Sheila Nelson began baking vegan goodies for pop-ups and festivals two years ago, never dreaming that the sweet treats would someday become her livelihood.

But after months of steady growth, she now has a full-time title: pastry chef. (She was previously an administrator at U.S. Bank and with the city of Roseville.)

“That really wasn’t the intention,” said Nelson, who recently debuted Vegan East at 2179 4th St. in White Bear Lake with husband Reid Nelson. “It was kind of just a hobby for me. But the client list kept growing, so we began seriously looking into getting a space.”

She found that space in White Bear Lake – a former tea room on a shop-lined street not terribly far from their East St. Paul home (thus, Vegan East).

“The spot was just super cute, and since it was a bakery before everything was here,” she said.

Vegan East specializes in cupcakes and specialty cakes and also touts cinnamon rolls (gluten-free and gluten-filled varieties), cheesecakes and cookies. The website displays photos of decadent-looking cakes and cupcakes piled with whipped cream, Oreos, caramel, pretzels, chocolate sauce and more.

Nelson hopes to expand to making quiche, muffins and offering a light lunch eventually, given the 25 seats the space holds.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “But we’re really excited to have so much support from the community. We’re first-time business owners, we’ve never worked in the restaurant industry, so we’re just figuring it out one day at a time.”

Vegan East is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays and is closed on Mondays. Customers can also order a number of sweets online.

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