Sugar, Spice and everything nice
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 17:02
In a small storefront nestled in historic Vinings, Andra Hall greets customers from behind a Plexiglas case filled with tiered, glass stands atop a white counter. Each tier holds a freshly baked, neatly decorated cupcake made from scratch.
Trays of red velvet, key lime and banana cream cupcakes rest cooling on a rolling cart just steps away from the counter. Their aromas fill the quaint space and escape with each opening of the bakery's entrance door.
"Cake has always been popular and the fact that we've been able to reinvent it in single portions is one reason why this business is booming," said Hall, owner of CamiCakes Cupcakes. "The fact that people can come in and get their own unique, little cakes – not just a slice from a whole cake, someone else's cake – makes us popular."
Web designer Jeffery Lawrence earns a living by identifying and then satisfying customers' perceptions and needs.
"We love convenience and the cupcake is the answer to how to portion a regular slice of cake to the masses," Lawrence said. "It's small, it's portable and might therefore be a tad bit better than its larger counterpart."
There's little arguing that Atlantans can't get enough of food on-the-go. The rise of mobile food trucks proves that quirky, hassle-free eating is a lucrative pursuit.
To Tom Fahey, co-owner of The Atlanta Cupcake Factory, cupcake crazies are just regular people who want to enjoy wonderful food. He doesn't know what to make of the cupcake shop trend, likening it to the burger boom.
At 10:22 a.m. on a Thursday morning, he answers the phone in a hurried voice, reminding me that restaurant doors will soon open.
"Our bakery concentrates on making the best cupcakes with the best ingredients," Fahey said.
Fahey has found that the key to a winning business is quality.
"We don't use shortening, and we don't do any marketing because there's no profit motive. Our customers respond well to the hominess of the store. They know we're a small, mom-and-pop shop that strives to serve good food," Fahey said.
Fahey's and his wife's commitment to quality has captured the eyes and appetites of cupcake lovers near and far. Six and a half years ago, the couple started their business filling corporate orders. Shortly thereafter, due to customer demand, they opened a retail counter to the general public.
Hall also began her business six years ago in Orange Park, Fla. Now the franchise comprises four stores including its first Atlanta location on Peachtree Road.
Her contemporary twist on the downhome classic sets the Vinings shop apart from the city's older, long-lived cupcakeries. Warm, wood paneled walls, pale pink accents, a brown-faced, curly-haired logo and chic, simple packaging create a chain reaction that welcomes school children and senior citizens alike.
"Another reason we're so popular is that eaters are given choices," Hall said. "When you have a whole cake you're committed to one flavor, but when you have cupcakes you have a rainbow of flavors."
Lawrence muses that cupcakes are interesting, edible works of art.
"Cupcakes aren't only cute but just as versatile as a whole cake, which gives itself up to a whole new array of designs and decorations if you decide to make it a cupcake cake," Lawrence said. "Designing each cupcake and making a whole out of parts? How creative it that?"
Shows like Cupcake Wars that spotlight cupcake bakers competing for a $10,000 prize create excitement and drive customers to their local confectionaries. For Hall and Fahey, this could mean that cupcake shops are more than a craze; they're here to stay.