Chambersburg business wants groups to ‘roll’ in fundraising dough

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – The owner of a new downtown shop takes his “roll” in fundraising very seriously.

“We created a business model that no one is using,” said Roque “Rocco” Zubia, owner of Sweet Rollers. “Any transaction is a fundraising transaction.”

Zubia started renting the property at 115 E. Queen St. in Chambersburg in September and obtained his baking permit in early February. His two stacked commercial convection ovens are already cranking out baked Pennsylvania potato dough that is topped with a simple glaze. They are sold for $3 each by various organizations, who keep $1 from each sale.

The idea for a simple, sweet business to benefit the community started cooking 5 1/2 years ago, when Zubia was managing a TGI Fridays in Gettysburg, Pa. Once or twice a month, a cheerleading squad asked him to buy something for a fundraiser. The products, often pizza or sandwiches, were brought to him a month after he ordered it, by which time he had forgotten all about them. He started giving the squad cash toward its causes instead, then offered to put his culinary training to work making them cinnamon rolls to sell.

“I came home and completely ruined my kitchen,” Zubia said.

Over two days, he rolled out 300 of them at home, then gave them to the squad to sell in front of a grocery store for $5 each. They were gone in one hour, raising $1,500. When he saw the looks on the cheerleaders’ faces and how quickly he could raise money for a worthy cause, he knew he was on to something.

Zubia combined the management skills he learned in the restaurant industry with his culinary schooling to create a business formula over a couple of years.

“Now, it’s turned into a whole mission,” said the 41-year-old, who lived in Las Vegas for 31 years. He had a pastry business there that focused on eclairs, but he dabbled in cinnamon rolls.

“I remembered doing it and I really enjoyed it,” Zubia said.

He was a bartender in Vegas when he met his now-wife, Nora, 36, who was a cocktail waitress. They moved to Chambersburg a decade ago to be closer to her parents. They have three children: 14-year-old son Kasten; 7-year-old son Sebastian; and 5-year-old daughter, Ireland.

Some of Zubia’s relatives relocated to Chambersburg to be part of the Sweet Rollers mix. His mother, Dyana Zubia, 63, came from Battleground, Wash., to serve as events coordinator. From Kansas City came his nephew Draco Zubia, 23, who is the operations manager; Dakota Zubia, 21, fundraising consultant; and Draco’s girlfriend, Breana McCarty, 19, who is a dough roller.

Nora works in public affairs for Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg and shares her marketing expertise to help spread the word about Sweet Rollers.

“We’re a family-run organization,” Rocco Zubia said.

When he’s not putting about 40 hours a week into cinnamon rolls, Zubia works 70 hours a week as the manager of Buffalo Wild Wings in Chambersburg, “because I’m a psychopath. I’m always doing about 14 things at once. I just skip sleeping.”

The 1,400 square feet that Sweet Rollers occupies between Main and Second streets in downtown Chambersburg is still a work in progress. Zubia hopes the awnings and signs will be done by the end of March, at which point a soft opening will take place. Chambersburg artist Dustin Fritz created the logos and digital mascot – a gnome named Raiser (short for fundraiser).

“He is super cute,” Zubia said of the creature that sports swirly pants resembling cinnamon rolls.

Sweet Rollers plans to be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily for walk-in customers. Two sizes of cinnamon rolls are on the menu – a regular one that measures 5 inches wide by 3 inches tall and a jumbo that is about 6 ½ inches wide and 4 inches tall. The rolls have only eight ingredients and contain no dairy products, so they have a long shelf life and don’t require refrigeration.

Also offered will be cookies and an exclusive coffee blend of Ethiopian and Colombian beans created by The Ragged Edge Coffee House in Gettysburg, which will be sold by the cup or bag.

Those who want to eat the rolls in-house may have them heated. They can be topped with a traditional glaze of water, vanilla and powdered sugar; one made with cream cheese; or the flavor of the month. Zubia plans to have other toppings on hand, too.

The rolling and baking of cinnamon rolls will be done at night.

“It’s a whole process,” Zubia said. “We can’t be open and have flour flying around.”

Cookies will be baked and sold fresh daily, but if Zubia decides to sell them as fundraisers outside the bakery, he will need to add freezers to his appliance arsenal.

Ten percent of in-store cookie, cinnamon roll and coffee sales will go to an organization that Zubia chooses every month. Beneficiaries must have done another fundraiser with him.

Those who want to raise money through Sweet Rollers are encouraged to host a one-day event to sell the scratch-made baked goods. To keep the momentum going, Zubia suggests that the members of that club or organization immediately launch a traditional fundraiser using order forms. Sweet Rollers sales last only seven days. Two days after the orders are placed, the rolls are ready.

Groups that want to try their hand at this sweet fundraising option may sign up online ( to get the process started. They will have a consultation, during which the number of people in the group will be discussed, as well as how much money is needed and by when.

While he wants to help build groups’ coffers, he also wants to develop a skill set among his employees.

“I will create a society of Sweet Rollers,” said Zubia, who in 2013 placed third out of 17,000 bartenders at the World Bartender Championship at House of Blues in Dallas. He wants to make his team members feel valued and provide them with a decent livelihood.

“I want the team members to have a good life” he said, adding that he will be offering incentives for them to earn bonuses.

The Chambersburg store will give rise to many others in Pennsylvania if Zubia has his way.

“I think big and I want to open a lot of them,” said Zubia, who hopes to open franchises in areas such as Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Mechanicsburg and York.

And he anticipates growing his staff by five in Chambersburg to bring the total to nine by the end of the year.

When he was baking at home with a standard oven, the maximum number of rolls he could make daily, when he worked for 16 hours, was 600. In the shop, he can make 2,200 per day. That means he can generate even more smiles, which inspired him more than five years ago when he delivered his baked goods to the cheerleading squad.

“We get to do that daily now. That’s amazing,” Zubia said.

For more information, go to; email [email protected]m; or call 717-552-9703.

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