Chef Felicia Holmberg (“Chef Fee”) revolutionized Salt Lake’s vegan scene with a Facebook post selling candy. Soon after, she was meeting customers in parking lots, peddling her version of Snickers, called Snix, or “vegan crack”, she jokes. Made with nougat, caramel, and salted peanuts dipped in semi-sweet chocolate, her vegan candy bars created a cult following. Twelve cars would be lined up to score Snix, and Holmberg worried someone would call the cops when they saw her dealing vegan crack from her trunk.
Nobody called the cops, and the vegan chef was free to pursue her business by renting a professional kitchen. Relying on word of mouth and social media, the holidays were the next big bump for her candy and cake making business. She quit her day job as a sous chef, which “… was getting harder and harder by the day” because of her commitment to a vegan lifestyle. By the end of October 2020, she was creating vegan goodies full-time. “I haven’t looked back.” she declared.
In March 2021, her storefront opened. Decorated in white and green, with a banner of pride flags, the interior is bright and cheery. A small seating area is surrounded by vintage accents and houseplants, and photos of the chef’s cats are on display. Sweet Hazel and Co. is named in memory of Hazel, a beloved polydactyl cat.
The pastry case is filled with a dazzling selection of personal-sized cakes and pies. You’ll find everything from rich, chocolatey Better Than Sex Cake, to a tart key lime pie topped with whipped cream. Sharing the case are vegan replicas of your favorite candy bars along with a few inventions like The Millionaire Bar, shortbread layered with buttery caramel and chocolate ganache kissed with sea salt. She also offers gluten-free versions of her creations.
Holmberg has been told she doesn’t need to market her creations as vegan because people wouldn’t know the difference, but she’s proud of her ability to make delicious desserts without animal products. “I’m passionate about it. I love it. I have high expectations and I don’t let things come out here that aren’t up to my expectations,” she said.
You’re not going to only find desserts by Chef Fee at Sweet Hazel and Co. This little bakery has become a hub of local vegan businesses, both sweet and savory. You’ll discover treats from other vegan bakeries, like flavorful doughnuts from Big O Doughnuts. There’s a fridge filled with housemade cheeses from Seasons Plant Based Bistro, and animal-free meats like jerky, smoky slices, and bacon from Utah’s only vegan butcher, Vegan Daddy.
“Working with Fee has been wonderful!” said Adam Diener, the man behind the meats. “It has definitely helped us grow and get our name out there by being available for retail at Sweet Hazel. Chef Fee makes the most amazing treats and we are so stoked to be working with her.”
“I wanted to be a one-stop shop. Everything is local and it’s just so fun!” exclaimed Homberg. You can find Sweet Hazel and Co. treats in other vegan businesses along the Wasatch Front, too. It’s a win-win situation. “I want to help people, and it also helps me,” she explained.
Not only does she share retail space with other businesses, she brings in entrepreneurs to sell food at pop-up events. On any given week you’ll find fresh tamales, middle-eastern fare, or Ethiopian dishes — all 100% plant-based.
“The pop-ups help me to promote my business, get more customers, and introduce my culture and my food to many people. She (Holmberg) is very supportive. She checks on me to see if I am selling my food and gets worried if I don’t sell enough. She has a very good heart and a very positive mind,” said Betelhem Zemariam, owner of Betty’s Ethiopian Cuisine. Holmberg has created an impressive vegan business and co-op. “I started in the middle of a pandemic, and I exploded in the middle of a pandemic. I only see us getting bigger,” she said.
With a passion for creating cravable desserts, a fantastic staff behind her, a loyal fan base, and the support of the vegan business community, the future looks sweet for Sweet Hazel and Co.
385-495-7336, 167 W 4500 S (Frontage Rd), Murray, UT 84107
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