Rocky River bakery Annie’s Signature Sweets finds sweet spot with online classes

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — With all the stories of businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, it comes as a welcome change to know of one that is positively thriving right now.

Rocky River pastry chef Ann LoParo’s business, Annie’s Signature Sweets, is one of these.

LoParo began her business a little less that three years ago with a combination of catering and teaching baking classes at a co-op kitchen on the west side. She has done well, but now — by teaching her classes online — her business is, well, exploding.

LoParo moved her classes online on March 25, right at the beginning of the virus shutdown.

“I have taught about 80 classes since then,” she said, “and have students participating from India, Canada, Hawaii and a lot from California and New York.”

Her business has really taken off since the pandemic began, she said, and now she is even expanding into virtual events, such as bachelorette parties and corporate parties that usually feature baking as a group team-building exercise.

“I am really bringing families together,” she said. “I have started having kids’ baking camps, too. I have taught five different sessions that last a week at a time.”

How did the word get out about what she was doing for her business to begin to grow so quickly? LoParo related a story of pure serendipity.

Annie’s Signature Sweets was included in an April story in Country Living Magazine about virtual cooking and baking lessons.

The introduction to her section read, “Whether you’re a novice who has never baked anything beyond banana bread or practically a pastry pro, there’s a virtual baking class made for you, thanks to pastry chef Ann LoParo of the Rocky River, Ohio-based Annie’s Signature Sweets. This month, you can learn how to make macarons, babka, pretzels, cream puffs, eclairs, pies, cheesecakes, cookies and so much more — all through Zoom.”

LoParo even attracted a bit of television interest due to the story, she said.

But she has her hands pretty full and usually limits her virtual classes to about 15 customers. “I want to keep it intimate,” she said. The classes are mostly held on weekends now.

She is not planning to return to in-person classes as of yet but, as we all know, the whole situation could change quickly.

So, what does LoParo have coming up for her fall virtual classes?

“This fall, I am considering sticky toffee pudding, kinderbread cake roll, apple strudel, pumpkin tiramisu and some holiday cookies classes, such as jam thumbprints and sugar cookies (for decorating),” she said.

She is also looking at truffles and bark, English toffee and peanut brittle, focaccia bread, sweet and savory scones, puff pastry, galettes (a French pastry similar to a tart or a pie) — and always a macaron class.

To commiserate with LoParo about creating a virtual experience or to register for a class, visit her website at www.anniessignaturesweets.com. Tickets for a class begin at $50. Once registered, a “student” receives a grocery list and a recipe in order to be all ready for the class. LoParo even has a baking tool set available for $35 that ships free.

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