In this ongoing series, ArtRat Gallery Social Media Manager Maddy Visscher explores the people, places and things that make our neighborhood great. Email Maddy with feedback and suggestions about the topics you want to see us cover! 

Paola Andrea Carlson tastes Pochis' coffee.

A neighborhood called Heartside is already a natural Valentine’s Day destination — and here in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, a brand-new shop with a Colombian pedigree is a one-stop shop for romantic gifts and treats. 

Pochis Sweet Designs (44 Ionia Ave. SW) celebrates its grand opening Monday, Feb. 13, with a 1pm ribbon-cutting. The bakery/restaurant adds a splash of pink to the block of Ionia Avenue it shares with hip taco joint Luna (64 Ionia Ave. SW) and tiki oasis Max’s South Seas Hideaway (58 Ionia Ave. SW). Pochis owner Paola Andrea Carlson told ArtRat her brand “specializes in sweet treats that reflect love in unique, original products.” 

Paola grew up in Colombia and arrived in the U.S. not knowing English. A single mother, she channeled her creative energy into gift boxes and specialized treats for friends and family.

Cakes and sweets at Pochis Sweet Designs.

Soon she began selling goodies during community events and via online channels; her baked goods proved so popular, they were picked up by local Latin supermarkets as well as Meijer stores.

Local incubator Start Garden helped fund the young minority-owned business — Paola won a pitch competition in 2021 to fund her online operation, and another to open the brick-and-mortar shop.

Meanwhile, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the Downtown Development Authority awarded Pochis a retail innovation grant and a downtown enhancement grant. “Our motto will always be: We love what we do,” Paola said.

Pochis features cases of fresh, handmade and beautifully decorated cupcakes, pastries and chocolate-covered strawberries — not to mention a whole catalog of options for tastefully packaged rose bouquets.

Pink floral seating area at Pochis Sweet Designs.

Pochis is also home to an array of Colombian crafts and foods, including empanadas, salchipapas and other emblematic snacks that one enthusiastic employee told us “reminds her of home.”

Choose from several blends of coffee imported straight from Colombia, as well as fresh lemonades and aguapanela — a drink made from sugarcane. 

“We’ve put so much work into everything, and we are so excited to be here,” barista CeCe told us. Celebrate Pochis’ grand opening with $1 Colombian coffee, and treat yourself to authentic Colombian foods and delicious baked goods.

Pochis Sweet Designs is open Monday 8am-4pm, Tuesday through Thursday 8am-6pm, Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-8pm, and Sunday 10am-4pm.


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