Local Bakers React to the Fall of a Cupcake Empire

By Rina Rapuano  |  July 8, 2014

During the height of the cupcake craze, many hit a point of cupcake fatigue. I mean, yes, cupcakes are delicious. They are, after all, mini cakes — and cake tastes good. But did we need to talk about them all the time? Did we need to stand in line for them? Did we need to watch cupcake drama unfold on TV? Perhaps we don’t, after all.

Big news broke yesterday for the baking industry: Media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post are reporting that Crumbs Bake Shop closed each of its nearly 50 stores that mostly hug the East Coast. The closures were said to take place the same day the announcement was made.

Locally, the chain operated three shops in DC as well as outposts in Clarendon and Tysons Corner since the company started in 2003 in New York City. The Wall Street Journal attributes the company’s ultimate failure to “several years of losses, a dwindling cash supply, and a food craze that is petering out.” The publicly traded company was bumped from Nasdaq July 1.

So, does this mean the beginning of the end for the Cupcake Era?

Georgetown Cupcake co-owner Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne commented via email: “We can't speak for other companies and why they fail, but we can say that Georgetown Cupcake has always taken a very disciplined approach to growth that never loses sight of the importance of product quality and the overall customer experience. Those are two key ingredients for any food business’ success.” She added that her locally based chainlet, which started in 2008, plans to open its sixth location in Atlanta in September.

And local pastry chef superstar Tiffany MacIsaac, who recently left Neighborhood Restaurant Group to get her custom-cake business off the ground, says it’s too simplistic to say that cupcakes were in and now they are out.

“I know everybody’s going to look at it as a statement about cupcakes being over or passé or whatever, but I don’t know that it is,” she says. “When I was at Buzz, hundreds of people came every day that really love cupcakes.”

Instead, she cites an increase in competition and the fact that there’s not much money in it to begin with as the likely reasons for Crumbs’ demise.

“Cupcakes is actually a really hard business to be in,” she says. “You really make your money back pennies at a time.”