By: Arli Lima, Staff Writer
In recent years Baltimore and the surrounding DMV have seen an influx of cupcake bakeries all across the region; the consensus is clear – sweet treats are back and better than ever. One local award-winning dessert company, The Mallow Bar (8767-A Philadelphia Road) has taken one of your favorite old- fashioned treats to a whole new level. Owner Nikki Lewis has opened the first ever “rice cereal treat café” in the country and she is putting a healthy and delicious spin on the rice krispie treat you know and love.
Tell us about the evolution of the Rice Krispie Treat that we’ve all come to know and love into what you now market as the “Mallow Crunchie”?
Well I’ve always loved making rice krispie treats with my Mom and as I grew older I never stopped making them. Growing up I would always come home and make krispies treats it was something about them that I loved. Into adulthood your tastes expand and you try different things, and one day I decided to make my own marshmallows, that’s how it all began.
What makes your homemade marshmallows different from others?
My Mallow Crunchies are different because our marshmallows are made from scratch, no preservatives, really good ingredients and the reason I started making my own marshmallows for the krispies treats because I don’t eat pork and most marshmallows are made out of pork gelatin. I tried a lot of different recipes for marshmallow and finally kind of created my own marshmallow recipe and added in a lot of fixings and toppings like chocolate and caramel. I would use really good ingredients in the marshmallow and that made the taste just so much better than your traditional krispie treat.
Where did the motivation come from to turn your childhood hobby into a business?
Well I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I have always had some sort of business going on. My husband and I had a real estate investing business and it did well for some years but towards the end of it we just hit a rough patch because the real estate market had taken a turn for the worst. I wanted to find something else to get into or another business venture to pursue. So the idea of making these treats came to mind and I decided to test out my recipes at the farmer’s market and see if people loved them as much as I did.
What was the response at the farmer’s market?
The people responded really well to it and everybody loved it. So that told me that it was going to be a viable business. Just having that entrepreneurial background and mindset and adding to it the fact that I love krispie treats, it worked out really well. I think it’s always important to pursue a business that is something you love to do because it helps you stick with it when times get tough… because times will get tough.
When did you get a feeling that it was actually time to start looking into real estate and open up your own location?
Well in Maryland you have to work out of a commercial kitchen. So for people that produce some kind of food item, that is always a challenge trying to figure out if it’s a viable decision to pursue a commercial kitchen because it’s such a hefty cost. So luckily I was able to rent commercial kitchen space from different places over the years but that becomes a bit cumbersome because some of the locations, I had to take my equipment in everyday and it was just a challenge. I just knew that I needed my own personal space. So that’s when I went out on a hunt to find a good commercial kitchen and in doing that the place I found was more conducive to not only being a commercial kitchen but also being a store front so that’s how the Mallow Bar came about. It has always been a long term goal of mine to open up a krispie treat desert café and we are the first krispie treat desert café in the country. There is no café that focuses just on krispie treats exclusively. Bakeries and cupcake bakeries are very popular right not but this gives people something different to try as a desert snack.
I love that you make what I consider a non-traditional treat especially in this society where cupcakes are so popular. Were you a little apprehensive about how the public would receive Mallow Crunchies?
I was pretty confident because I knew the taste was great. The apprehension came in with the thought of trying to sway people’s mind sets away from a krispie treats just being a “kiddie treat.” I knew this was a gourmet item with artisan flair. It takes a lot of effort to make it the way we make it. It’s not just the three ingredients on the side of the rice krispies box. I had to change everyone’s thinking and make them realize this is an adult version of the treat you remember. It’s nostalgic but it’s also new school.
Speaking of “kiddie treat,” you appeal to the kid in all of us with your super cute packaging that features a picture of your son.
Yes! People love the fact that it’s a family business. My son Nigel is the face of the marketing material. People love that it’s a family business and that pulls people in and I did this to remind people of their childhood and when they got a chance to be in the kitchen and be a little chef for a minute. Nigel represents that feeling of nostalgia.
Well Baltimore has certainly taken notice because you won Baltimore Magazine’s “Best of Baltimore Best Snack of 2010” How did that feel?
That was a great honor, we are very proud of that and excited about that. It definitely gives validation to the treats. I think it’s a wonderful snack and I know how much work and effort we put into it.
For more information on The Mallow Bar and Mallow Crunchies visit the website at www.themallowbar.com