| Follow Us:


Sweet Potato Sensations
Sweet Potato Sensations -

Sweet Potato Sensations

17337 Lahser
Detroit, Michigan 48219

Sweet Potato Sensations

By Tunde Wey
May 22, 2013

In 1987 Cassandra Thomas, a stay-at-home mother who had quit her job at Detroit’s famed Hudson's department store, baked some cookies to sell at the annual Rosedale Park block party. Thomas had started the day with some 125 sweet potato cookies and was expecting modest business; she sold out before noon. A few months later, Thomas incorporated her company and began selling her sweet potato treats out of her basement.
Today Sweet Potato Sensations is closing in on its twenty-sixth year in business. After sixteen years as a home operation, they moved to a storefront on Lahser, across the street from the Old Redford Theater, the Motor City Java House Café and the Artists’ Village. They are counted among the standard bearers fighting to change the neighborhood’s trajectory.
A new generation of Thomases is also getting involved with business. Charice “Espy” Thomas, 32, and Jennifer Thomas, 31, are the daughters and new faces of the business. The two sisters are taking the family business to the next level, injecting it with hip messaging and flair while taking care to remain true to the beloved brand their mother created.

Espy, who left Detroit for school and later spent time living in China, Connecticut and South Africa, returned to handle the business's marketing. Jennifer, who worked for MGM after college, joined the business as the master baker. Both sisters, who had been a part of the business since it began, have found their way back home.
Jennifer says, "We definitely don’t want to leave this location. This location is important to us. The Inner city needs some light as well; it doesn’t need to be check cashing, liquor stores and pizza shops." Their 4,000-square-foot business is busy, serving all manner of sweet potato confectionaries including pies, cookies, and cakes – a much-needed counterbalance to the prevailing scene that surrounds it.
The shop welcomes a variety of customers, serving over 10,000 annually from the neighborhood, the city, and the suburbs.
Aside from running the shop, both sisters also founded Naturally FLYY Detroit, a meet-up group that, according to Espy, "promotes women to be who they are naturally, starting with their hair."  She continues, "In a society where everything is blonde, pressed, whipped, and straightened, we are promoting people to embrace what God gave them naturally, whether your head is bald, (your hair is) slicked to your head, or whatever." Their events, which occur every other month, draw about 600 participants.
Sweet Potato Sensations is working on growing their business model by supplying other retailers with their product. They are vying for shelf space in the soon-to-open Whole Foods Market in Midtown, and if you have tasted any of their delicious homemade products you can’t help but hope that they're soon available everywhere.

Photograph by Marvin Shaouni Photography.

Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts

Twitter Feed

Related Resources