Go just a block past Sweet Delite Ice Cream and across the street from Sugar Shack, and you’ll find the West End of Davenport’s newest treat: Chic Soiree.
The bakery opened last month and is in its soft opening phase, but the business has long roots in the neighborhood.
One of the owners/bakers Sara Whelchel, a native of Homewood, Illinois, moved to the West End in seventh grade. At Smart Intermediate School and Davenport West High School, classmates would ask Whelchel, “Why do you live down there?”
“People have a skewed vision of this area,” the 23-year-old said.
She still lives “down there.” Whelchel, her husband and 3-year-old daughter share a house with her mother, brothers and aunt, Lorraine Mccaffrey.
It’s the same house where Mccaffrey, an Idaho native and longtime baker, started a catering business called Chic Soiree out of in 2014. As business picked up, she gradually enlisted the help of her family members, including her niece.
“We’re a family of bakers,” Mccaffrey said. “It’s just something we all do together.”
Making a dream happen
In September, Chic Soiree officially joined the Davenport bakery scene, which includes Oh So Sweet by Tiphanie near the intersection of Main and 3rd streets.
Meanwhile, East Side Bakery on Harrison Street closed earlier this month.
One thing that sets Chic Soiree’s sweets apart is what’s not in them.
About two years ago, Mccaffrey started making vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian items at the request of clients in the Quad-Cities. Plus, several of her family members have those diet restrictions.
“There’s such a demand for those things,” Whelchel said, “that it justified us getting our own place.”
“We finally said, ‘We’re just going to go for it,” Mccaffrey said. "It's our dream come true."
At Chic Soiree, there are designated display cases for vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options and the baking team also takes special orders.
“We want to have cupcakes for people like that where it still tastes like a cupcake,” Mccaffrey said. “Some people go their whole lives without those things.”
To come up with those recipes, Mccaffrey and her baking helpers have to be creative. And that’s part of the fun.
“We have a big imagination,” Mccaffrey said. “Our brains don’t shut off. We’re always coming up with ideas.
Chic Soiree’s website and Instagram profile features samples of their creativity, including sprinkled cake pops, maple syrup bacon cupcakes, macarons, elaborate wedding cakes and a cake decorated with a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theme.
“Our options are limitless,” Whelchel said. “You can start with nothing and then you have something beautiful.”
'We're glad you're here'
As Whelchel and her aunt started searching for storefronts, they didn’t look far from home.
They settled on the spot at 2002 W. 4th Street, across the street from Monroe Elementary School.
Passing by one day this past week, Chic Soiree didn’t yet look open for business.
Whelchel has heard that from customers.
“We’re kind of pacing ourselves for now,” she said.
Ahead of the establishment’s grand opening at the end of month, the Chic Soiree team will offer a stripped down set-up with limited treats available each day. Next year, they hope to expand the menu to feature sandwiches and soup for lunch.
In the meantime, customers have still dropped in the newest bakery in town to check it out and sample a blueberry scone or pumpkin bar.
And, “constantly,” Whelchel said, they’ve said, “We’re glad you’re here. We needed something like this.”
“We’ve had a ton of people come in and say, ‘We’re glad there’s a place like this in the West End,’ she said.
As someone who grew up there, Whelchel is glad too.
“There wasn’t anything like this for me when I was in school,” she said. “I hope it brings the community together.”