GREENVILLE - Kristi and Sean Strawser are still working through the passing of their teenage daughter, Corynna, but they’re doing it in the way they know she would have wanted - they’re living their lives, she said.
“Sean and I are really trying to stay busy. We have to allow ourselves time to grieve, but we know that Corynna wanted us to live, and continue doing great things,” Kristi stated. “We really feel like, although it’s hard sometimes to get out of bed and do things, we also feel close to her when we’re doing things that were special to her, or honoring her, or carrying on her legacy.”
Corynna was passionate about the cupcakes, Kristi recalled, and often it was a competition between her and her dad, Kristi added. And even though Corynna couldn’t eat the cupcakes due to her illness, she loved working with her dad to create new flavors, and making cupcakes for everyone else, Kristi said.
“They didn’t fight as much as he and I do, when we do it,” Kristi laughed. “At the end of the day we go home smiling, though.”
Sean and Kristi feel like this is something their daughter would have wanted.
“We really felt like she wanted us to do this [the cupcake business],” Kristi said. “I think, especially for Sean, because that was their thing, that was the way they bonded and spent time together, I think it’s even more important for him to do something they did together.”
The business really began somewhat by happy accident, Kristi said. Sean’s grandparents were having an anniversary party, and because of Sean’s enjoyment of cooking, his family asked him to provide the cupcakes.
“Sean’s really big on making things from scratch, not from a box,” Kristi commented. “So that embarked on a whole month of trying different flavors, and that’s when we came up with our first five or six flavors. Corynna and Sean were the ones who really took off with it and started selling the cupcakes.”
Sean would bake, with Corynna icing and decorating, and of course, coming up with new flavor combinations to try.
“It was a distraction for her,” Kristi shared. “Early on, she couldn’t have pain medications or anything, so when she was really hurting, we’d find a new cupcake flavor and go out and get ingredients. It’s also how we realized she was sick, because all of a sudden, her icing job wasn’t so great. Sean would ‘yell’ at her, because they weren’t perfect, not realizing there was something wrong. I finally realized there was something wrong, and that her hand strength wasn’t what it should be.”
The Strawsers took a break from baking professionally as Corynna’s battle with mitochondrial disease progressed, Kristi said. The orders were overwhelming, and took over the Strawsers’ home; it wasn’t feasible to keep baking in their home and continue caring for Corynna full-time.
Now, Sean and Kristi are baking out of Brenda’s Beanery on Broadway, adding their cupcake selections to Brenda McDonald’s selection of soups, salads and other homemade lunch and snack items, Kristi said.
“This way, customers can mix and match, they can get as many or as few cupcakes as they want,” Kristi commented. “We’ll still accommodate larger orders; anything over four dozen can be special ordered…”
All of Beanz Buttercream’s cupcakes are made from scratch - from the caramel filling for their Salted Caramel cupcake, to the chocolate ganache and peanut butter icing on their Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake, Kristi said.
“We want to provide quality, gourmet cupcakes. I think that’s one of the big things with our cupcakes, everything is made from scratch. The caramel is made from scratch, the chocolate ganache, the cupcakes and the icing - it makes a difference,” Kristi stated. “We feel if we’re going to call it a gourmet cupcake, it should be different than something you can make at home when you pull out a boxed mix.”
So far, Beanz Buttercream cupcakes have sold like hotcakes - in their first week back to baking, the Strawsers sold more than 26 dozen cupcakes. They plan to bake twice a week, but in their first week added an extra day in answer to 12 dozen cupcakes selling in less than 12 hours, Kristi said. They’ll continue to grow their business as they can, Kristi said, because it will always be a way to remember Corynna.
“Baking was a time Sean and Corynna really enjoyed together,” Kristi stated. “It’s not like we’re all good and we’ve forgotten about her. It’s the opposite. Baking is a way to cope, a way to remember her…We would never try to capitalize on our daughter’s legacy, we really hope that people are buying the cupcakes because they’re good,” Kristi added. “It’s hard to do it without her. The first time we baked at Brenda’s, instead of home, it felt so strange because she wasn’t there.”