WENATCHEE — When Sarina Garrett and her husband Jesse bought Cupcake Blues this May, they didn’t make a big deal out of it.
“We didn’t want people to be afraid that anything was going to change or that the product was going to change,” said Sarina Garrett, who’s been baking and decorating in the 17 Orondo Ave. shop since it opened in 2013. “It literally really is just a transfer of name. It’s not someone new coming in.”
Garrett has kept everything the same, from the quality of the cupcakes the shop’s known for, to the hours, to the bright and playful decor.
When original owner Lisa Blue Simmons announced she wanted to sell, Garrett, who’s originally from Entiat, said she didn’t want to look for another job. She enjoyed baking at Cupcake Blues, and that made the decision easy.
“When you think about it, you always want to own your own business and do this for yourself, but in the end, you never sit back and think ‘That’s it, I’m going to buy it!’ But really, it didn’t take that much for my husband and I to be like ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ ” she said.
Garrett had been baking commercially for years — working in the bakery at Costco before Cupcake Blues.
“I love interacting with the customers. But then I really do also love being back there and baking,” she said.
“When people come in and they’re like ‘These are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen!’ or they get their special order cake and they’re just so happy, that’s worth it. But then I also love baking, because I’m back there by myself doing what I like.”
While she enjoys working with customers, buying the business meant wearing many more hats and responsibility for the business side of things.
She said one of her biggest challenges as a new business owner has been marketing.
“It’s getting out there and marketing and putting my face out there,” she said, “because I am sort of used to being in the back.”
She said she found that the best marketing comes in the form of bringing cupcakes to people she works with in the community, like her dentist or accountant.
“It’s not necessarily putting a sign out there, it’s going ‘Hey, I wanted to share with you,’ ” she said. “That’s great advertisement.”
Garrett estimates that she bakes around 350 cupcakes a week. And when they’re busy, they sell out almost every day. That number doesn’t include the seasonal treats like sugar cookies, brownies and scones. Garrett also makes wedding cakes and caters events. But the cupcakes are the heart of the business, said Garrett. That’s why they have to be good.
“We make everything from scratch and we don’t use Crisco,” she said. “We use butter, we use heavy whipping cream, we use buttermilk. We use the fantastic stuff.”
The cupcakes can’t just be tasty to sell, they’ve got to be unique in flavor and beautiful. The menu features over a dozen flavors, ranging from chocolate, vanilla and red velvet (one of Garrett’s favorites), to Oreo, Funfetti and the Signature Blues, a chocolate or vanilla cupcake with distinctive blue buttercream frosting.
For holidays and special events, Garrett comes up with new flavors. This Father’s Day, for example, she featured a root beer float cupcake, inspired by a flavoring she saw online. Cupcakes like these — “designer” cupcakes — often look as decadent as they taste.
“The most honest thing that we ever heard from somebody was ‘You take your first bite with your eyes’ and that is totally true,” Garrett said. “You want a really good proportion of frosting and cake, we put the candy on there and the drizzle on there, people like that. The prettier the better.”
While cupcakes have long been considered the treat of choice for grade-school birthday parties, Garrett said that, for the most part, her customers are older — buying cupcakes as gifts or for work parties and weddings.
“Cupcakes have become a lot trendier. It’s the ‘in’ thing,” she said, “and I’m so grateful it’s the ‘in’ thing.”
Part of the reason for that is that you can get cupcakes in multiple flavors, and serving them at a function can be more convenient than cutting a cake, she said.
It can be challenging, Garrett said, to help people understand why her cupcakes cost more than those at the supermarket. Often, it just takes a bite.
“The proof is in the product,” she said. “If you like it, you’re going to come back.”