By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- It all started as a joke.
Tiana Ramos, 16, has always dreamed about opening her own bakery. Her mother, Natalie Ramos, would play along, coming up with names for the fantasy bakery.
"I always told her she reminded me of one of those typical tattooed pin-up girls," said Natalie Ramos. "I said, 'Tiana, you should name it Naughty Girls Bake Shop, because it's everything naughty, but it's really nice.'"
The two would walk around Riverton Commons in Front Royal and would stop by a vacant 1,500-square-foot lot on their way to a restaurant.
"We didn't have any idea that we were going to start a business," she said. "I just kept looking at this spot, saying, 'Tiana, this would be the perfect store,' and it was a joke."
That running joke will turn into a reality when Naughty Girls Donut Shop opens in the lot on June 1.
Natalie Ramos said the donut shop will follow a "rockabilly-pin-up" theme, complete with a checkerboard floor, old-fashioned jukebox and Coke machine, and pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Betty Page and Betty Grable on its red and pink walls.
She said they will sell fresh donuts made to order as well as gourmet donuts in unique flavors such as blood orange, red velvet, bread pudding and peanut butter and jelly. Other varieties include the Wakin' Bacon donut, featuring caramel espresso and bacon, and the Bourbon Street Mix, a bourbon and pumpkin donut topped with caramel popcorn, pretzels and vanilla bean glaze.
Naughty Girls Donut Shop will also offer sandwiches, with donuts in lieu of bread, chicken fried in cake donut batter and other food centered around donuts.
"It's like chicken and waffles with donuts," Tiana said.
A junior at Warren County High School, Tiana has had culinary training since she was about 12 years old, starting at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia.
She would often bring in baked pastries, cakes and desserts to Fauquier Hospital, where her mom worked as director of food and nutrition, and said people kept telling them to open up their own bakery.
When Natalie Ramos was placed on leave due to surgery, rather than return to work when she recovered, they decided to follow the advice.
"I was a little skeptical and finally I was like, you know what, so many people are saying it, we need to just try it," she said. "If the cards fall, then they'll fall, and the doors will open. If it's not meant, the doors are going to close."
Every door they knocked on seemed to open automatically, including a fortuitous meeting in February with executives from Amazon.com, where her husband, Miguel, works as a facilities manager.
"We went to lunch and started talking about everything our vision was for Naughty-brand foods and where we wanted to go with it, and they started to get out of their seats," she said. "We were like, 'Are you serious? Like what just happened here? I guess we blew it.'"
She said she started to say goodbye to them when they replied: "No, we're going to the car to write you a check."
That first check was for $40,000. She said she received a second check for $25,000 and is expecting a check for $38,000 next week. According to her, the money was given as an investment rather than a loan.
"They said the money is yours," she said. "Whatever you need to make your dream come true."
The Ramos family had originally planned on opening a Paradise Donuts franchise as a "stepping stone" toward achieving their dream of the Naughty Girls donut brand, but they no longer need that step with the financial backing from Amazon.
Naughty Girls Donut Shop will sell branded apparel and do-it-yourself donut kits, and customers can use an exclusive app to earn points toward free products.
Natalie Ramos said they plan on opening another location in Alexandria and want to become a national brand within three years. Tiana is hoping to attend the Culinary Institute of America after graduating high school next year.
"And it was just us jotting things down on a piece of paper and joking around about it," Natalie Ramos said. "Not realizing that that piece of paper was going to come to life."
Where: 70 Riverton Commons Drive, Suite 20, Front Royal
When: Opens June 1. 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday.
Cost: Donuts range from $1.50 to $2
Online: facebook.com/ngdonutshop; naughtygirlsdonutshop.com
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com