Sugar Giant x SKORDO
Shannon joined our team in July of 2020. On her first day I was sending customers to Shannon for recipe ideas and ingredient descriptions. Degrees in Pastry and Culinary, a passion for cooking and a hearty work ethic had already taken her far in the foodie world and it was clear to everyone at SKORDO she was about to make a massive imprint on Portland's culinary scene. A pandemic wasn't going to hold Shannon back and sure enough, a quieter season has allowed her to refocus and join forces with the innovative team at Little Giant.
Below are notes from a brief interview with Shannon about her role at SKORDO, her determination at Sugar Giant and the ingredients that unite her two jobs.
SKORDO Stores Director
Freshly baked Sugar Giant Rye Bread using SKORDO Anise Seed.
How did Sugar Giant Come to be?
A few months ago, I was scrolling job postings and came across an ad looking for a "Baker" out of Little Giant in the West End. Little Giant was one of the first spots I introduced myself to on my first apartment hunting trip to Maine two years ago. I knew this was a standout company, producing beautiful food and catering to the community. I sent the owner, Ian, an email explaining where I was in life and my professional background. He responded with a Zoom link, saying he had a concept in mind and offered to walk me through it.
He had been frustrated lying in bed in the morning, seeing the only delivery breakfast option available was a chain. Ian knew that was a void he could fill. Little Giant was only operating as takeout at the time so there was more than half the day where the restaurant space was sitting empty. He had already started renting the attached cafe space to Roll Call for their lunch service, but that left the mornings available. I loved this idea, but even more, I loved his energy and eagerness to get Sugar Giant off the ground. With the space taken care of, all we needed was a menu and an ordering system. I spent the remainder of the day after our call baking. The next morning Ian picked up a picnic basket full of pastries and took it to his family to assess.
Luckily, they enjoyed all the treats and that was our menu! Next, we enlisted my roommate, Sarah Demers, to do our design work. Sarah has a Graphic Design background, and our style and passions align. After just two weeks of nightly zoom check-ins, brainstorming, and development, we opened up January 8th at 7am to a line out the door and over 60 preorders. It has been such a whirlwind!
Who are the players and what are their roles?
Ian Malin is the owner, founder, innovator, tech support, and customer service king! He is an incredible support system, and kindly put a lot of faith in me to step up and make the bakery my own. You'll find him in and out of Little Giant at night, Sugar Giant in the morning, and Sugarloaf on the weekends with his family. Ian's ability to prioritize every aspect of his life - at all times - is unmatched. During opening weekend some folks were lucky enough to have him hand deliver their pastries to their porch! He is community focused and assures each customer is treated like family.
Sarah Demers is our graphic designer, day of coordinator, social media manager, and behind the scenes photographer. When you came in to pick up your order, she's the smiling (masked) face that takes care of you and will later repost your photos on our page! She moved to Portland this fall, after finishing up 6 years in Philly where she graduated with a BFA in Graphic and Interactive Design from Tyler School of Art. Typography and layout design are what keep her wheels turning so we are so grateful to have her on our team, doing that and more for us! You'll see more of her work soon as Ian reveals Boozy Giant, a wine shop under the Are You Giant brand.
And me, Shannon Mahoney, the baker! I have always surrounded myself with all things food. I started a cake business in high school and catered weddings and events on the weekends while attending Johnson & Wales for degrees in Pastry and Culinary. Soon after graduating I made my way out to the Hamptons and started at the Bridgehampton Inn as their Pastry Chef and eventual Sous Chef. I worked on a cookbook with them and after three busy summer seasons made the move to Portland.
I admired the community focus and restaurant density of Portland and knew I needed to get my foot in the door, so I started spending my weekends in the Old Port working at SKORDO. By hearing the needs of the people of the city and seeing what they are looking for; I was able to hone my idea of where I wanted to be. I teased the idea of fine dining for so long, being consistently instructed to make things smaller and more refined-- so when Ian said his goal is to assure people feel they're getting their value, I went giant!
Sugar Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies topped with SKORDO Maine Sea Salt.
What are you most excited about achieving at Sugar Giant?
I cannot wait to be shipping! I’ve been blessed with a loyal following as my personal businesses developed from Shannon's Shweets, to Shannon Made It, to Sugar Giant from New York to Rhode Island to Maine. I cannot wait to be able to feed everyone all over! My immediate family is across 6 states so even just allowing them to order will feel huge, and especially sweet after this crazy year apart. Plus, Sarah has been dominating the Instagram game and we have followers anxious to get their orders in.
How are your roles at Sugar Giant and SKORDO complimentary?
They both allow me to interact with locals, hear their cravings and help bring those to fruition! Both inspire and challenge me and always have something exciting in the works. I look at them as my right and left hands. They are two separate entities that are incredible on their own and even more so when they are brought together. With SKORDO I'm often creating dishes at home and sharing a recipe virtually. Sugar Giant allows me to share baked goods directly to the community. I really appreciate having SKORDO introduce me to blogging and providing me a space to gain my confidence in myself and the way I speak of my product, whether it be a blend or a pastry. I wholeheartedly believe in both businesses, the people behind them and feel so fortunate to be able to mesh the two. I love the way they naturally align together, both catering to the cravings of the community.
What SKORDO ingredient are you most excited to bring into a Sugar Giant treat?
Ceylon Cinnamon has already had its time to shine and now it's only fair Posy Sugar gets a turn! I am so ready to add that floral glisten on top of everything, especially with Valentine's Day right around the corner. The only problem is deciding how to use it first! I typically balance my style between creating something new and innovative and hitting those nostalgic notes that provide feelings along with flavor.
Photo by @eatwithabigail
Photo by @eatwithabigail
What’s been the best moment at Sugar Giant so far?
That’s a huge question! I think it was the first time I noticed repeat customers. Little Giant has a huge neighborhood following. I credit a lot of Sugar Giant’s support to the guys in the Little Giant kitchen that built loyalty with the locals over the years. This led to a ton of initial orders. It was incredible, but certainly led to minor feelings of imposter syndrome. Once I saw familiar orders pop up, I was reassured knowing people are coming back for the product, not just the allure of something new in town. It is still unbelievable to me that people are ordering multiple GIANT ice cream sandwiches at 7am in the middle of a Maine winter, but they are! Again and again!
Since writing this post, Sugar Giant mailed their first out of state order. Rumor is the cookies arrived safe and sound in Tennessee. In their first 8 days, the bakery sold over 380 cinnamon rolls! We're excited to see Sugar Giant grow and remain impressed by Shannon's endless work ethic. Go team!
Cover image by @eatwithabigail