After more than a decade at the helm of Pearl’s Bake Shoppe, owner Laurie Blakey is handing 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 were not disclosed.
The new owners intend to stick with the same playbook already used at Pearl’s and have no plans to change the bakery’s offerings or open any new locations. Pearl’s manufactures and sells cupcakes, cakes and other baked goods.
“I would say our direction is to really continue with the beautiful product that (Blakey) has put his heart into,” Polk said. “Pearl’s is a Richmond destination and the physical location is where we will stay focused.”
Polk said she and her sisters were interested in entering a traditional cottage industry as a new venture, and Pearl’s stood out because of its reputation and the sisters’ love of baking and desserts.
“Pearl’s Bakery really fit the niche we were looking for because we loved the founder and her amazing, without a better word, the quality of the ingredients and the time she took to bake each cupcake with amazing, excellent, sought after ingredients” , Polk said.
The three sisters, who work in real estate, come from the Shaheen family who 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 report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Polk said the trio intended to jointly operate the bakery and pursue their careers in real estate as well. Polk owns Klop Properties. Her sisters are agents at Shaheen, Ruth, Martin & Fonville.
Blakey said she regularly receives inquiries from people looking to buy the bakery. Earlier this year, she received a letter from Polk inquiring about the business, and Blakey was so moved by the pitch that they started talking.
“I can’t tell you how many letters I get in a month,” Blakey said, noting that she knew the sisters as clients and had worked with Shaheen during her own career in real estate. “When I opened it, it was a very conscientious letter. I could read the emotion in the letter.
Blakey said it was around this time that she considered stepping away from the business in part because she was dealing with the lingering effects of a COVID-19 infection.
“I had changes in my life. Sometimes I think you get hit in the head and I’m at an age where I can retire and I probably should retire,” she said. “I had COVID in late December and just didn’t bounce back like I had hoped.”
Blakey said she has no firm professional plans for after Pearl, although she wants to work on memoirs and spend time with her 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 location.
The bakery is named after Blakey’s grandmother, Pearl Gentry Chapman. Blakey said she was excited to sell the business to the sisters because they would bring some of the family focus that has helped inspire and support the bakery.
“They’re going to continue their family legacy, so it goes from family to family,” Blakey said. “Starting this, it kept my grandmother’s memory alive. The energy and synergy they bring to it, they keep it alive.