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Shawnniecakes expands menu with new cafe inside Collins Community Credit Union
They have breakfast and lunch now, too
CEDAR RAPIDS — After 13 years in business and nearly four at NewBo City Market, LeShawn Smith was ready to make a change with Shawnniecakes.
For a year and a half, she’s been waiting for the right opportunity to do more than the business’ namesake “cakes.” The business had outgrown the incubator model at NewBo City Market, and her vision for a bona fide cafe waited patiently.
On March 13, Shawnniecakes became Shawnniecakes Cafe.
If you go:
What: Shawnniecakes Cafe
Where: 1800 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids (inside Collins Community Credit Union)
When: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
Phone: (319) 412-5000
Details: Available for breakfast, lunch, pastries and sweet treats throughout the day via carryout, dine-in at the credit union’s lobby, or drive-thru
With breakfast and lunch served from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., a whole new menu never before seen at NewBo is available with speed and convenience in mind for busy customers. And thanks to a drive-thru, you don’t even have to set foot inside their new location at Collins Community Credit Union.
Egg-based sandwiches and wraps offer a choice of meat or veggies and choice of cheese on a warm biscuit or tortilla. Or try it in a scramble bowl, with a potato and onion base topped with sauteed peppers and onions.
Avocado toast is no longer just for trendy sidewalk cafes, with a menu appearance at Shawnniecakes, too. Bacon, tater tots, sausage, toast, oatmeal and grits make for a full meal — all available a la carte.
For lunch, Smith offers hot sandwiches like the Shawnnie Philly cheesesteak sandwich on fresh rolls, chicken salad sandwiches, and a soup of the day with sides like baked macaroni and cheese, and fries.
Whether it’s a dessert for your meal or a meal in its own right, all the sweets that launched her business have carried over from her former NewBo City Market location to her new spot inside Collins Community Credit Union at 1800 First Ave. NE.
Her signature pound cakes, which comes in flavors from traditional to banana pudding and sweet potato to pina colada, continue to draw her regular customers into the new location as she brings a different audience into the fold.
With butter as her primary accomplice and a strong penchant for extracts and flavorings, Smith defines her style of cooking and baking with one word: love.
“It’s not just going to be a Philly cheesesteak, it’s going to be my version,” Smith said. ”It’s not going to be the same as when you go to Crumbl cookie. It’s always going to be a little bit of what I like, and then something to please everybody.“
With the opportunity to draw new fans in, Smith continues to honor the heritage of her adapted family recipes that built her business’ foundation by using flavors to connect customers to their best memories.
“It’s for you to be able to eat something without being full of preservatives or additives, and it’s made specifically for you,” Smith said. “Food almost equates to love in our family.”
No matter the mood, food was the answer.
Until she was 8, Smith grew up on the south side of Chicago, where poverty was rife. But before she left the city, she never quite realized that. For her, the comfort of food from her aunt and grandma, shared with neighbors, provided a sense of protection that shielded her from ever feeling deprived.
Her pound cake comes from her great-aunt. Her macaroni and cheese was inspired by her cousin.
After her parents’ medical transcription service closed years ago, eliminating her job, Smith found her calling helping through her godbrother with Hatchett’s BBQ truck.
Much in the same way that she was shielded through food growing up, she hopes to deliver the same feelings of nourishment and comfort to others through her kitchen.
“It’s nice when people bite into something and are like ‘Oh my God, that’s good,’ ” she said. “That makes me smile.”
Since starting her business in 2010 from home, Smith said she’s seen steady growth.
In 2019, she moved into NewBo City Market. Several months later, the pandemic hit.
She didn’t qualify for federal pandemic protection loans or local grants. But she persisted, eventually getting a boost after her small business received a mention on air from Stephen Colbert in 2021.
Eventually, she hopes to expand with a second location at Collins Community Credit Union’s headquarters on Blairs Ferry Road NE, too.
“If we do stuff people really enjoy, they’re going to come back,” Smith said. “When you’re on the way to work and need a coffee, you don’t want to only have Starbucks.”
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