Businesspeople of the Month: Denise Townsend and Reanna Townsend

by Anne Lemmon

Room For Dessertroom-for-dessert

Bluebonnet Crossing

9618 Jefferson HWY, Suite B

Baton Rouge, LA   70809


Denise Townsend – Owner, Store Manager

Reanna Townsend – Co-Owner, Kitchen Manager, Head Pastry Chef

Monday–Friday 8am-6pm
Saturday 8am–4pm

Shop    225.293.9886        Cell    225.921.9621

If you eat organic, then there is always “Room for Dessert”.

Denise Townsend and her daughter, Reanna Townsend, opened Room For Dessert on May 8, 2013, in the Bluebonnet Crossing Shopping Center at the intersection of Bluebonnet Blvd and Jefferson Hwy. Room For Dessert is an organic pastry shop that provides all type of pastries daily, as well as cakes by special order. They provide a variety of desserts that are gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, and Paleo on a daily basis, or you may special order other allergy-free desserts or cakes.

Reanna attended Orlando Culinary Academy in Orlando, Florida, after completing her BS at the University of South Carolina, where she garnered a 4-year track scholarship. After graduating with her degree in hospitality, she then worked for a few years in traditional bakeries in Florida and Baton Rouge but was never allowed to let her “passion run free”. Denise has always wanted to have her own business and Reanna wanted to be free to bake her own creations, not following traditional baking set down by other chefs. Only one other bakery in Baton Rouge was catering to special dietary needs in cakes and desserts and the two women saw a need. Denise, with the support of her husband, made Room For Dessert a reality in 2013.

When asked why she chose this business, Denise replied, “I worked for the state for many years but always wanted to have my own business. I tried selling cosmetics full time once and in 1981, my husband and I partnered with another couple to open the first Subway restaurant on the corner of Hank and Airline here in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge was not quite ready for Subway back then and we struggled to get it off the ground. So when my daughter decided that she really did not want to work for a traditional bakery, I thought, “Why can’t we try to open our own bakery business?”room-for-dessert-2

Together Reanna and Denise run the business. “I am the people person; I want to help each person find what they need and want. My customer service itch is strong. If you provide a good product, customers will tell others and bring in more customers.” Word of mouth is a strong means of advertising. Denise wants everyone to be happy with the product they buy. “If you don’t like it, let us fix it. Tell us what is wrong.” Reanna runs the kitchen; she is the expert on specialty baking. “She just wants to bake,” her mother says. She wants to provide an option for those who can’t have the traditional desserts or desire to want a healthier version.

They also sell organic coffee, tea, and organic hot chocolate. You may stop by in the morning for an organic pastry and cup of organic coffee starting at 8 am.

After being open a few months, Denise and Reanna added quiche to their menu for lunch, which is sold by the slice. These were added to the menu due to numerous requests from customers for a savory lunch item.

Cakes for special occasions require 24 hours’ notice and specialty cakes are made on request. They have made several wedding cakes, organic and gluten free. Birthday cakes designs can be cartoon characters, super heroes, sports figures, school insignia, or other special designs.  “Come in and tell us what you need or want, we will work with you,” Denise says.

All of the ingredients used in their baking are organic, from the flour to the eggs, extracts, milk, sweeteners, etc. Organic means no preservatives or chemically treated ingredients, unprocessed ingredients; it’s healthier for you. Baking organically is a real science. You need to know what to substitute when you leave processed and hydrogenated items out of the batter so you don’t compromise on taste or texture. Making items gluten-free is different. You have to learn to bake with gluten-free flour and to adjust your recipe; you can’t just substitute or swap out the flours and other ingredients.

When asked why they chose organic baking, Denise says, “the concept was all my daughter’s idea. She did not want to do traditional baking; she had done that for more than two years.  Her college roommate had a nut allergy and my father was diabetic, and my mother was lactose intolerant, so we were aware of special dietary needs and having to ‘do without’ certain foods.  Louisiana is ‘all about the food’; we love to eat; so we wanted to give people a healthy option and make desserts available to people with diet restrictions. Moderation is the key for being healthy, and with our specialty baking you can still enjoy eating desserts if you choose without compromising your health.”room-for-dessert-3

Denise points to herself as an example for eating organically and not gaining weight. She eats organically every day, including dessert at meals and monitors her blood sugar and her weight. She still wears the same size clothes she did when they opened the bakery in 2013.

When asked about opening your own business, Denise answers, “You must step out on faith and do something different, life is about taking chances; if you do not then you never know what might have happened. If you don’t live today, you may die tomorrow, and you haven’t enjoyed or experienced life.”

Denise was raised in the Morgan City area in a family of 11 siblings, and moved to Baton Rouge when she married back in 1976. Denise and Reanna are both athletic and believe in being physically active and eating healthy. Reanna and her brother attended Baton Rouge High and were standouts in track and field; both attended college on track scholarships at the University of South Carolina near their father’s family. Denise’s son is an artist and some of his paintings adorn the walls of the shop (and are for sale).

When asked about the challenges facing small business owners, Denise replied “One challenge is getting your name out there, and letting people know you are here and open for business.  The cost to advertise is so expensive and small business doesn’t always survive due to small advertising budgets.  My personal challenge is not being there all the time and taking time off for myself, allowing my staff to run the shop.”

She advises others to “believe in your product, check your competition, and get a good location. Always keep an eye on overhead, it can make or break you; learn from your mistakes. In the food business, we have to shop smart and check expiration dates. You should stick to your plan and what you know, believe in your product. Don’t forget to enjoy life. Stay balanced and don’t let the business consume you or you will burn out. I want to enjoy life; when your business becomes your life, you are in trouble. Small businesses need support or they go under quickly. It has been hard breaking into the Baton Rouge market, but we know that the need for our product is very important to those who want to stay healthy, so we persevere. With God all things are possible!”

“As one of the leading patisserie providers of organic desserts in the Baton Rouge area, we at Room for Dessert take pride in offering the highest quality ingredients in our products. Our dream is to become one of the leading providers of pastries and desserts that are sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, egg-free, paleo, and dairy-free, so that you can eat, enjoy, and be free.”

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