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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Cupcake Cache fills North Tampa’s appetite for treats

— Eve and Michael Dobbins work a profitable niche in their North Tampa shop selling gourmet cupcakes. The couple’s next goal is to make a living at it.

Their cupcake bakery and cafe has come a long way since opening a little over two years ago on E. Busch Blvd., across 42nd Street from Mel’s Hot Dogs. It’s a location that has served them well.

“We had two customers that first day,” said Michael, who has had careers in the U.S. Army and financial services industry before embarking on the current enterprise with Eve, who has traveled the globe as a contract English teacher.

Building on what Michael calls “walkover” business from Mel’s, Cupcake Cache has become a favorite of customers who find something to suit their tastes from the menu of more than 60 flavors, including a cinnamon and pumpkin mousse cupcake called Linus’ Temptation and the strawberry-themed Plant City Princess.

“In the beginning, about 80 percent of our business was from Mel’s,” said Michael. “Now it’s about 10 percent.”

The Dobbinses attribute much of their business’ growth to word-of-mouth advertising. In the Digital Age, those conversations are likely to take place on social media sites, like Urbanspoon and Yelp, that rate local businesses.

That’s how Amy Crimmins discovered the shop of tasty treats.

“My 5-year-old wanted a cupcake after school one day so I ‘Yelped’ what was around,” she said. “Cupcake Cache popped up. I tuned my car around at 56th and Fowler and went right over there.”

Eve and Michael are the sole employees of the business, sharing management and production responsibilities. Eve enjoyed baking as a part of her family routine growing up in the Catskill Mountains of New York and Michael learned about baking on a large scale in the army. Their personalities, interests and experiences influence the recipes they create.

The business itself reflects Eve’s appreciation for the cupcake cafes she visited while teaching English in the United Arab Emirates. One chain of boutique cafes there sells a cupcake gilded with edible 23-carat gold sheets for about $1,000.

The cupcakes in the Dobbins’ display case are much cheaper at $3 each and don’t contain precious metals. But the quest for interesting recipes is ongoing, resulting in offerings like the Aztec Warrior, which features cayenne pepper in the mix.

“I like to shop at the different markets and see what kind of ingredients I can find,” said Eve.

They sell a lot of cupcakes and earn a small profit, but not enough to fully support them or grow their business the way they want. Eve’s salary as an instructor at St. Leo University keeps their family finances in order. They’re looking for ways to fund growth that will increase revenue without sacrificing independence.

“Once you borrow money it’s no longer your business,” said Michael.

A contest sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank offering prizes of $25,000 to small businesses is one way they are trying to do that. The Wells Fargo Works Project is a judged contest, with the goal of providing mentorship and cash prizes to small businesses demonstrating a strong commitment to their local communities as well as solid business acumen. The Dobbinses say they would add locations to sell their cupcakes if they win. Winners will be announced in September.

They are optimistic about their chances in the Wells Fargo competition, but their emphasis is on developing business relationships that will provide more places to sell their cupcakes without giving up production responsibility or their proprietary recipes. For those reasons, franchising is not their preferred choice as they consider growth opportunities.

“You only have control if you are there every day and you can’t fly to Topeka, Kansas, every day,” said Michael.

The cafe is one aspect of the business, and serves to introduce the public to its menu of cupcakes that are also available for special events such as parties, PTA events, weddings and business meetings. One of their biggest projects was helping Mel’s Hot Dogs celebrate its 40th anniversary by baking 600 commemorative cupcakes.

“The real money comes from the parties and events,” said Michael. “But you don’t get the parties and weddings unless someone’s bought one in the showroom.”

Cupcake Cache is located at 4202 E. Busch Blvd. It is open 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

For additional information, visit www.cupcake cache.com or call (813) 785-6877.

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