Cutesy Cupcakes Defies Cooling Trend

By Samantha Clark Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.

SCOTTS VALLEY

Headlines and foodies predict the death of the cupcake every year. The trendy confection quickly took off in the 2000s, but trading opulent for healthy, tastes have changed. Many have also questioned businesses relying on a food craze with a cooling market.

Defying the doom, Cutesy Cupcakes really takes the cake. With business booming, the owners opened a larger Scotts Valley location Monday and are hosting a grand opening event Saturday. They opened a Capitola store just last year.

"Cutesy Cupcakes isn't going to go out of style," said co-owner Jeanette Fitzgearl. "I don't know how to say it without sounding conceited, but ours are good."

In the 12-month period that ended in November 2014, cake servings at restaurants, including cupcake places, declined 3 percent, according to NPD Group Inc., a consumer market research firm. That compares with a 4 percent increase in 2013.

But Fitzgearl said she isn't worried about the future. The owners -- three generations of women -- have eyed the new Scotts Village Shopping Center location for years, but the building owner didn't think they could make it in such a large space.

"Well, we quickly outgrew where we were and proved we could handle a bigger space with Capitola," Fitzgearl said.

Janeen Thompson, Fitzgearl and Lacey Thompson, a grandmother-mother-granddaughter trio, began the business at home in 2009. They've come a long way since baking with a toaster oven and cutting cupcake tins in half to fit inside.

"We started doing weddings and we could only bake six at a time, so we'd have to bake all night," Fitzgearl said. "We wanted this so bad that there wasn't anything we wouldn't do."

Later they bought a food truck and entered the San Jose mobile food scene. In 2013, they were featured on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars but didn't win.

Cupcakes as a snack item are not a fad, said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst.

"There will always be people who like to eat cupcakes, but the proliferation of retail outlets exclusively selling cupcakes is over," she said. "There will still be retail stores selling cupcakes, but they will be selling other items as well."

Cutesy Cupcakes just added frozen yogurt to the menu this week.

Rocquel Chagolla, owner of Roc's Cupcakes in Watsonville, said she's looking at adding ice cream and ice cream cupcakes.

And with many customers traveling from Salinas and Gilroy, she said opening a store in either city might not be a bad idea.

"As long as there's going to be birthdays and weddings and celebrations, there's always going to be a need for cupcakes," Fitzgearl said.

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