October 26, 2012, WASHINGTON DC. We experienced a different side of Capitol Hill while on our quest to the Sweet Lobby - and like many quests, we had a stop along the way. On a nice, cool, fall Friday morning, nine FNN reporters walked from our school to an old mansion. What was in store for us inside? Come and see what we saw.
We thought we'd see rows of cots for sick people in the “hospital”. We did not know that it is now an art gallery. We can’t include these pictures because they are original pieces of art that are for sale. It is a cultural center called Hill Center; they also have summer camps and cultural performances for kids. At the reception lobby we meet three very welcoming staff members who greeted us with respect. They gave us their business cards and told us fun facts about the Naval Hospital.
We listened with our ears and eyes. This made them feel respected. They said that we were well-mannered students, and this made us feel proud too. Then, Mr. Wayne took us upstairs to show us a video about how the old Naval Hospital became the Hill Center. “Were Blacks and Whites separated or integrated during the Civil War?” he asked. In the video we saw Black faces and Whites faces in the same room as patients, so we can infer that they were not separated. Afterward, he took us to the first patient’s room. On October 18, 1866, a Black man named Benjamin Drummond was the first patient at the Naval Hospital.
We soon left the “hospital” to make moves. What was our original quest? It was to get into the mind of entrepreneurs. So onward to 8th Street, where there are shelves of at least 25 different flavors of delectable desserts.
The owner of Sweet Lobby, Dr. McIntoshe Ambrose, was not available and had arranged for the Head Baker, Kristy, to speak with us. We had many questions to ask, and Kristy had all the answers:
Keanu: I had a marketing question - how did people find out about the “Sweet Lobby” before it got popular?
Kristy: The owners only used Facebook and Twitter; they never paid money for marketing or advertising. People liked the cupcakes and macaroons so it spread by word of mouth.
Keaunu: How did the Sweet Lobby get its name?
Kristy: Dr. McIntosh went to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), in the lobby, or common area. There, she would showcase her baked goods.
India: What are your best selling cupcakes and macaroons?
Kristy: The best selling cupcakes are red velvet, and chocolate salted caramel. The best selling macaroon is hazelnut praline.
India: How do you get new flavors?
Kristy: The owners create new flavors, and sometimes they get suggestions from customers.
India: If you had anything to change about the Sweet Lobby, what would it be?
Kristy: It would be the kitchen. There are six people that work in a very small and cramped space.
As Head Baker, Kristy told us that it is very important to be quiet in the kitchen because talking is a distraction, they want to focus on making the cupcakes perfect. Kristy said that cooking is very different from baking. In her own words, “bakers are chemists in the kitchen” because they both deal with exact measurements and time. We learned that their cupcakes taste different because they do not rush, they take their time to make them.
After our questions were answered, we were taken into the kitchen to learn how to frost cupcakes. They put us into small group to work with a staff member. They taught us how to make their signature design using a tube of frosting. We were supposed to make every cupcake look perfect. We even got to taste some of Sweet Lobby’s mouth-watering treats... twice! They make an average of 1,500 macaroons and 1,000 cupcakes a day.
Before, when we passed the Naval Hospital and the shop on 8th Street, it was nothing. After visiting, we see that these places are fun. We know more about history and cupcakes because the visit really opened our eyes to new things, and we liked having that experience. They made us feel welcome and spent their day with us even though they had other things to do. Because of this, we feel more like a part of Capitol Hill.
The quest is not over, our adventure into Capitol Hill has just begun. The war hospital turned art museum was very educational and entertaining to our group of reporters. We learned something new about our history and it was great. The cupcake shop was a very tasty and fascinating journey because during our visit we got to frost our own cupcakes. We hope to keep entertaining your curious and vibrant minds about Capitol Hill, and what it brings to Washington DC. After our visits we now feel more a part of Capitol Hill than we did before our trip. Keep your eyes peeled for our next story!
India Brown is a 8th grade student at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.
Jalen Green is a 7th grade student at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.
Jayson Green is a 5th grade student at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.
Tavon Jolly is a 4th grade student at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.
Mackenzie Walden-Taylor is a 5th grade student at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.
Keanu Williams is a 7th grade student at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.
Jaylen Wright is a 5th grade student at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.