Editor’s note: The 18th & Jefferson Street Plaza succumbed to fire before we were able to publish this story. We still believe it is essential to tell Hip Hop Sweet Shop’s story, and we hope you will help us support them in rebuilding.
Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers, as our hearts are hurting. We’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, money, and tears into our small, black owned businesses. It was devastating for us to pull up this morning and see it ablaze.
To our community, to our Hip Hop Sweet Shop customers, to those that travel near and far to support us—we want you to know that we love you and truly thank you all for your support. Please give us some time to figure things out.
To our fellow business owners, we love you all and will get through this together.
This won’t be the end of us!
“I want people to know that it is safe past 9th street,” said the bright and bold Lafesa Johnson, owner of the West End’s very own Hip Hop Sweet Shop. Located at the corner of West Jefferson and South 18th, the hip-hop-themed bakery has been open and flying under the radar since September 2021.
“People always ask me that, and I’m not sure how the idea came to me. I knew I wanted to open in the hood because there were no bakeries. And, in the hood, our universal language is rap and hip-hop music, but I don’t enjoy today’s music. So, I decided to stick with what I knew. And that’s 1990-2005,” Johnson stated.
Starting as an at-home baker specializing in cakes, Johnson gained popularity from her liquor cakes. After experiencing burnout and personal loss, she moved to Dallas, Texas, in January 2016 for a getaway. It was only a year and a half until she moved back.
“Well, I’m an Aries, so you know – control freak! But I am a very creative spirit. I love to create things, and I’ve been in business since 2007,” she stated.
In 2018, Johnson saw an opportunity to provide baked goods to the community in a new and efficient way that wasn’t available in Louisville yet. She decided to buy an old school bus to open up a mobile bakery. Although opening the kitchen itself was the most challenging part, Johnson and her partner had a great time decorating the restaurant side, where local artist, Braylen Resko, painted the inside. The unit profited so much that Johnson decided to retire it as she worked to grow her brick-and-mortar.
The shop offers various personal-sized options in cupcakes, cake slices, brownies, and pies. Johnson and her partner, Jessie, also do specialty crazy milkshakes and candy slushies, and they hand-make their syrups even. The shop is well-known for its peach cobbler, cheesecake parfait, banana puddings, and caramel cake. Though Johnson doesn’t have a favorite item, she highly recommends her honey bun cakes.
“I’ve gotten pretty tired of the sweetness from over the years. So usually, the new thing will become my favorite for a week or two until we come out with the next new thing,” she said.
Inside the small corner bakery, customers will be transported back to the early 2000s with accents of graffiti, rap/hip-hop artist images, entertainment magazines, and old-school music videos playing on the tv.
“It’s hard to determine my favorite artist because I love hip-hop so much. MethodMan and Ice Cube are my loves,” Johnson said as she conveyed her passion for music and baking by talking about her current hopes and dreams for the business.
“I want to have a line of people waiting for me to open that door. I want to have local artists fuck with us. I want to be known. I want to be a ‘Sugar Factory’ of Louisville, and I would love to open a second location eventually as well,” she said.
Johnson applied for a liquor license in May and has been patiently waiting for approval. She expressed wanting to turn the bakery into more of a pregame spot for people since there is a club right next door to them. Some of her other ideas included game nights, spoken word, and small music shows.
“One of the things I’ve wanted to do once we get the liquor license is to rent this additional space next to us, turn that into break rooms/offices, then turn the closets into a walk-up bar. So then, if we get the license from 8 PM-12 AM, it could be 21+. Like a “Red Light Special,” she referred to the TLC song.
But Johnson and her partner have been finding it challenging to get the word out throughout the west end, despite their desire to tap deeper into the community here. Although inflation has made things incredibly tough for small businesses, the two refuse to let that take them down.
“We have been considering moving to just Weds-Sun until it gets warmer again, but we still want to be that place for people. We are available on Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Limitless (a local black-owned delivery service),” Johnson said.
The shop also offers a happy hour every Friday from 3 to 6 PM. And they are actively looking for local groups, organizations, artists, and other small businesses to collaborate with to help spread awareness about this black queer women-owned gem tucked away in the west end.
“We can provide a safe, fun environment for all, including kids. And you won’t be disappointed. This is a unique thing. You don’t wanna miss it.” You can check out more about the shop here.