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Monday, July 19, 2010

Cupcakes Apparently No Longer Trendy, But Essential Economic "Drivers"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 11:00 AM

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In October of 2007, I wrote a review of two new cupcake-centric bakeries: the Cupcakery (soon to be renamed the Cup) and Jilly's Cupcake Bar.

I marked this as the moment when the cupcake craze finally reached our fair city. As part of my review of the two bakeries, I traced the history of that craze: recent years cupcakes have attained an astonishing level of adoration. The epicenter of the cupcake craze is generally acknowledged to be New York City's Magnolia Bakery, which opened in the mid 1990s. The bakery was immortalized in an episode of Sex and the City and then, a few years later, in Saturday Night Live's "Lazy Sunday" sketch, when Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell head to Magnolia to "mack on some cupcakes."

Finally, in 2007, as the inevitable Sex and the City reunion movie is being filmed, the cupcake craze has come to St. Louis.

Now it's 2010, and Sex and the City 2 has destroyed any remnant of cachet that franchise ever had...yet, somehow, the cupcake craze continues unabated. And not only here in the trend-tardy Midwest.

In fact, according to a Wall Street Journal article from last Friday, cupcakes aren't trendy. Cupcakes are essential economic "drivers."

Reports Sumathi Reddy:
The latest unemployment numbers for New York City show that, while the labor market shrunk in June, the overall unemployment rate improved, partially fueled by growth in the restaurant and bar industry. And one of the main drivers of that growth? Little morsels of impossibly cute frosted sweetness.
While Reddy does quote a recent report noting an increase in the number of cupcake-centric restaurants opening, the article is mainly a series of interviews. Still, if it's lacking in statistics, the article does provide a pretty reasonable explanation why people continue to open cupcake restaurants while the economy as a whole still struggles to get its feet under it.
"It's small, it's finite, [customers] can commit to it," [David Arrick, the founder of Butch Bakery] said. For entrepreneurs, cupcake bakeries are similarly easy to commit to -- the start-up investment in cupcakes is much smaller than the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to open a cafe or restaurant.
Logical argument for cupcake supremacy -- or the classic misguided view that leads to an economic bubble? Discuss.

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