The popular homemade desserts of born-and-raised Daytonian Kia Johnson will soon be a sweet fixture in the heart of downtown.
Kia Cake & Co. — ‘a gourmet dessert and cupcake café” — is scheduled to open in less than a month in the shadow of the Victoria Theatre, at 15 E. First St. on the ground floor of the Biltmore Towers.
The new shop is the first of what the Downtown Dayton Partnership anticipates to be more commercial activity on the first floor of the historic building, according to Val Beerbower, DDP economic project development planner.
A “Cake in the name of Love” grand opening has been set for Valentine’s Day, Sun. Feb. 14, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Plans for the grand opening are still tentative, although Johnson is planning to offer samples, raffles and other goodies. Regular shop hours are still to be announced, Johnson said.
Johnson, a former Dayton teacher, has been running Kia Cake and Co. from home for seven years, building a strong and supportive clientele base of fans loyal to her treats.
There may be times where Johnson makes a few pre-made cakes to sell in the store, but the bakery will not be taking pre-orders for cakes as it did when Johnson was working from out of her home, the bakery founder said.
“I was doing a lot from home, and I decided that I had to pick pieces and part of the dream that I wanted to continue, so I decided to just do a dessert café,” Johnson said.
The “gourmet” section of Kia Cake & Co.’a cupcake menu includes flavors such as Strawberry Crunch, Blueberry Lemonade, Raspberry Swirl, “The Don”, Sweet “Pey”tato, Birthday Vibes, “Jaded”, Chocolate Banana Swirl, Vegan Chocolate, Apple Cobbler, Chocolate Wasted and Banana Pudding. Johnson said the menu will always be changing, while keeping some fan-favorites as staples.
Cupcakes à la Mode will be available, as well as coffee, puddings and more — meant to be eaten in-store, café style, or to-go.
As Johnson makes the final decisions as to what flavors will make the cut before the grand opening, it’s unlike her to stop at the finish line.
Though the opening of her first bricks-and-mortar place would have been more than enough to keep Johnson busy the past two years, Johnson, also a mother of four, is working on a number of side projects that will eventually add to the shop’s downtown footprint. She is working to start a wine company and is in the process of obtaining a state license to sell wine in the bakery. The sale of specialty cigars may also be in the shop’s future.
“I am telling you, I have so many dreams” for the shop, Johnson said. “I have been working on this for forever.”
The list of to-do’s, however, doesn’t faze Johnson, who holds herself to a standard of positivity that seems contagious.
“Positive Vibes and D.O.P.E. Desserts” is Johnson’s motto for the shop — D.O.P.E. standing for, Delicious On Purpose Every time.
“I’m being on purpose because I’m a purpose-driven person,” Johnson said. “I feel like that we all have a purpose, and I literally fell into this destiny.”
After launching a career as a teacher and then becoming a stay-at-home mom after her third child was born, Johnson suffered what she called “a freak accident” eight years ago while celebrating her oldest daughter’s 7th birthday at a skating rink. She broke her leg in four places, underwent surgery and could not walk for nearly a year.
When Johnson learned to walk again, she said she promised to use her gifts and talents God had given her to pursue her dream to become a baker.
Along with the support of fans who have long-awaited Kia Cake’s opening, Johnson has also been motivated to make her sister, who died in 2019.
Her younger sister affectionately called Kia, “Cupcake.”
“When I say nobody was more proud of me than her, nobody was,” Johnson said. “I want to honor her and continue to make her proud, and I want to create a legacy for my children as well as hers.”