Taking Bold Steps
Hitting the Sweet Spot with Charmaine Yu…
Charmaine Yu has always had a sweet spot for desserts. As she neared graduation from the Art Center of Design in Pasadena, she dreamed of opening a business. At just 25 years old – without any previous experience owning a business of her own – Yu and her boyfriend/business partner Chris Evans took a leap of faith to open Sweetspot. Fifteen years later, the Redding staple continues to inspire the community with its delicious cupcakes and gelato, savory ramen and bristling artistic energy.
Yu grew up knowing the value of kindness, resilience and hard work. It was the foundation her parents, Imelda and George Yu, laid for her early on as restaurateurs who owned and operated Sailing Boat Restaurant in Redding. Her dad’s entrepreneurial spirit inspired Yu to go into business for herself. “I’ve always known I wanted to have my own business, just like my dad,” says Yu.
As a new business owner, Yu carved out her own path to success one step at a time. Sweetspot first opened in 2008 on Hilltop Drive in Redding, sharing a parking lot with entertainment giant Chuck E. Cheese. In 2013, the beloved cupcake and gelato destination doubled its square footage when it made its way further south along Hilltop Drive, becoming neighbors with Tokyo Garden Japanese Restaurant. Earlier this year, Yu and Evans took a bold step to purchase a building at 1244 Hartnell Ave., a location with more than enough room for the restaurant to find its proverbial sweet spot.
“The first two years were the hardest two years of my life, but I learned so much and I’m still learning new things every day – 15 years later,” says Yu.
The recipe for a successful business, she says, comes down to three key ingredients: “Passion: do what you love. Mindset: it makes all the difference in how you handle everything. People: your team and your customers should be at the center of all you do.”
Yu is especially grateful to her stellar team – which totals 16, including herself and Evans. She loves knowing that her loyal customers and her community appreciate what Sweetspot brings to the table. Their lead baker, Laura Armstrong, has been with Sweetspot since it opened in 2008 – a testament to the dedication and consistency at the restaurant’s core.
Over the years, Yu has shared her space freely with other creatives, including musicians, painters, photographers, up-cyclers and more. Sweetspot’s walls have been adorned with local works of art, boldly and playfully mixing with the colorful and eclectic design aesthetic lovingly curated by Yu and her team.
The new location on Hartnell Avenue has doubled Sweetspot’s space and opportunity for creativity. Yu is excited to have room to host more events and collaborate with other local businesses and creatives. She’s already begun curating art shows and other community events with local artists and bands in an open room at the new location, something she plans to do regularly in 2024.
Like the creative opportunities, Sweetspot’s menu is growing, too. In fact, an expanding menu has been a hallmark of each move. “We became more than a dessert shopwhenwemovedtothelocationnexttoTokyoGarden. With double the square footage we had at our first location, we added ramen, fresh salads and more to the menu. And here we are, 10 years later, doing it again,” says Yu.
When the cold weather sets in, one of Yu’s favorite things to do is make comfort food: “I love biscuits, and they will be on the new menu at our new location.”
Aside from the buttery, tastes-like-home style biscuits, Yu has a few other surprises up her sleeve, but she says the menu will also retain the favorites that have kept Sweetspot’s customers coming back again and again.
In terms of personal favorites from the classic Sweetspot menu, Yu says “The Diva” takes the (cup)cake for her: “I love caramel and white chocolate any time.”
While changing locations can be a risky move for any business, Yu sees it as an opportunity to create more room for fun and build community. Adaptability is the gift that keeps on giving. “Change is the only constant in business. I have learned to be calm in the chaos and that there’s always a solution to every problem,” says Yu.
The interior of the new location, like the others, was curated piece by piece with love by The Sweet Sixteen. It features a room for private events and additional seating – a warm welcome to the many happy visitors waiting to discover their new favorite menu item at their favorite local spot.
Owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart, but Yu encourages other aspiring business owners to take the same bold step she took 15 years ago: “Just do it.”
The decision to open Sweetspot has, no doubt, fed Yu’s passion for good food, community, people and design. Her desserts and meals have fed the bellies of countless visitors over the years, but the warmth, kindness, creativity and good vibes that abound at Sweetspot have done just as much to feed their souls. •
Sweetspot • 1244 Hartnell Ave., Redding (530) 226-8086
Open Tuesday – Saturday, 11 am – 8:30 pm, dine-in or take-out
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