Black women-owned business survives disaster to expand anew

Chef Simone wants to help open doors for other minority-owned businesses

Deljah S. Dickson, also known as Chef Simone, founded Art Delectables as a wholesale brand that would educate the South Los Angeles community about nutrition and be a sustainable business. Simply put, Art Delectables exists to create and to educate. 

Art Delectables is a luxury, organic dessert brand headquartered in Los Angeles, helmed by a generational team of Black women. The high-end organic bakery creates desserts made with quality, organic ingredients that do not contain any preservatives, additives, or artificial sweeteners. Their products are carried in Kroger, at small local storefronts, and they have an exciting new partnership on the horizon in June.

A CHEF WITH A BACKGROUND IN MEDICINE AND FOOD SCIENCE

Chef Deljah has a background in medicine, with specializations in food science and nutrition. She says, “If you can convince people that an organic dessert with less sugar can taste good, then you can convince people to take a closer look at any food or ingredient in their own cupboard.”

Art Delectables experienced a steady wave of early success. The company operates in the corporate gifting space with contracts with SoFi Stadium and most recently, the 2024 Netflix is a Joke festival. Art Delectables has served desserts at high-profile events like the 56th Superbowl, the Grammy Awards and the BET Awards, along with stocking their wholesale wares at Kroger supermarkets and local food businesses. Art Delectables even moved into their own grab-and-go storefront complete with an 1800 square foot production kitchen.

A SETBACK LEFT ART DELECTABLES UNSURE IF THEY COULD REOPEN

However, disaster struck in September 2023 when Art Delectables was hit with a devastating sewage flood in their kitchen, originating from their neighbor and persisting for five days. Their facility became unsalvageable due to the landlord’s reluctance to intervene and the high costs of meeting Art Delectables’ and the health department’s standards to reopen.  

Clotee McAfee, the Chief Operating Officer of Art Delectables and Chef Deljah’s mother, says, “It was a heartbreaking decision, but we had to close our doors just before our busiest season, unsure if we could ever reopen.”

AN IDEA, AN OLD FRIEND, AND AN INTRODUCTION

An idea came to Clotee and Chef Deljah. VSEDC CEO and President, Quentin Strode, was one of Art Delectables original customers, who connected Deljah and Clotee with one of their first big clients. “In our time of need, we reached out to one of our earliest supporters, Mr. Quentin Strode, who connected us with Adrian Veliz at VSEDC. Together, they stepped in to help us navigate this crisis.”  

Adrian Veliz, South LA BusinessSource Center Program Manager, was present at all of the meetings to find Art Delectables’ new home and was involved in every step of the process. Art Delectables’ wins and losses felt like Adrian’s own: “He sometimes felt even more disappointed than we were,” says Chef Deljah.  

A CONTRACT WITH COSTCO

Amid relocating and recouping their losses, Art Delectables was offered a wholesale opportunity to partner with Costco. Costco made the decision to feature Art Delectable’s Organic Dulce De Leche cheesecake in three of their stores. Adrian looked into grant and loan opportunities for the company to find the right fit, eventually securing a loan through VSEDC’s CDFI. The loan allowed Art Delectables to purchase ingredients, scale production, and finance in-store marketing. Art Delectables received bespoke aid to revamp its website and bolster its digital marketing, enhancing its online presence and attracting new clients. 

Clotee says, “With the unwavering support and guidance of VSEDC, we secured a loan for ingredients and enlisted consultants to develop a marketing and social media strategy. Their support has been nothing short of miraculous for our small business. With their assistance, we not only weathered the storm but also gained invaluable insights into navigating the complex world of retail.”  

Though the journey has been far from easy – Art Delectables had to switch co-packers in the lead up to their Costco distribution – the company has forged ahead with the assistance of VSEDC. Art Delectables Organic Dulce De Leche cheesecake is set to hit Costco shelves in late June.  

EXPANSION ON THE HORIZON

Art Delectables will continue to expand into the wholesale space, working on new projects with Walmart and looking to enter new storefronts. The company is continuing to work with the Courtyard Marriot in the Marina and the Beverly Hilton Hotel. They are also eyeing an underserved market: hospital cafeterias and catering services.  

Chef Deljah’s greatest desire is to open the doors for other minority-owned companies to enter the mainstream marketplace.  

“What Adrian has done for us is what my mom [Clotee] and I have always done for other people. He understands the challenges of running a small business and how to pivot. [Adrian is] one of those people you can call who “knows a guy.” He’s selfless in how he does things and gives to others. Adrian advocated for Art Delectables the way we do for other businesses.” 

Art Delectables’ soon to be famous cheesecake