Meet Betty and Elly! The duo who will put a smile on your face and a delicious treat in your belly!
Meet Betty and Elly! Betty hails from Omaha, Nebraska, but moved around a good deal (Texas, Florida, NYC, upstate NY, and Maine). In 2007, she graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City with a degree in Pastry and Baking Arts and Restaurant Management. After graduation Betty honed her cake decorating skills at Brooklyn’s Betty Bakery before moving to Philadelphia where she got a job in Reading Terminal.
Elly was born in Yorktown, NY. She came to Philly for school and graduated, in 2012, from the Art Institute with a degree in Pastry and Baking Arts. In addition to managing a local bakery, Elly worked at Parc Restruant’s pastry kitchen and fought food costs at Iovine’s Produce Market.
Betty had a plan. She moved to Philadelphia with the intention of opening up her own bakery. She had a name picked out and was already in menu development. What she didn’t have planned was meeting Elly!
Elly and Betty met while they were both working in Reading Terminal Market. Elly won over Betty’s heart with a shared love of 80’s-era music and amazing dance moves. The duo was settled.
Both Betty and Elly continued working other jobs for three years during which time they raised a small amount of money from personal loans which would be used to open their bakery. In 2015, Romana Susan’s Bake Shop opened its doors in Fishtown. “Our original hours were very short and we opened with three cupcakes, a brownie and four cookies. It’s really comical to reflect on how shoestring everything was at the time. We didn’t even have a display case! We were so lucky to be in a neighborhood that took a chance on us and a family who supported our dream.”
In 2021, they took the plunge and opened a second location in Graduate Hospital. With a combined 30 years of baking experience, the duo is committed to simple desserts that will find a special place in your heart, whether you grew up with homemade cookies or your family’s special treats came out of a box.
Roses and Thorns
Controlling and balancing personal time with owning a business was extremely important to Elly and Betty. Being two women in business, they wanted security through pregnancies and raising a family which is not easily accomplished when working in the food industry.
Betty and Elly were able to build a business around those important needs for themselves and their employees. They keep their hours and schedule a bit odd for industry standards to allow for more personal flexibility among themselves and the staff. “We also agree to close the bakery twice a year so we both can take vacations and not worry about what is happening at the shop. On the flip side, you don’t ever get to leave work at work when you’re running a business. We are always working on 10 projects in our down time. As much as we try to give ourselves a separation, I’m usually doing bookkeeping on vacation, but at least it’s outside with a beautiful view.”
It was also important that their employees were able to work in a healthy environment. “Getting a team who cares takes a bit of maneuvering, and we went out of our way to offer full paid health insurance and time off, things we never got but are critical to a stable life. Getting to go to work and enjoy your coworkers and laughing with them adds such a positive impact to your life.” Paying those benefits does sometimes mean Betty and Elly have to take a cut, but for them it is worth it.
Both Betty and Elly love that baking is a creative outlet for them. The exploration of what they come up with for holidays and special events is very rewarding. They love that they can be silly and make tasty things that are also engaging. Having their customers walk in and get excited about a simple treat makes the process that much sweeter.
That customer relationship is one of the most impactful parts for Elly and Betty. “I was surprised by how quickly we got to know our customers and just how much we would have a sideline view of families growing up and getting to add a bit to tradition through cakes and sweets. Who knew our sugar cookies would become a lead potty training bribe? We are part of people’s big moments and benchmarks.” It’s those relationships that Betty and Elly have built over the years that always make it worth it.
For Elly and Betty there are way more roses than thorns in owning Ramona Susan’s.