It seems as if within the past couple of years cupcakes have been everywhere. From television programs like TLC’s ‘DC Cupcakes’ to best selling cookbooks like ‘Bake Me, I’m Yours Cupcakes’, these petite versions of everyone’s favorite special occasion sweet treat have become the latest trend. Cupcakes are now the dainty and adorable alternative to serving a large sheet cake at a birthday or graduation. These no silverware necessary desserts even started being served in lieu of wedding cakes!
So where exactly did this new vogue originate? Cupcake lover and founder Candice Nelson opened Sprinkles Cupcake Bakery in Beverly Hills in 2004 as a testament to her great grandmother who owned her own bakery in San Francisco in the 1930’s. Quickly people began to respond to these fresh baked sweets, ordering cupcakes by the dozen and waiting in line outside for flavors like Chocolate Coconut and Peanut Butter Chip. As a result of its Beverly Hills location, celebrities began to frequent the bakery, ordering cupcakes for weddings and birthday celebrations. Soon enough Sprinkles creations were showing up anywhere from morning talk shows like ‘Oprah’ and ‘Good Morning America’ to reality shows like ‘Cribs’ and ‘The Girls Next Door’, even prime time HBO television series ‘Entourage’.
With this critical acclaim came the opening of new California locations in Palo Alto, Los Angeles and Newport Beach and soon after expanding to Dallas, Houston and Scottsdale.
On July 26, 2010, Sprinkles opened their seventh store in downtown Chicago. Chicago natives and patrons of the California and Texas bakeries eagerly anticipated the opening of a Midwest location, and warmly welcomed Sprinkles on 50 E. Walton Street, just off Michigan Avenue.
Managing the Chicago store is Maura Weber, a former associate at the Arizona location. Although she’s been at Sprinkles for two and a half years, Weber hadn’t always been in the business of cupcakes, “I was a Justice Studies major in college. I didn’t have any prior experience, but I made a list of things I’ve always wanted to do in life, and working in a bakery was one of them. I saw an ad for the job and it just sort of went from there, working my way up to where I am right now.”
Managing 30 on staff, including bakers and 12 associates working at the front of the store, the business is run like a well-oiled machine in a fun and happy environment. Weber prides Sprinkles employees and the store itself as being just that, “It’s cupcakes! How can you not have fun?”
In order to see what she is talking about, just walk through the large glass door into the whimsical bakery where least four smiling faces greet customers, excitedly asking them what they would like, always happy to explain flavors or ingredients. Establishing a connection with customers is one of Weber’s favorite parts of her job, “It’s great to see familiar faces and have conversations with people, and we’d never be able to have that without such awesome employees.”
Supervisor and Hershey, Pennsylvania native Courtney Woods too can attest to this. After getting a degree in Restaurant Management and finding the job opportunity as a post on Craig’s List in August 2010, Woods has loved every minute of her time working there, “I love the people I work with. The staff couldn’t be nicer or friendlier and that’s strongly reflected in our customer service. Everyone is just having a good time and it shows!”
When it comes to balancing a work and play aesthetic, neither comes up short. Lines are often out the door, and sometimes even have to be closed due to such an overwhelming crowd on weekends and holidays are especially busy. To prepare for the daily rush, Bakers, all full time workers, start at 4:00AM, Frosters come in at 5:00AM, all preorders are done by 7:00AM and deliveries out by 9:00AM. Bakers work meticulously to ensure that their product is everything they promise: made from organic and when possible local ingredients. In addition to their initial conscious approach, Sprinkles also offers gluten-free and Vegan options in two of their cupcakes. However, Weber does not encourage individuals with nut allergies eat at Sprinkles due to a peanut butter and walnut presence in three of their cupcakes.
Also, nothing ever goes to waste. Customers can always donate to churches and the Salvation Army via the boxes at the register and all leftovers at the end of the day are taken to food banks and homeless shelters. As a whole, Sprinkles has donated 2.3 million dollars to charities.
This level of care is also made apparent through employee’s relationship with the owners, Charles and Candice. Mike Riemen, a Shift Supervisor and college Theatre major from Richmond Virginia never feels like he’s working as part of a large corporation because his bosses make their employees feel like they’re not just a number “We’re well taken care of as employees. Even though it’s a large company and they’re not here all the time, when they (Charles and Candice) come in to visit it still feels personal. We want everything about our store to feel that way!”
Clearly they’ve been quite successful. Hundreds of people have visited Sprinkles to taste their devilishly delicious confections. Customers are tourists and locals alike, with a common mission to sample these trendy little treats. The two most popular flavors are Red Velvet, a red velvet cake with a vanilla cream cheese frosting and Black and White, dark chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and of course, dusted with chocolate sprinkles.