January 23, 2013
Wanted to give everyone out there an update, since everyone asks "WHEN WILL THE STORE OPEN" and now finally I have an answer. Awesome.
First off, the store is located at 2015 East Moyamensing Ave in Pennsport area. It is almost at Snyder, and is blocks away from Ikea, Target, The Industry and Federal Donuts.
We were lucky enough to get our Board of Health approval last week, and I picked up our license at License and Inspections yesterday. Yes, I went out in freezing cold temps to do it. I didn't want to, but I did.
I had hoped to do a few days open this week but I am still waiting on delivery of some coffee supplies and it's also colder out there than it has been in years. I want my first day to be a halfway nice day. I'm superstitious or whatever.
My schedule is updated on my calendar with upcoming store hours, but here it is just in case:
Wednesday January 30th, Thursday January 31st, Friday February 1----I will be open 9AM to 5pm. I will have samples, cupcakes for sale, coffee (hopefully by then), cold drinks. My smiling face.
As of Tuesday February 3, 2013, we will be open:
The Cupcake Truck will relaunch at Love Park March 1, 2013. I am hoping to do Wednesdays in U City at the Porch or 33rd and Arch, Temple on Thursdays, Fridays at Love Park, and events on the weekends. If you would like to rent the Cupcake Truck, email me at email@example.com. Spots are already filling up fast for the Spring so email me, or now you can stop by!
June 25, 2012
Please note we are in "transition" as we move into our AWESOME NEW SPACE at 2015 Moyamensing Ave! The Truck is going to be on a limited schedule in July so that I can get the space where it needs to be. The truck will be back on a full schedule in August, and then our cafe at the new space should open soon thereafter. Look for amazing french press coffee, homemade breakfast treats (Andy has begged for cornbread), plus full high end cakes, plus my mom's amazing chocolate chip cookies, plus other homemade from scratch items that I work on. Like, right now, I am working on Eclairs and Cream Puffs full of Vanilla Bourbon Cream (Makers Mark Bourbon, of course), with chocolate ganache on top. I will need taste testers!
Also looking for local artists to cover my walls in coolness. If you're inspired by Cupcake Lady, Cupcake Truck, Cupcakes in general...make something. Take a pic of it, and send it to me. I am going to pick stuff I like, that suits the space, and I will sell it for you. Take pics of it and put it on my website, which my husband has PROMISED to update this summer. This is me calling him out to remind him! Help!
I also would like to hold classes/groups in the space in the evening. Decorating classes! Baking Classes! Classes on starting your own business and using social media to advertise! Knitting! LGBT Events!
I have also told my other truck buddies I would like to do monthly events on a Saturday afternoon/evening by my place, get a nice little food spot going. Truckapalooza, I shall call it~!
Email me if you're my neighbor and you have more ideas. Ideas are good. Buttercreamphiladelphia@gmail.com.
April 5, 2012--Is Philadelphia Still the "City of No?"
A few years ago, I was contacted by the Institute for Justice, asking about my experience as an entrepreneur in the City of Philadelphia. My response was part of an in-depth study looking at the City of Philadelphia and attempting to determine why we have the fewest entrepreneurs of any of the 15 major metropolitan cities. This link provides a full PDF of the article http://www.ij.org/citystudies/philadelphia
Many of you have followed my ups and downs with my trucks, and supported me when I had my run in with the city in October, 2010. I must admit that particular day was one of the most difficult of my life. I felt incompetent, I felt embarassed, I felt defeated. I was unable to read much of the national press that followed, feeling exposed and genuinely afraid. Part of me broke that day. It's hard to explain, but the part of me that was so gung ho about moving forward with my grander ideas for Buttercream, that part suffered a significant blow. For months afterwards, I was jumpy, I would hear a siren or see a police officer and expect to be boarded. I would brace myself.
This year, I decided that in spite of my reticence, I was determined to open my own store and continue to build my brand. I believe in my product, feel immense support from my customers, and I love what I do. I want to do more of it, more products, full size cakes, t-shirts, etc. My husband and I started looking at possible locations, educating ourselves on the zoning laws, needs for a bakery, the process of licensing, etc. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. Every property we looked at needed so much work, and it seemed to me that most of the property owners cared more about getting as much money is as possible, and less about building up the beauty and integrity of a neighborhood.
That all changed when I met Alberta, an amazing woman who owns property at 20th and Spring Garden. She knew me, knew my cupcakes, and offered to do whatever it took to help me realize my dream of owning my store. Alberta was a lawyer, I was a lawyer, Andy is a jedi who can get just about anything done. Even though I was terrified, Alberta's belief in me, the space, the neighborhood, her tenants...it was all very inspiring to me. She took the building from urban blight to chic property.
