Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Survival of the Small Business: Cup Cake Cafe Celebrates Five Sweet Years

By Alysa Obert
Gordon College News Service
January 26, 2010

There are the vanilla butter creams, the chocolate swirls, and of course, Boston Cream. They sit in delicious rows beside Red Velvet, Italian Rum, and even Turtle-flavored cup cakes.

Yes, cup cakes. With 60 flavors and different sizes to choose from, the Cup Cake Café at 297 Rantoul Street in Beverly, MA, has seen a steady following of, well, indulgence since it opened five years ago.


“Now I dream cupcakes,” says owner and baker Monica Hatherley, who bought the bakery in 2004 when she was a real estate agent looking for a change. The bakery started out much like a coffee house, which sold a variety of baked goods.

“I made every mistake known to man the first couple of years: I used to open at seven in the morning, I made things I didn’t enjoy, I changed the hours around,” said Hatherly. “One day I said, I don’t want to do this anymore, I just want to do cupcakes.”

The move was risky for Hatherly, but it lead to the success of her business.  She soon learned that if she made what she loved, business would pick up. It did.

“It is so important to fit your personality to your business,” said Hatherly. “The joy of having your own business is doing something that you love and cupcakes are what I love.”

Phone orders starting coming and now those calls dictate what goes into the case each morning. But there are staples which customers can count on, like vanilla buttercreams or Boston Cream to name a few. New creations like the Snowball cupcake also sit proudly under the glass.

Hatherly makes a certain number of cupcakes each day depending on specific orders and what she’s in the mood for. Once they’re gone, customers are out of luck.

“We close when we sell all of our cupcakes,” said Hatherly. “Sometimes that is at 2:00 p.m. but sometimes 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., but we always sell out.”

Friend and customer Val Kenney believes Hagerdly is successful because cupcakes make people happy. “Have you ever heard of anyone who was sad while eating a cupcake? I don’t think so,” said Kenney, who works on holidays and is paid in cupcakes.

The Café was recently featured on the Phantom Gourmet cable television show and Hatherly saw a new wave of customers. That meant new publicity, something she admits she’s still getting used to. With no plans to hire more help or to start another store, she sometimes feels overwhelmed.

“I don’t make a big deal about being here,” said Hatherly.  “I’m as busy as I can be.”

In an economic recession it is hard to believe that cupcakes alone could make a successful business. But Hatherly thinks she knows why: “I guess I just cornered the market on happy.”

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