On a recent Friday night, Kate Kuckro and Mindi Caner bundled up against the cold and set up shop outside the public library at 24th Street and Bartlett. They didn’t have to wait long for their first customer, a man towing a small rolling suitcase who doubled back when he noticed their Sweet Constructions cart.
“I hear a lot about the carts, but I never see them,” said Ken Paul Rosenthal, taking a free brownie sample and buying two more before continuing on his way.
A few minutes later, a young woman paused in front of the plexiglass case. After some deliberation, she settled on the chocolate crackle cookie, which has a fudgy brownie inside and a crunchy outside.
“I was craving something sweet,” said Angelie, who declined to give her last name. She’d had a bad day at work, she added.
Kuckro and Caner have sold baked goods from their cart since July, but they began baking en bulk in 2001, selling holiday gift boxes to law firms.
Every year, the women say, the gift component of their business has grown, with the biggest orders coming from corporate clients.
A few years ago, Kuckro and Caner started selling their goods wholesale to Jackson Place Café in the Financial District year round, and have been steadily adding more cafes to their client list.
Their first time out with a cart, a converted baker’s rack with canvas signage and plexiglass display case mounted on top, was during July’s Sunday Streets. Being out with other mobile vendors was so enjoyable, the women decided to make it a regular event.
“It’s really nice to have interaction with people,” said Kuckro.
Kuckro has worked full-time at Sweet Construction since June, when her hours as a nanny were cut down to 10 per week. Caner still has a full-time job at a law firm.
Over the holidays, the women enlist the aid of friends. The rest of the year, they’re on their own.
Kuckro and Caner bake goods at a commercial kitchen they rent by the hour in Hunter’s Point. On Sundays, they prepare batches for Monday’s café deliveries. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for online and other orders, including catering events.
It’s on Fridays that they bake about 300 cookies of nine different flavors, and four kinds of cupcakes, for their street sales. They park their cart first at 24th Street in front of the public library, then at 20th Street and Valencia Street, by the abandoned gas station.
Their choice of location is based on both foot traffic and other businesses in the area.
“We view ourselves as members of the community and we don’t want to conflict with established businesses,” Kuckro said.
“Plus we don’t have to push (the cart) too far,” Caner joked.
Sweet Constructions developed from their friendship. The women grew up one town apart in Connecticut, but didn’t meet until they moved into the same duplex in San Francisco.
Caner was the first to enroll in a cake decorating class; Kuckro followed. They began making cakes for Caner’s daughter to take to school on special occasions. Friends and schoolmates took notice of their developing talents, and soon the pair was spending hours fashioning elaborate cakes serving about 250 people.
When baking cakes became exhausting, Caner and Kuckro switched to cookies over the holidays. Cookies proved less stressful and more profitable, and they decided to make the swap permanent.
The owners fondly identify their cart’s regular visitors by the desserts they choose. There’s the man who always orders a coconut caramel bar. The young women who use their leftover laundry money to buy pecan snowballs. And, once, a couple from Germany had their first cupcakes ever at the Sweet Constructions cart.
The sandwich cookie, made of two coconut butter cookies with a vanilla butter cream and raspberry jam filling, and snickerdoodles are Kuckro’s favorites. Caner says her husband is partial to chocolate crackle
On the street, the bestsellers are chocolate crackles, ginger and sandwich cookies. Sweet Constructions treats range in price from 50 cents for pecan snowballs and cupcakes at $1.50 to the $3 organic fruit tart.
But with their cookies selling like hotcakes, so to speak, the women are considering setting up their own shop indoors, ideally on Valencia’s busy corridor.
“It’s pretty hard to get me out of the Mission,” Caner said.