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If there’s any one thing that Portland lacks an abundance of in the area of foods, it’s comfort food.  It’s that nostalgic feel that you get when you sink your fork into a home cooked pie, or when you catch a whiff of fresh sausage and eggs cooking up in the kitchen in the morning.  It’s that feel good smile you get when you take a sip of some fresh home made soup, or sink your teeth into something delicious and nutritious.  According to Wikipedia, comfort foods can “…relieve negative psychological stress, pique positive emotions, or increase feelings of positivity.”  Portland Pedal Power is working with the two ladies Portland has claimed as it’s surrogate mothers, Michelle and Zelda from Sugar Mamas’, bringing you smiles and comfort food delivery when you’re missing your mama!

Of all the vendors we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, I don’t think we’ve met any two ladies sweeter than the ladies at Sugar Mamas’!

Sugar Mamas’ cooks up all natural organic, handmade, home cooked meals like “you used to wish your grandmother would make.”  These two sweeties were kind enough to take a few minutes out of their busy (and I do mean BUSY) schedule to chat with PPP a little more about what makes Sugar Mamas’ so sweet!

PPP: So you two seem like the local ladies that knows all the customers that come in personally, is that right?

Michelle: We know a lot of our customers.

PPP: How long have you been in business?

Zelda: Well, as Sugar Mama’s, not quite 4 years, but we managed here for 6 months before we committed.

Michelle: We took over and we just paid all the bills and pretended it was ours.  This was a really tough corner at the time and I think it’s still pretty tough, but it’s much better than when we first came here.

PPP: Tough to draw in business?

Michelle: Yea, it was lined with homeless and people of all different sorts of people.  We still get a lot of that with Julia West right across the street, and we have DePaul’s close by and a lot of those organizations, which is fine.  We support that and we’ve done benefits for Julia West to raise money for them since they are definitely a non-profit organization.  They rely on donations from the church and groups and wherever they can get it.  We’ve made ourselves a part of the community, which I don’t think any body that has owned this space has really done before.

PPP: That’s a very unique and great thing.  I’m sure not a ton of local businesses really get involved like that.

Michelle: Well we had such a diverse crowd here we had to make ourselves part of the community.  We can’t just say, “Oh you can’t be in here.”  We just embrace everybody.  Again though, the diversity has changed a lot with the building of the Indigo down the street.  That really made a difference because of the security and the cleaners.  They all kind of contribute to a lot of the diversity.  They’ve really made a difference in what’s going on here.

PPP: Other than the fantastic friendly and local feel you provide, what do you feel really sets you apart from other local coffee shops and businesses?

Zelda: Real Food.  Hand cooked.  In a kitchen barely worth mentioning.  We do handmade, cooked like it was made at home food for people.  It’s comfort food.

Michelle: She used to say, “Food you used to wish your grandmother would make.”

PPP: So with this being something of a tough corner and you two taking this over from managing it, what was your drive to keep this place going and to stick with the business?

Michelle: Well first and foremost, the bare facts are that we got an excellent deal on the space.  It was a sweetheart deal we couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.  So it made it possible for us to take our time to build it and not kill us.

Zelda: Because we’ve been looking around for another space, and many of these spaces are a joke with how expensive they are.

PPP: So this place was a steal?

Michelle: Yes, however, we have to get out of this space eventually.  We can’t keep working under these conditions.  We’ve completely outgrown this place.  We will get a rush of customers and we have only 8 burners.  So when groups of people come in it’s like a puzzle.  Although, it’s quite fun and challenging.

Zelda: And when you get to the end of the day you go “Schya!!!”

Michelle: Schya!  We did it!  We just have to find the energy to get home afterwards!

PPP: You don’t live too far from here hopefully.

Both: Gresham.

PPP: Whew, that’s a hell of a commute.

Michelle: And then of course on cinnamon roll mornings we have to get up at 2:45 a.m.  If I have to start cooking more cinnamon rolls the next step is 2:15 a.m.   They just fly out of here.  They flew out of here today, we have a couple over here but they’re on reserve.

PPP: Are your cinnamon rolls your most popular product?

Zelda: One of ‘em.

PPP: What are your favorites?

Michelle: My favorite is the Veggie Hash.  We just put it on the menu.  I was originally making it for us and decided “Well why don’t we put it on the menu?”  It’s been going really really well.