The only problem was an issue of zoning. The property is C1, and to "bake on premises" in that location, we would need a variance to allow us to do so. In order to obtain the variance, there are multiple steps through the city itself, however, in this city...well, it's more about who you know. I contacted the local neighborhood association to start the dialogue about the space, and was immediately told NO, we will not support you. We then asked for a meeting to discuss it, see if we could address their concerns and find a common ground. As I scheduled the meeting I was told "this won't change anyone's minds, but we have to give you this meeting, due process." They said this without looking at a single plan of the building.
So we had our meeting. I thought it went really well, I hugged Alberta afterwards and thanked her again for her belief in me, my dreams. A week later, they told us "NO" again, saying all the same things they said intially. Could we fight it? Could we rally the community to challenge it? Sure, but then they can appeal it for years, and unless you have the money and stamina for a protracted legal battle, that's it.
Here I am, looking at my dream space, my dream landlord, an excellent business plan, the best neighbors, with several potential investors and once again, the answer is NO. NO NO NO and there's nothing you can do about it.
I sat and cried over it yesterday. I don't know if I'm feeling sorry for myself or if I am just angry about the overall feeling of powerlessness of it all. I don't want to give up, but I don't know how to keep fighting. Do I stay here in the city or do I move it to the burbs like so many others have? That seems so lame.
Anyway, I am writing this now because 1. I want things to change. Things have to change in this city and this country and tip the scales towards the entrepreneur because small business is the future and 2. if you have been in my place or you have insight into this situation, please email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for listening!
January 6, 2012
I don't know if I can call this a blog and not update it regularly! Currently, the truck is in the shop and I am home. Just a few days off and already I'm ready to get back, too much time to sit around and I think myself into a tizzy. That was half my problem as a lawyer, too much thinking, not enough doing. I'm a natural spazz who needs to run around. Working out doesn't really get the job done, I'm too acutely aware of the time while climbing steps to nowhere. I need an activity, like baking, camping, gardening. Exercising with purpose.
A quick note on the cupcakes because it's something that comes up--TEMPERATURE and TIMING. At present, our baking method with the cupcakes is to bake and frost the night before we sell, and immediately put the frosted cupcakes into sealed containers and into the fridge. We do this for a few reasons, but the most important one is the practicality of transport. We usually put a cute design into the cupcakes, and the only way to keep that design is to CHILL it into place. Otherwise, a warm cupcake would bounce all over the truck and arrive at our destination looking a fright. Once we arrive, we attempt to bring the cupcakes to room temperature as much as possible, but always err on keeping them COLD. This helps you transport them home, and saves them from sagging too much on a hot day.
Although some people enjoy eating our cupcakes cold or frozen, they are generally BEST when allowed to come to room temperature before enjoying. Sometimes I even warm them a bit in a microwave if I am too hungry to wait. A cold cupcake will feel hard, both the cake and the icing. It's similar to butter, hard when cold but soft and supple at room temperature. If your have a hard Buttercream Cupcake, that is a COLD cupcake. Give it a few minutes in a warm place and she will be ready to go.
I generally tell customers to keep their take-home cupcakes in the fridge until they are ready to enjoy them. If you do not want to eat your cupcake within the first 2 days, I recommend FREEZING it. This will keep your cupcake...as long as you like. Some people eat wedding cake after a year. I did. Take your cupcake out an hour before you want to eat it, letting it come to room temp. Or cheat and microwave it on defrost. Also works.
The hardest part of what we do is consistently getting a good product to you every single day. We make everything by hand and as any baker will tell you, certain batters are grouchier than others. A change in atmospheric pressure, an oven with a door open one too many times, cake is a PICKY GIRL. We try everyday to bring you a great tasting, great looking product and will continue to do so in the coming year. Thanks to all those who have supported me, the truck, cakes, frostings and sprinkles. It makes me happy.
April 27, 2011
More roller coaster of ups and downs here at Cupcake Truck. The ups would be YAY interview with Women's Day Mag. The Downs would be the old truck having broken belts and shifted steering columns and every other weird thing you can imagine.
My sister has been going through stuff, my stepmom lost her mom, and then my Grams was struggling to breathe, finally passed away over the weekend.
I have been trying to keep everything moving, my beloved hubby forced to step in and be Cupcake Lady on numerous occasions. Yes, I made him wear the shoes. He was unable to cover for me today cause he DOES have a day job and I have the super sad eyes from crying. I am supposed to bring all this happiness, but what happens when the Cupcake Lady is sad? It's been tough. I am hopeful that things get easier in the coming weeks and I will be back to my silly, frosting covered self. All good vibes, prayers and bottles of scotch will be appreciated.
Many of you have read of my troubles on here operating the Cupcake Truck, from the wrong gas in the truck, to parking troubles, to sick grandmas. I have been doing this for 2 years (almost), and the first year...well, it was like I made a Frankenstein monster and accidentally set it loose on the city. So many mistakes were made, most of them by me.
I wanted to thank the city specifically for helping me in the last year to figure this out, and I pledge to continue to work in conjunction with the city to make this thing work.
