If you love sweet treats, you might be familiar with The Sweet Divine in Soulard, run by husband-wife team Jenna and Jason Siebert. Delicious cupcakes galore and the smell of frosting attract customers near and far—however, in October of 2016, a fire caused by faulty electrical wiring destroyed the entire building.
The bakeshop was so badly damaged, it required a renovation from the ground up. Matt Mierek, owner of Aptitude Construction for more than 11 years, had done some remodeling work for the Sieberts before and was tapped to handle the project.
“The fire happened on a Monday, and they’re closed on Mondays. It started smoldering and got big enough so that it caught everything else on fire,” says Mierek. “The refrigerator dropped out of the floor and into the basement, somehow missing the gas line by half an inch. It got so hot that the windows started blowing out, which a neighbor saw, and called the fire department.”
By the time Jenna and Jason found out what had happened, it was too late. “The whole thing was just black when they got there,” Mierek recounts.
After the fire…
Jenna Siebert will never forget that exhausting, bizarre day. “We were thinking about opening a second location, and found a nice one we liked in Webster Groves,” she says. “Jason met with a banker that morning, and two hours later the fire happened. Then I saw a customer on Twitter, who posted about the fire and asked if we were ok. As bad as it was, thankfully no one got hurt.”
The Sieberts called Aptitude immediately after the fired occurred, and Mierek came out the next day. The process began with assessing the damage and helping the couple through the insurance process of claims, meetings with adjusters and ensuring they received adequate funds. “We were really starting from scratch at that point,” says Mierek.
To create an ideal commercial kitchen—maximizing space as much as possible—Mierek and his team pulled out all of the damaged materials, down to the old brick foundation and flooring. Jenna, a designer, had a clear vision of how the space should look, and worked with Mierek to make it happen.
“We have a really good sense of taking those design ideas and putting them on paper, and making them a reality. Drawings and blueprints is the first part. For most people, visualizing is pretty difficult, even if they have a lot of ideas. We try to make that a visual reality on paper before we start on a building. We start with efficiency and work from there. Design, colors, finishes, floors, fixtures—that comes after we get a general floor-plan layout.”
Two large creative challenges for this particular space included a redesign of the interior, and working with the strict ordinances that accompany construction work in a historic district. “To create the windows, for example, there’s a very particular trim profile which had to match what was originally there. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes activity that people don’t know about,” says Mierek.
They chose to keep the exposed brick in the new design, developing the space with a particular eye to managing customer traffic flow. Every detail is intentional—from the placement of tables and seats to where the cashier is situated—to create an open, airy look. It was the same attention to detail that dictated how the commercial kitchen would be arranged, with multiple ovens and walk-in freezer.
“He is just so easy to work with,” says Jenna. “I would absolutely recommend him. I’ve given out Matt’s number several times for friends looking to do renovations. We love working with him.”