By Stephen Jones
Lifelong entrepreneurs Terry and Cal “Wally” Toma didn’t choose the sweet life, but the two brothers have certainly found their groove.
“That’s actually a really funny story,” Wally Toma, co-owner of Palm Sweets Bakery, said when asked how he get into the pastry business. “This all happened by pure accident.”
When considering the success of their family-owned pastry shop located in Sterling Heights, one might be surprised to learn that Terry and Wally have only been in the dessert business for six years.
Wally and Terry were in the phone business when one of their buyers from out of the country came to Dearborn to check out a lot that was for sale. Wally and Terry ended up closing on a $150,000 deal with their buyer and took him out to celebrate with a nice dinner and baklava dessert. The buyer enjoyed the baklava so much that he asked for some to take home with him. Wally was surprised when he got a call a couple weeks later.
“He gave me a call and he said ‘Wally, I need a favor, I need you to send me a pallet of Baklava,” said Toma. “I was taken back at first and I told him ‘wait a minute, I’m not in the baklava business – I’m in the phone business’. He didn’t let up, he says ‘over here we hustle and when they tasted this baklava, they went crazy. I can make a killing – way more than I make off of phones’.”
Those were the marching orders that made Terry and Wally realize that they could do well for themselves by venturing into the pastry business and thus Palm Sweets was born.
Since then, the brothers have worked tirelessly to perfect their craft. The result has been a continuously growing list of products that customers from all over the state visit Sterling Heights to enjoy. The secret to their success is not sacrificing the integrity of the product.
“We have people come in and they’re looking to serve at a big event like a wedding or something like that,” said Toma. “We love to do it and they know that we’re going to give them and their guests a quality product, made from the best ingredients.”
Today, Palm Sweets is one of the most well-known pastry shops in southeast Michigan. In fact, it is so popular that it caught the attention of one of the world’s largest retailers, Kroger.
“Everyone knows what Kroger is all about,” said Toma. “We’ve always shopped there and now we’re happy to bring our vision to one of the world’s most likable and well-known stores.
Palm Sweets products are currently available in 25 grocery stores across the state of Michigan. Any additional distributors in the Kroger network that want to carry Palm Sweets can do so by placing an order online.
“We’re starting off this way and we will be looking to roll it out gradually over time,” said Toma. “We’ve been offered deals like this before but we’ve had to regretfully decline because we just knew it was going to be a backbreaker. With Kroger, we have a deal that we feel good about and we know it’s going to be a success.”
The partnership is sure to increase Palm Sweets’ brand recognition and provide access to individuals who may not have had the opportunity to try its many products before, including its fan-favorite homemade ice cream-gelato mix.
“Our ice cream is a home run,” said Toma. “Everyone loves the ice cream because we have a variety of flavors and it’s all homemade.”
In order to keep up with the demand under the Kroger partnership, Palm Sweets is undergoing an expansion of their kitchen. In addition to this expansion, Palm Sweets is looking to add talent to their work force, but that’s just business as usual.
“We’re always hiring,” said Toma. “We’ve gotten so good at this to where now it really is a specialized skill, but if you’re willing to learn and have a good work ethic, we’re willing to teach you.”
Terry and Wally have laid the groundwork and created a best-in-class pastry shop and are now exploring every avenue to help them expand their business.
In addition to the Kroger partnership, Terry and Wally are also looking to grow their business by expanding their digital footprint. A new website where customers will be able to place orders online is coming under the domain, palmsweets.com. You can find them on Facebook at Palm Sweets Bakery & Café.