When Rocco Palmer opened a small Stamford-based butcher shop in 1921, he probably never dreamed that his great-great-granddaughter, Megan Palmer Rivera, would someday become the business’s culinary director.
After I-95 was built, the Palmer family helped develop the Heights shopping area off Exit 10 in the Noroton section of Darien, and relocated the store, which evolved over the years into Palmer’s Darien, the one-stop-shopping destination it is today.
Rivera, a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate with degrees in culinary, baking and pastry arts, began working in the family’s business when she was just a toddler, helping her mother, Cindy Palmer Dean, who today co-owns the business with Cindy’s cousin, Greg Palmer.
“My mother had started a flower shop in the store, and she would bring me into work with her when I was very little,” Megan recalls. “In 2007, after I graduated the CIA, I returned to the store and opened the bakery, which at the time included two employees and myself.”
Megan designed every aspect of the bakery, including not just the menu but also the granite countertops, custom woodwork and crystal chandeliers. In 2011, she took over as the company’s executive chef, overseeing the production kitchen at the market, and the following year, she launched Palmer’s Catering & Events, which includes gourmet-to-go and off-site catering.
Today, the bakery has 15 staff members, including four full-time cake decorators, and offers one-stop party shopping, beginning with the cake, of course, but offering everything from party invitations and food to decorations and entertainment, according to Megan, who recently launched a children’s party planning division, an offshoot of the business’s off-site catering.
“We recognized a need for clients who wanted to hold parties at home, particularly for their children, but who didn’t necessarily have the time or experience to organize every detail themselves,” she explains. “We wanted the parents to be able to sit back, relax, take photos, and enjoy the parties themselves.”
Megan notes that she and her staff strive to make parents’ Pinterest ideas come to life through one-stop shopping, and they can handle virtually every party detail (even the RSVPs), working with area vendors to provide such elements as party rentals, balloons, photo booths, and pony rides. Palmer’s also has its own “child wranglers,” as Megan describes them, staff who help keep the kids entertained, which in turn allows the parents and adult guests to actually have fun at a children’s party.
“While the kids may be eating unicorn-shaped chicken tenders and rainbow cake, the adults can enjoy gourmet sandwiches and Mimosas, for example,” Megan says.
Children’s parties — and cakes — are usually based on a theme, such as the aforementioned unicorns, Star Wars, Spider Man, a child’s favorite hobby, and not surprisingly, Disney princesses, particularly one of this year’s favorites, Beauty and the Beast. “We offer a big selection of party items intended to create whatever look the parents and their children have envisioned,” Megan says, referring to beautiful beverage dispensers, customized mini water bottles and juice boxes, and a photo booth chalkboard backdrop that was designed for a graduation party.
When it comes to dessert, the sky’s the limit. “Rainbow cakes and ombre cakes are really popular, as is our Tuxedo Oreo cake, in which guests get chocolate and vanilla cake, Oreos, and frosting in every bite,” Megan explains.
Clients are opting to have not just the cake but also other coordinating desserts, like cookies and cake pops, Megan notes, recalling a parent who ordered an Ariel themed cake with coordinating sugar cookies baked in the shape of the number 5 for her 5-year-old’s birthday party.
“We want to bring our clients’ dreams to life,” Megan concludes, “while at the same time making sure everyone at the party is having a good time.” For more information, visit palmersdarien.com.