THE SWEET LIFE
MARY KATE McMANUS
Bon appétit! Tree Winthrop alumni traded the corporate world for culinary confections. Dominique Georgas ’96, ’98, shares the secret for an authentic crêpe; Charlotte Brown ’11, ’14, offers something different for the Rock Hill palate; and Mary Kate McManus ’03 has perfected the sugar cookie.
THE REAL FRENCH EXPERIENCE
“If you had told me 20 years ago that I would one day own a restaurant, I would have said you were nuts,” laughed Georgas. “But life changes, and how you see life changes as you grow older.”
From Casablanca, Morocco, Georgas attended Winthrop through an exchange program and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. She worked for the corporate automotive industry.
Until she attempted to quell a crêpe craving.
“I researched and found a few places making crêpe, but they were not talking to me when I was eating them,” Georgas said. “I wanted to do something authentic, the way you would feel if you were sitting in a French crêperie.”
She found the perfect building in downtown Simpsonville, importing French bistro tables and chairs. She also attended crêpe school in Brittany, France, and purchased a device for achieving the crêpe’s shape. She opened Authentique French Crêperie in 2017.
Te community has supported Georgas’ vision since its opening.
A HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVE Word-of-mouth has been crucial to Brown’s success, too.
“From day one, I was unsure of the community’s response, because it was something so new for Rock Hill,” she said of opening Fresh Vibes in 2014. “Now, customers are so loyal that we know their order and have it ready when they pull up.”
Fresh Vibes offers fresh-pressed juice, smoothies, organic
coffee and home-style vegan/vegetarian cooking. Brown also educates customers on the products.
“Some doctors send their patients to us,” Brown said. “We’re proud to help people find healthier alternatives.”
Her own path to healthy alternatives led first through the fast-food and corporate worlds.
“It became apparent that higher education was going to be the only thing to help me succeed,” she said, and earned two business administration degrees.
As a first-generation, non-traditional student juggling work and being a single mother, Brown wanted to give everything “105 percent” – and that meant opening a business. Te Small Business Development Center at Winthrop helped her secure a business loan.
For those who are hesitant to try vegan/vegetarian offerings, she suggests the Just Beet It smoothie or the vegan cheeseburger wrap.
“Food is life,” she said.
For McManus, the perfect sugar cookie means a crumbly, shortbread-like consistency, with delicately sweet frosting and eye-catching designs. She guards her family’s recipe and used her integrated marketing communication degree to launch her Rock Hill business, Hey Sugar Shop, in 2015.
“I thought, ‘How has no one figured out how to make really unique sugar cookies that also taste good?’” she said. “I thought, ‘I could do that.’” She’s grown a reputation nationwide for crafty sugar cookies, cake truffles, supersize Rice Krispy treats and more. She’s created cookie gift baskets for basketball legend Michael Jordan, corporate items for Coca-Cola, Belk and more.
Like Brown, McManus also worked in the fast-food industry and then corporate. After making her sugar cookies for an event, the lightbulb came on: instead of building other’s brands, why not build her own? Owning a business has “been a rollercoaster of emotions,” she said. “We’ve done their [customers’] baby showers, their weddings, their birthday cakes…I’m fine with being the best small-town bakery,” McManus said.