Photos by Becca Mathias
An enterprising couple are Wilmington’s version of Willy Wonka, with three food businesses spread across the First State.
Meg and Dan Hurst have four children under the age of 8, plus one on the way, but their brood is even larger. The serial entrepreneurs are the proud parents of three businesses: Cajun-Sno, which makes New Orleans–style snoballs; Sweet Lucy’s Ice Cream & Treats on Concord Pike in Wilmington; and DonutNV, a food truck specializing in hot mini doughnuts.
To say the Hursts are busy is an understatement, but that’s fine by Meg. “I learned early on that the harder you work, the more money you make,” says Meg, who waitressed to pay her way through college and earned two master’s degrees.
With parties, festivals and weddings in full swing, the pair will need all their stamina to drive, dip, scoop and decorate.
Inspired by the Big Easy
Meg, a Wilmington native, noticed Dan at Hanby Middle School. “He was my first crush,” she recalls. But it wasn’t until she was studying at Towson University that the real romance began.
It started with a Facebook friend request that led to small talk. Dan had been a volunteer firefighter since he was 16, and Meg’s grandfather—now 94—still goes on volunteer fire calls. A dinner invitation resulted in a year of dating.
While Meg pursued degrees in clinical and counseling psychology and marriage and family therapy, the couple lived together in Philadelphia, where Dan worked. A year later, they bought a house in Brandywine Hundred.
“It’s nice to give people options. Sometimes, they come in and could go for a brownie or brownie sundae. Some people don’t even like ice cream.”
At 22, Dan received an insurance settlement, and his father—then the owner of Cupcake Heaven in Fairfax Shopping Center—suggested he invest. Dan drew inspiration from the sweet tooth that runs in the family. “I don’t think there is a dessert that you could put in front of my grandfather that he wouldn’t eat,” he says.
As a child, Dan had loved N’awlins Snoballs, a Concord Pike business that sold authentic New Orleans–style frozen confections. A snoball is not a snow cone. Nor is it water ice, Meg maintains. Served in a cup, it’s made with finely shaved ice and flavored cane sugar syrup.
In 2013, the newlyweds gave birth to Cajun-Sno in a custom-designed, canary-yellow trailer with a gator reclining à la Carrie Bradshaw on the side. Soon, the business was getting press for its 100-plus flavors, including Tiger’s Blood, a mix of watermelon, strawberry and coconut.
Growing the family
To start, Cajun-Sno parked near Cupcake Heaven in the Fairfax Shopping Center. However, the business was riding the cusp of the food truck wave, a hot dining option in Delaware. New concepts were rolling up to festivals, parties and dedicated food truck events, and in 2016, the couple added a second trailer. Today, both are used for catering gigs.
Meanwhile, Ted Brackin had already opened Sweet Lucy’s Ice Cream & Treats on Concord Pike to serve Woodside Farms Creamery products outside Hockessin, where the dairy farm is based. Brackin, who named the shop after his daughter, decided to close in January 2020, and the Hursts purchased the business in February—just before the pandemic. “That was amazingly awful,” Meg says of the timing.
Sweet Lucy’s did an active takeout business, and three years later, the Hursts have renovated the inside and added ice cream from Hy-Point Dairy, Hershey’s and Frozen Farmer. In addition, two pastry chefs are making such goodies as chocolate mousse cannoli, jumbo cookies and dessert boards.
“It’s nice to give people options,” Meg says. “Sometimes, they come in and could go for a brownie or brownie sundae. Some people don’t even like ice cream, and not everyone always wants it.”
She plans to increase her catering business, and Sweet Lucy’s is well on the way. One client asked for 500 individual pastries with a peach theme, such as peach cheesecakes and peach cake pops.
Such desserts have become popular at weddings instead of traditional wedding cakes. So are doughnuts, and the Hursts purchased a franchise for DonutNV, which operates out of a food truck. The couple got the vehicle in time for the hectic fall season. “We like hitting the ground running,” Meg says.
Food trucks, by law, need a commissary for food prep, and Sweet Lucy’s fills that role. All the operations now fall under their Sugar Empire umbrella. “I named it that to remind myself that we’re always growing,” Meg says.
The family is also expanding, which is why Dan joined the business. His work as a mechanical integrity and quality assurance inspector required frequent travel to refineries. Now he manages the DonutNV truck and fills in when needed.
Every day is different, Meg says. Recently, she woke up at 3 a.m. and drove to Sweet Lucy’s to get the doughnut truck ready for a morning event. Then she got the big kids ready for school and stopped at Hy-Point for an order before joining the school’s car line. The smaller children went to a babysitter, one of the many that Meg keeps on call, and the afternoon was spent decorating cakes at Sweet Lucy’s.
The kids love to help. “It’s important to us that they’re involved in our family business at an age-appropriate time,”
Meg says. “They go on the trucks and have amazing social skills. But at the same time, they still have their childhood to live with friend time and sports time.”
The evening, however, is family time, and Meg tries hard to make meals from scratch, including grilled chicken and bowls of pasta. “I’ve always said the businesses won’t slow down my family, and my family won’t slow down my businesses,” she says.
Judging by the number of both, she’s succeeding. And with Dan by her side on a full-time basis, the future looks sweet.