Danny Sikora

One gay Dallas man helps bring the 75-year-old bakery that has been a family’s favorite into the digital age

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

DIGITAL DELIGHTS  |  Danny Sikora went from business manager for his father’s medical practice to marketing consultant for Aston’s Bakery. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
DIGITAL DELIGHTS | Danny Sikora went from business manager for his father’s medical practice to marketing consultant for Aston’s Bakery. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Aston’s Bakery on Lovers Lane is a third-generation family business.

Danny Sikora said Aston’s baked his parents’ wedding cake and that family tradition was to have an Aston’s seven-layer cake for each family member’s birthday.

Sikora said that earlier this year, Aston’s approached him to work with them.

“They needed help getting the bakery on track,” Sikora said. “My role has turned into development.”

Until his dad died last year, Sikora managed his father’s medical practice. He said that he’s still getting requests for records from patients for a variety of reasons. Some just have new doctors but others need to prove to insurance companies that they are not covering pre-existing conditions.
But as that demand on his time has been slowing down, Sikora was looking to reinvent himself. The medical practice was a family business and he was not looking to go to work for another doctor.

He’s been in business for himself before with a wholesale business, and he had a florist shop, with locations in NorthPark Center and on Henderson Street.

But with the economic downturn, Sikora decided the time to open another new business wasn’t right.

Aston’s Bakery has been around since 1934. Its first location was on Lemmon Avenue near Douglas Avenue. Then the bakery moved to Preston Center where it remained for 50 years.

For the past seven years Aston’s has been on Lovers Lane.

Sikora said one problem the bakery had was the lack of a mailing list. After seven years, former customers are still just finding them.
“All orders are still taken with paper and pencil,” Sikoa said.

Now, he encourages the bakery to also get e-mail addresses, and Sikora markets Aston’s on Facebook and texts special offers like two-for-one clearance on Saturday afternoons.

A recent promotion on GroupOn brought in 480 orders. That included more than 100 new customers.

“That was 17,000 petit fours,” Sikora said.

Most of the bakery’s business is special order.

“This is slow food,” Sikora said. “We’re using 75-year-old family recipes.”

Aston’s gets more orders for its champagne cake than for anything else.

Sikora described it as a chiffon cake with a hint of orange and champagne whipped cream between the layers, all covered with shaved white chocolate.
While the classics remain unchanged since Aston’s first began baking in Oak Lawn, Sikora has encouraged the bakery to update some of its styles for the cakes, cupcakes, cookies and bread on display for sale in the store.

“We’ve added new products,” Sikora said, describing a cream cheese-maple-bacon frosting-covered carrot cake cupcake that Aston’s is currently experimenting with.

Sikora said the bakery’s been around so long that the family just thought everyone knew about them. Until Sikora began marketing the company this year, Aston’s didn’t even have a website.

But while social networking has worked well in bringing in new customers, Sikora is not above marketing the old-fashioned way, too. He’s walked up and down the carpool lanes at Highland Park schools handing out coupons.

While Sikora said everything at Aston’s is baked with whole ingredients — no preservatives, no mixes, nothing artificial — he’s experimenting with putting in a few products that meet those standards but are baked elsewhere. He recently talked to Mark Shekter about adding Ruthie’s Rugaluch for the holidays.

Aston Bakery, 4342 Lovers Lane. 214-368-6425.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Cook, Griffin realty agencies merge

Two powerhouses in the LGBT real estate market combine forces but retain their brands

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Virginia Cook, Sheila Rice and David Griffin
Virginia Cook, Sheila Rice and David Griffin

Virginia Cook and David Griffin have announced they will merge their real estate companies. They are two of the largest firms selling property in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff and to the LGBT community.

“A major emphasis of our company is the in-town neighborhoods,” said Griffin. “We have many gay and lesbian clients because the neighborhoods we specialize in are so special.”

He said David Griffin & Company’s specialty is property in livelier neighborhoods with diversity, community activity and urban excitement.
Griffin founded his firm in 1982 and has been a one-office boutique operation located in Uptown, with satellite offices in projects to which the company markets.

Cook opened Virginia Cook, Realtors with business partner Sheila Rice in 1999. They have grown into one of the largest residential real estate companies in North Texas with a number of top-producers who are members of the LGBT community. They have offices in Plano, Sherman and Fort Worth as well as several locations in Dallas, including one at 2626 Cole Ave. in Oak Lawn.

The combined company will have more than 500 residential agents with headquarters on Sherry Lane near Preston Center in North Dallas.
The company will retain both the Virginia Cook and David Griffin Company brands.

“This merger feels very natural. I started my career working for Virginia at Henry S. Miller,” David Griffin said. “We worked together for five years.”

“Our firms have complementary strengths,” said Cook. “The opportunity to bring together the agent talent, marketing resources, industry and community connections of our two firms is very exciting.”

Griffin said the combination offers scale of economy. He’ll have more tech options and, with a larger sales force, more training options.
Rice said that Griffin adds “authoritative understanding of close-in neighborhoods.”

Griffin said he gains multi-office visibility, Cook’s relocation division and excellent management experience.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay-owned Dallas salon collecting hair, nylons, other items to help mop up oil spill

Booms made from donated hair, fur and nylons (Matter of Trust)
Booms made from donated hair, fur and nylons (Source: Matter of Trust)

A local gay-owned salon is collecting dry-hair clippings and other items to help mop up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jason Thomas, co-owner of Salon Madrid in Preston Center, said the business has long been a member of Matter of Trust, the San Francisco charity that’s organizing the “hairlift”:

We wanted to get the word out to the general public and salons in the Dallas area that we are collecting the following: dry hair clippings, new or used nylons (come on, “girls,” put those torn nylons to good use), wool sweaters, old fur coats, feathers (perhaps those old boas that need to be retired anyway), etc.
Anyone can come to the salon in the Preston Center and drop off their donations and we will make sure it gets to the volunteers on the Gulf Coast who are making the mats for the huge oil spill heading their way.
This could be catastrophic for this marshlands and wildlife all up the coast if we don’t band together and help.

The salon is at 6003 Berkshire Lane.

—  John Wright