot of places in Raleigh making treats and doing similar things, but he had a hard time finding a place that had both vegan and non-vegan options.
In early 2016 they found the cozy neighborhood shop that would become Anisette.
“We didn’t want a bakery that had the same items every day. We wanted to make something that changed and focused on the season and on what we felt like that particular day,” said Jason.
With this philosophy, they began to brainstorm their ideas.
“We started coming up with the foundation; everything had to be vegetarian. Everything that we make has to be made with intentional ingredients.”
They use Carolina Ground, an Asheville-founded mill that uses exclusively Carolina ground flour.
The focus is sustainable quality, and the Groth’s knew that would be an important factor to their business.
“We do all of our own shopping. We just run around and get groceries for the shop, or sometimes we can use the neighbors that bring us fresh produce and herbs to use. It’s amazing,” said Jason.
They began a coffee program at the shop to incorporate their love of coffee and sweets.
They use coffee beans from across the country, all sustainable and ethically sourced. But beans that have a distinct and robust flavor.
Jason and Nicole are very transparent with their items. They want people to be aware of what they’re eating. They pride themselves on staying away from major allergens to provide easy access for everyone.
“All of our items have super simple names so it’s clear what’s in them. Olive oil cinnamon rolls? That’s all that’s in them! Some local flour, organic olive oil, organic sugar, simple,” said Jason.
Over the past five years, the shop has had 11 employees. They are an intentionally small operation, that is no small feat.
“It’s important to invest in helping people. We always think, how can we make sure that the people working with us are taken care of and keep the same top-notch quality items we always have?” said Jason. “And when those employees are ready to head off and do better things, we support them just as much.”
They even have a large backyard where they have local musicians play, host wine tastings, and show movies.
Everything here screams neighborhood hang out. Jason and Nicole want more people to feel welcome.
If you haven’t been to Sweet Anisette, I highly recommend you go to find good food, good coffee, and most importantly, good people.