Highland Native Expands Baking Business



Shannon Tinsley, a Highland County native, has recently taken some big steps to expand her baking business, SweetNanaCakes, which produces cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other delicious goodies. She told us more about the business.

“I grew up in Headwaters – Larry and Millie Case are my parents. So, it’s not a new venture, I’ve been doing it for quite a while. Obviously, when I was a kid I loved to bake, and set up at the Maple Festival and sold items sometimes. Got out of the baking business for a while, and then about three years ago, I met a woman in Staunton, and we paired up, and it just really took off from there.

“My cupcakes, I have a unique way of naming them. So I have one called the Elvis, which is peanut butter/banana/chocolate. I have Hearts on Fire, which is a red velvet. And I pay homage to Highland County – I have a Highland County cupcake named the Highland County, and it’s a pancake cupcake with Eagle’s Sugar Camp maple syrup in my buttercream, and a stick of candied bacon in the top of it.

“We take pride in using quality ingredients – everything’s made from scratch. My son actually farms in Middlebrook, right beside where we live, and I have a standing order from the farmer for fresh eggs every Friday. So we put good quality ingredients in our products.

“So SweetNanaCakes has been out of my house, a home-approved kitchen, and it just became so much I couldn’t keep up. I have been working full time in sales, and baking nights and weekends, and it just got to the point where, this is my passion and my dream, and my husband and I are pairing together to do this venture – we’re just going to – take that leap of faith and do it.”

That leap of faith includes not only the business expansion, but the revitalization of a landmark building in Staunton, which will include a retail space.

“So I love Staunton, the historic side of it, the old buildings – I just love to see old things re-purposed. So I actually called around to find out who owned this old Casco Ice building. When I was a kid I remember it being Casco Ice – I remember those big blue doors, and I loved it. So I found out who owned it, talked to the gentleman about it, and he had no plans of renting it, but when I told him my vision, he thought it would be good for the community, and he agreed to work with me. But come to find out, it was meant to be – he had all this equipment upstairs, he owned a former Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, and it all just worked out perfect.

“We call it Richmond Road, but it really is Richmond Avenue – Habitat for Humanity is on the front side of the building, and I’m on the back with the big loading docks, right across from the old prison, Western State Hospital. We put a little contest out there and asked people to guess where it was, with some clues, and our last one my husband came up with it, and said people were “willing to do hard time to get a cupcake,” and with that one they all figured it out. So we’re excited.”

The company will be a family venture, with help from her mother, her son Caleb and his girlfriend, and her daughter Ceara, who provided the inspiration for the company name.

“So everyone thinks I’m SweetNana. And I’ll put it out there, I’ll be 44 next week, I’m not SweetNana – my daughter, when she was born, long story short, my Dad wanted to name her Savannah – don’t know why he thought he had an opinion on it. So we used Savannah as her middle name, so ever since she was a baby, he called her SweetNanaCakes – so it’s all one word, just SweetNanaCakes. So everyone thinks that I’m SweetNana, making cakes, but it’s not.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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