In the new year!! 12/29
As I prepare for my break with the truck in January, we will be working on lots of new things for the New Year. The truck itself will feature new items, to include a seasonal TINY PIE, a daily brownie and cookie. Think of a menu with the cupcake favorites plus a daily FANCY flavor, An Apple Crumb Tiny Pie, A dark chocolate brownie with a salted caramel buttercream and ganache drizzle.
I'm sitting here working on the website and watching non-stop workout and diet commercials. A diet is only good if you are happy, if you can stick with it, and if you still eat the foods you love. I believe it is important to have a sweet treat that is fully decadent--chocolate, butter, and all the best of life, but nicely portioned and NOT the size of your head. I don't know about anyone else, but I get so much info on what is good for you, what is bad. I try to eat like french people do--real bread, wine, real sweets, but very little fast food, fried food, boxed food. Lots of freshly made food, color, flavor. I think it makes your mouth happy and sated, and less tempted to overeat.
That's one of the reasons I gravitated to the truck idea, I liked that I wouldn't be in one spot all the time. I would be in your neighborhood once a week, a nice time to get a real treat that you could savor.
I promise in the new year to make all my new products as good as the cupcakes. Everything is handmade, with the love of 5 grandma's, and must pass my rigorous taste screenings. No short cuts, no mixes, no frozen pastry, no fake fillings. I want things to be seasonal, fresh and amazing!
University City 11/5
We tried again today (11/5) to vend at 33rd and Walnut. We contacted the Business Compliance Unit last week to show them our map of the prohibited zones, and that the law looked (at least to us) like we were ok on 33rd. We asked and we were told it seemed ok, but they would come check the spot today and let us know. We got an email around 11am (as we were parking) that the spot was indeed prohibited, but we could continue to sell for the day as long as no one complained. At that same moment, the gentleman in the cart next to us came up and indicated that he was going to call the police if we did not leave immediately. Not wanting to repeat the past, I got out of there! I am sorry to anyone who came looking for the truck, I know so many of you walk long distances to find me and it kills me to let you down!
I started my Cupcake Truck business in September, 2009, and though I tossed the idea around for years, in the end, I quit my job and jumped into it full force, without all the necessary research into the laws. I knew that my idea was of the moment and if I did not go for it, I would miss my chance.
To say I was naive and uninformed was an understatement. I literally knew next to nothing about commercial kitchens, baking in large batches, licensing, permitting, starting a business, health inspections. I thought my law degree and familiarity with reading actual law would help me navigate the city hurdles and get my truck licensed, but I greatly underestimated the difficulty of my endeavor.
I went to the health department armed with my request, paid extra to expedite the inspections, got my plans approved, paid to have the truck built and inspected, purchased business privilege license online in my own name. I received written approval from the health department, got a sticker to put in the truck. From my perspective, I was fully licensed and ready to rock and roll.
I operated for 10 months or so before I was told that I did not have 2 of the necessary licenses. I was to take the original approval from the health department and pay for the licenses. I missed this step. The day I found out, I canceled all future stops and ceased operations of the truck. I was very upset with myself--how did I not know? What did I miss? Where did I go wrong? Was my dream over based on paperwork? Because that would suck.
At that point, all I could do was fix it. I had the kitchen inspected, the truck re-inspected, and bought all new licenses. Everything passed within 10 days, and I was back on the road.
The problem was still where to park. I had the law and link to the city's website and laws, and from it my husband drew a map of legal vending zones and well as the prohibited ones. I have *never* returned to a location where I have been asked to leave. In the beginning, I would be invited to a spot for an event and it would go so well, people would ask me to return. I continued to do so until someone would say I was not allowed to be there, and then I would try to find a new legal spot.
According to my map, the spot I chose this past Tuesday was legal for me to be in. It is important to note that at the time my truck was confiscated, I had all 3 licenses, as well as a kitchen and truck approved by the health department. My only error that day was where I parked. I also admit that they warned me once before, in a different spot. A person from L&I flagged me down and said "if we saw you selling, we would have taken your truck." I explained to him that day my reading of the law, the map, that I was on 33rd street where my map says I can legally be. They told me I did not know the law.
Additionally, since we started, we have had ongoing correspondence with the business compliance unit asking them for help, info. We were given a link to the law and told to "figure it out." My problem has been finding the right person, right information, and the right tools to do what I am supposed to. I feel that if it has been this hard for me to figure this out, I cannot imagine what someone goes through without the legal tools that I have. I feel that I should have been more informed, and I accept responsibility for that without question.
The last thing I want is to fight with the city, break the laws, or be where I shouldn't be. Ever. I do not want to steal thunder from other businesses, cause traffic, hurt animals, whatever. I am a lover, not a fighter. I make fricken cupcakes.
What I would like to do now is take what I have learned about starting your own business and help other people. People with good ideas but who feel intimidated by the process of starting. In this economy, we need all the good ideas we can get, and I do not think we have the luxury of stifling good ideas with too many restrictions and reforms on small business. Our country was built on the buying and selling of goods and services, and we need to get back to the heart of that if we are to move forward.