After more than a decade at the helm of Pearl’s Bake Shoppe, owner Laurie Blakey is turning things over to three sisters with their own connection to the local culinary scene.
Last week, Blakey sold the West End bakery at 5811 Patterson Ave. to Kelly Polk, Holly Shaheen and Melissa Berling. Terms weren’t disclosed.
The new owners intend to stick to the same playbook already in use at Pearl’s, and don’t plan to change the bakery’s offerings or open new locations. Pearl’s makes and sells cupcakes, cakes and other baked goods.
“I would say that our direction is to really continue forward with the beautiful product that (Blakey) put her heart into,” Polk said. “Pearl’s is a Richmond destination and the brick-and-mortar location is the one we’re going to stay focused on.”
Polk said she and her sisters were interested in entering a traditional family industry as a new project, and Pearl’s was a standout due to its reputation and the sisters’ love of baking and desserts.
“Pearl’s bakery really fit the niche we looked for because we liked the founder and her amazing, for no better word, quality of ingredients and the time she took to bake each cupcake with amazing, great, sought-out ingredients,” Polk said.
The three sisters, who are in the real estate business, hail from the Shaheen family that opened and ran Phil’s Continental Lounge for years. The family sold the business in 1991, and the restaurant closed in 2014, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch report.
Polk said the trio intends to jointly operate the bakery and also continue their real estate careers. Polk owns Klop Properties. Her sisters are agents at Shaheen, Ruth, Martin & Fonville.
Blakey said she regularly got inquiries from people who sought to buy the bakery. Earlier this year she got a letter from Polk inquiring about the business, and Blakey was so moved by the pitch that they started to talk.
“I can’t tell you how many letters I receive over the course of a month,” Blakey said, noting that she knew the sisters as customers and had worked with Shaheen during her own real estate career. “When I opened it, this was a very conscientious letter. I could read the emotion in the letter.”
Blakey said it was around that time she was thinking about stepping back from the business in part because she has been dealing with the lingering effects of a COVID-19 infection.
“I had some changes in my life. Sometimes I think you get thumped on the head and I’m at an age where I can retire and probably should retire,” she said. “I had COVID at the end of December and just didn’t bounce back the way I had hoped to.”
Blakey said she didn’t have any firm professional plans for after Pearl’s, though she wants to work on a memoir and spend time with family.
Pearl’s was founded in 2010 by Blakey and Laura Condrey, who left the business in 2018. The bakery moved to its current location in 2018 from a Libbie-Grove spot.
The bakery is named for Blakey’s grandmother Pearl Gentry Chapman. Blakey said she was pleased to sell the business to the sisters because they would bring a bit of the family-focus that helped inspire and sustain the bakery.
“They’re going to continue their family legacy, so it’s going from one family to another,” Blakey said. “In starting this, it kept my grandmother’s memory alive. The energy and synergy they’re bringing to this, they’re keeping that alive.”