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Published: 11/24/2003

Business is rising nicely for cake-decorating firm

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Pam Hovey, left, assists Sandy Cutcher select cake decorations at Cake Arts Supplies, 2858 West Sylvania Ave. Pam Hovey, left, assists Sandy Cutcher select cake decorations at Cake Arts Supplies, 2858 West Sylvania Ave.
LUCAS MOBLEY / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Hours before her grandson s wedding, a grandmother called Cake Arts Supplies in tears.

The person delivering the wedding cake drove over a speed bump and the five layers of the cake were badly damaged, one beyond repair.

It was about noon on a Saturday and Cake Arts employees were finishing cakes for weddings they had committed to months earlier. But the grandmother was a good customer of the business s home-baking supplies and owner Dorothy Bryan told her to go home and dress for the ceremony. Cake Arts would bake another layer, recreate her icing design, and deliver the cake.

Such service is what Mrs. Bryan said sets her business apart from competitors who are baking supplies dealers or bakeries, but not both.

Cake Arts takes orders for special occasion cakes, sells baking and candy supplies to do-it-yourselfers, and provides lessons in cake decorating and candy making.

At least half of its sales are wedding-related, including invitations and napkins. This year, the bakery has made an average of seven cakes per weekend. The bakery s record is 13 special occasion cakes produced for one weekend.

In the first few years after Mrs. Bryan purchased the business in 1994, she was reluctant to turn down orders. And because most special occasion cakes are for Saturday events, Cake Arts staff was pulling all-nighters on Fridays.

“We had slumberless parties,” cake decorator Pauline Rower remembered.

Since then, the business has doubled its sales. Mrs. Bryan said she hopes to hit $500,000 in sales in the next few years, with a minimum of all-nighters. A “Just Say No” sign is posted by the phone. The firm, which employs two people full-time and five people for 15 to 30 hours a week, has cut off orders for some weekends next spring.

Cake Arts typically charges $300 to $400 for a wedding cake. Its most expensive was about $900 for a couple that wanted individual cakes for each table.

One of the biggest changes in Mrs. Bryan s nine years with the business has been an increase in the variety of flavors and fillings requested by customers, she said. On its Internet site, the company lists 17 cake flavors, including pink champagne, pina colada, and mint chocolate chip, and 13 fillings, including prune and blueberry. Staff spend an hour interviewing bridal couples before writing a cake order.

“Her cakes are obviously good,” said Ray Holston, a salesman at the Pinnacle hall in Maumee. But it s easier to find a good cake than friendly, reliable customer service, he said, and that s why he recommends Cake Arts to party planners. “You know they re going to be there on time and be set up,” he said.

Cake Arts tried operating a stand in Erie Street Market, but closed it after six months. Sales were disappointing.

Orders for the shop s home baking supplies are typically made about nine months in advance. That leaves employees to guess at which upcoming movies and cartoons will be such hits that children will want those characters on their birthday cake.

Last year, Cake Arts sold 14,000 pounds of chocolate, which it bought in bulk and repackaged for home candy makers. Almost 75 percent of that was sold at Christmas.

No matter the season, however, the shop appears busy, said Kendall Gigax, owner of Kendall s Gourmet Cheesecake & Chocolate Co. nearby on Sylvania Ave. And Kendall s, which occasionally buys supplies from Cake Arts and sells cheesecakes to Cake Arts to decorate, has found the business quite generous.

“When my oven broke, she let me use hers for free,” Ms. Gigax said of Mrs. Bryan.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, 541 N. Superior St., P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.



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