Terri Lawson is a woman with a cooler and a dream.
Each day, the Mon Valley native packs her Igloo with sandwiches and desserts, then travels throughout Pittsburgh filling bellies and spreading joy.
She left her corporate job at Giant Eagle in July to pursue a culinary passion that started with a batch of hand-dipped, chocolate-covered strawberries. Friends and family went wild for TerriBerriez and asked for more.
Local businesses and organizations took notice and requested that she create pop-up shops at their establishments. People in the neighborhood started calling her “Berriez.”
Before long, Lawson was spending all of her free time in the kitchen, experimenting with different ingredients and allowing her long-dormant creative side to shine through in the form of sweets, sandwiches and more.
Now, the next step: On Valentine’s Day 2019, she plans to open TerriBerriez Sweet Boutique & Café in Braddock.
So when she’s not delivering gourmet eats and providing catering services, Lawson is busy renovating this tiny storefront on Braddock Avenue. The former auto body shop needs a lot of TLC before it can serve as a takeout joint for soup, sandwiches and confections.
Through a GoFundMe page, Lawson is hoping to raise $24,000 in capital to purchase kitchen equipment and other items to get her business up and running. On Jan. 18, TerriBerriez will hold a fundraiser at The Hollander Project, a female-run business incubator in Braddock.
It’s a lot of work, but Lawson — a breast cancer survivor, cheerleading coach and mother of three — radiates with the positive energy needed to make it happen.
Chardaé Jones, a family friend, started the GoFundMe page and maintains Lawson’s website. She knows what an impact the self-taught chocolatier has made on people’s lives … and appetites.
“When I tasted her stuff I said, ‘Wow! You really have something here!,’” Jones says. “The sandwiches are a meal.”
Piled high with meat, cheese and veggies, the sandwiches almost require customers to have a snake-like ability to unhinge their jaws. People can choose from corned beef, pastrami, turkey, ham, chicken or Italian cold cuts, or they can create their own multi-layered masterpiece. Each offering comes with a pickle and a bag of chips for $11. Large mix-and-match sandwich rings are available for $37.
Lawson also makes chicken chili and salads fresh each day.
Folks with a sweet tooth can order candy apples, cupcakes, cookies and a variety of chocolate-dipped items such as nuts, pretzels, potato chips and berries (which can be infused with booze, upon request!).
Lawson is a road warrior and goes where her online orders take her, but she’ll be happy when the storefront opens.
“I never had a desire to own my own business,” she says. “It was the furthest thing from my mind and now it’s the closest thing to my heart.”
In the coming weeks, she’ll be transforming her white-walled store into a colorful Candyland, complete with a table built out of gumballs.
“It makes me feel good,” says Lawson of the sweet design motif. “And it makes other people happy, too.”