HomesInShaw Interviews Business Owner Erica Skolnik, Owner of Frenchie's Pastries & Desserts
Frenchie's, a dessert and pastries company run out of Shaw's popular Seasonal Pantry
and SunDeVich, can be said to be a hidden gem within a gem. Seasonal Pantry and SunDeVich just took both
first and second place for Best New Small Business 2011. Frenchie's, owned and founded by Erica Skolnik, has undoubtedly contributed to the success of Shaw's favorite new
Erica Skolnik is the creative force behind Frenchie's. I had the privilege to sit down with her at
Seasonal Pantry on June 4th, 2012 and discuss with her her story, the origin of
Frenchie's, and her thoughts about Shaw.
Below is the interview by HomesInShaw.
Kevin: Well I really
appreciate you taking twenty minutes out of your busy day to sit and meet with
Erica: Oh it's not a
problem. I love talking about Shaw, and
I love talking about Frenchie's, so I look forward to the interview.
Kevin: Great. So, how about we begin with a little bit of
Erica: Well, I've
been baking forever and have always been involved in restaurants and
cooking. When my parents were pushing me
to get a degree in business, I stayed true to my passions and majored with an
undergraduate degree in Restaurant Management.
After that, I headed out to California.
It had always been a dream of mine to go to culinary school so I finally
did. I attended the Culinary Institute
of America (CIA) in Napa, specializing in their pastry program.
Kevin: What is one of
the important, broad lessons you took from your studying at CIA?
Erica: It allowed me
to organically develop m own style. I like
this sound byte when describing my food:
"I want it to look really delicious. I want it to taste really delicious." (laughs)
Kevin: Sure. You want to cut out all the nonsense and just
contain the essence of the food's taste. So when did
you move back home from California?
Erica: Well I moved
back to D.C. because I missed it. And I
knew that when I came back to D.C. I wanted to attempt my goal of starting up my
own business. I knew that is what I
really wanted to do.
Kevin: So how did that go?
Erica: Well, finding
a commercial space to share in D.C. is difficult. Obviously you want a good space where the
scheduling will accommodate your business.
You want the owners of the space and the landlords to treat you
right. So, for a long time I didn't find
anything. After looking around a little
bit, I decided to sell in farmer's markets.
Kevin: Did that work
Erica: Serendipitously I met Dan O'Brien at a local
cheese shop. He told me he was starting
Seasonal Pantry and we spoke about connecting. So instead of being in a farmer's market, I decided
to produce for a food market, Seasonal Pantry.
Kevin: So what about
the name? "Frenchie's?"
Erica: My husband is
also really into food. While
brainstorming about the name, he said, "we need something homey,
retro...we love France and Parisian pastries...what about
'Frenchie's'?" And the name stuck.
cool. Can you talk about the
"classes" you offer and the "pop-ups?"
Erica: The classes
are offered every so often. We can schedule private baking classes at someone's home
or at Seasonal Pantry. They can contact me for details. The classes are instructional and involve all things baking. We do something different each time and it is
a lot of fun. The "pop-ups"
are more of tasting the bakery. We have
everything set out to buy and eat. You
walk in and you are looking at what slice of pie you want to eat.
Kevin: So the
classes the guests actively learn, and the pop-ups the guests actively indulge?
(laughs). Sure! (While I ask Erica these questions, she is moving
throughout the kitchen effortlessly, baking and prepping numerous things. She moves towards the oven to take out a
Kevin: What is coming
out of the oven?
Erica: This is a chocolate zucchini cake
delicious. What else is on your baked
Blackberry Whoopie Pies, Blueberry Kuchen, croissants, various cookies; a
variety of pastries, sticky buns,
and breads. I can talk to the customer
about what it is they are trying to plan for and we plan from scratch. I
like to think I can bake whatever it is
they desire for whatever occasion. Special orders from customers are my
favorites because its always a unique and creative experience.
Kevin: What are you
working on right now?
Erica: Right now, at
this very moment I am working on organizing the plan to cook 14 pies in one day
for a wedding.
Kevin: Wow. How can you
cook 14 pies in one day?
Erica: With a lot of
planning (laughs). It's for a
wedding. There seems to be a neat idea
out there catching on with weddings.
Kevin: Which is?
Erica: Rather than a
wedding cake get a lot of different pies and/or pastries and let the guests
taste a lot of different things instead of one cake. I am also very excited to be working with
another couple for pies for a ceremony in October.
Kevin: What about
the neighborhood Shaw? Why are you
selling your stuff here?
Erica: Well, the
space was here and I live in Petworth.
Shaw and Petworth are my two favorite D.C. neighborhoods. My base is here, and the support I get from
these two communities is surreal. And
Shaw is so diverse, so active. There is
just this really great vibe running through Shaw. It is also family oriented. As a mother of a two-year-old, I think about
the neighborhood I want my child to grow up in family-friendly neighborhood,
and Shaw truly captivates that.
Kevin: Well, it is
easy to see why the neighborhood knows you.
Your personability is very inclusive
Erica: I just love
people. I love croissants, I love food,
and I love making people happy (Laughs). That
love for people is where the idea for the storefront comes in.
Erica: Mentally I am
100% ready to open up my own bakery. I
feel a bakery in Petworth or Shaw would be a success since the neighborhoods
are very residential and people love to buy food. So I feel comfortable thinking about opening
up something in one of those two neighborhoods.
Kevin: Well I know
either neighborhood would benefit greatly with your presence, and I really appreciate this interview and your
Erica: It's my
pleasure. Thank you so much for the