Zelda: And the Biscuits and Gravy Deluxe to.  The biscuits and gravy is probably one of our most popular.

Michelle: And the corn-beef hash and the meatloaves of all different sizes and shapes.

PPP: Where’s the sugar?  You’ve got cinnamon rolls, what else?

Michelle: Usually our case is full of cookies and cakes.  We’ve got Irish Cheesecake in the case now, but that’s about all I have left today.  But we try to keep it full with all different kinds of things.  We try to make a muffin every day, which is really popular as well, and really what ever we’re moved to make.

PPP: Of all the amazing popular things, for somebody ordering for the very first time, what would you recommend?

Zelda: Well she does fabulous pies with all butter crust… they’re the best.

Michelle: Just like the biscuits are all natural butter as are the cinnamon rolls.  We also do Sweet Potato Biscuits, which are so good!

PPP: Just like you wish your grandma would have made?!

Both: That’s right!  Comfort food.

PPP: There certainly isn’t enough comfort food.

Michelle: Not at all.  And we try to give it a little bit of a twist, or a little bit of flare.  Not just a biscuit thrown on a plate with some gravy out of a can.  Everything, as much as we can, is homemade.

Zelda: From scratch.

Michelle: We generally just don’t have the space to store food anyway.

PPP: So basically you have to order fresh food and ingredients every day?

Zelda: Ayup!.

Michelle: It depends on what we’re doing, but at least 2 or 3 times a week.  And we love that we can do that!

PPP: So before I let you go, what’s to be expected coming up?

Michelle: Well finding a new place and we’re going to start doing spring items after St. Patrick’s Day.  When we first came here we had no idea what we were going to put out or what we were even capable of in this space.  So what we started doing is asking, “Okay, what can we do here?”  And so we had hash brown week one week to see if people would truly appreciate hand grated, fresh potato hash browns.   Before we took over, the previous guy was using frozen hash browns from the bag and microwaved eggs and sausage patties.  It was gross!

Zelda: Our sausage is so gooood!

Michelle: We do make that!

PPP: So you hand-make your sausage now?

Zelda: Right now we get the meet ground but she just got a new grinder and she’s all hot to use it.

Michelle: We get really good herbs and spices and that, along with our ground pork, makes our sausage a little on the high end, but so good!

Zelda: And it doesn’t have fillers and crap in it.

PPP: So you two are very organic by trade?

Michelle: Yes, as natural as possible.

PPP: So you know where all your meat comes from, local farms and so forth?

Michelle: Absolutely.   Anyways, getting back to my original thought, we had weeks.  And we would do everything you could think of with hash browns.  We had Pizza Browns and Italian Browns.  We had California Browns, and we just really wanted to see what people would go with and what they would like.  We had Chili Week and Lasagna Week, we had Italian Week and Mexican Week.  Even a Chinese Week.

PPP: Chinese?!

Michelle: Yes.  Don’t ask me why.  So we just kept doing that and we had comfort food.  So I don’t know if that’s what actually spurred us into doing the breakfasts, but I have always liked going out to breakfast myself.  I feel there just aren’t enough breakfast places.  There’s a lot, but just not enough.   We’ve tried other breakfast places, but to be quite honest, we like our food better.

Zelda: We’re snobs.

PPP: Well I won’t keep you two any longer; I know you have lots to do!

Michelle: Oh yes, 37 more sandwiches for tomorrow morning.

Zelda: Biscuits, sausage, and more biscuits.

PPP: And so what note would you like to end on?

Michelle: Just that we would love to feed the whole city!  I mean that’s what we’re here to do!  Like on our card right there, it says, “cookin’ just for you baby,” and that’s what we do!

*Sugar Mama’s is available to order through the Portland Pedal Power website Tuesday through Friday.

Showing 3 comments
  • stacy

    These two were the most adorable ladies working together. I wish I could post the audio of the interview. I’m glad to hear from both of you! I know they love you to Jim!

  • Jim Martin

    Sugar Mamas. It is a long way from Maryland, but it is always on my to do list when I am in town. The atmosphere and ambiance are trully enjoyable. The food, oh yes that is why I go there. The from scratch methods, make the quality and variety unsurpassed. I LOVE BOTH SUGAR MAMAS

  • Courtney

    Anthony – couldn’t agree with you more re: the sweet ladies at the Sugar Mamas! Have to get back there soon for the breakfast burrito.