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Aspinwall's Bella Christie has treats for life's sweet events

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:58 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Bella Christie and Lil Z's Edible chocolate shoe with chocolates inside, a cake pop, a bedazzled bon bon, a lemon-raspberry cupcake, chocolate chunk, M&M, and toffee cookies Thursday, March 21, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Exterior of Bella Christie and Lil Z's in Aspinwall on Thursday, March 21, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Su Seitz of Plum shops for sweets at Bella Christie and Lil Z's shop in Aspinwall Thursday, March 21, 2013.

Bella Christie and Lil' Z's Sweet Boutique offers a tempting display of cookies, cakes, pies and other treats in its counters, but its main market is elsewhere.

“Ninety percent of our business is from events,” says Kristin Smith, who co-owns the Aspinwall sweets palace with her sister, Kadee Lewis. “Weddings, mitzvahs and 16th-birthday parties are most of our business.”

The shop on Commercial Avenue in the middle of the borough looks like a bakery upon entrance, but it is soon clear something is missing. Breads, rolls and other such baked goods that are a staple of most bakeries are not there.

Bella Christie is a specialty shop. It focuses on desserts and treats.

That line of work makes sense. The shop developed from the cake-making and dessert business that Smith had built in about eight years of work out of her Aspinwall home. Two years ago, she says, she decided she really could be better-served getting out of her household kitchen, maybe even setting up a storefront.

Bella Christie was born.

“It is unbelievable how big the event business is,” she says. “Everybody has dessert tables anymore at their celebrations.”

The shop, by the way, is named after her two daughters, Bella and Christie, while Little Z stands for Lewis' child Zoe.

The event market naturally creates a business for cakes, and Smith says they try to keep their customers satisfied by coming up with whatever is ordered. A simple cake can come in at $14, but one designed after a cartoon character, racing car or dad's WWII destroyer goes into the hundreds.

The shop's priciest cake, which is pictured on one of the walls, was a towering, tiered wedding cake and cost $5,000.

But Bella Christie is full of more-ordinary items, as well. Cookies, such as big, thick chocolate chips, are $1.65 each.

“When we started making cookies, we saw it was good to go big,” Smith says.

Other favorites are doughnuts at $10 a dozen, cheesecake minis at $1.95 each, and pies at $13.95.

Then, there are cake pops — the ingredients of a cake, shaped into a lollipop-size sphere, dipped in chocolate and put on a stick. She says they are frighteningly popular because they are a combination of favorite temptations.

“You can put anything on a stick and people eat it,” Smith says.

Besides events, the staff at Bella Christie gears up for snacking-oriented holidays such as Easter, Christmas and St. Patrick's Day.

The shop also offers coffee and tea for $1.50 and a few items for a quick breakfast bite. Four-inch quiches are put together in a variety of flavors and sell of $2.75.

“It's not all desserts,” Smith says.

Bella Christie and Lil' Z's Sweet Boutique, 213 Commercial Ave., Aspinwall, is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Details: 412-772-1283 or www.asweetboutique.com.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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