Bidding farewell to an old friend is never easy. The last brick-and-mortar storefront for CakeLove, a once-thriving dessert bakery in the Washington, D.C. area, closed in December 2015. The founder of CakeLove describes the shop's 13 years on U Street as bittersweet and full of memories. “I really discovered one of my callings in life,” says Warren Brown, the owner. “I think it was a really fantastic adventure. I met my wife through working at CakeLove because she came through the store.”
Yet, there are no tears or sad reflections for this one-time lawyer. He is too busy expanding the CakeLove in a Jar concept that has launched his business in a new direction. Brown started thinking about a packaged product years ago. Now, the production facility he opened in Virginia in 2015 is shipping out a variety of flavors for the single-serving cake and frosting in a jar. The dessert is on market shelves in more than nine states and the District of Columbia. Some Norwegian Airlines flights have the portable cake. It also can be ordered online.
In that respect, Brown says his appetite for entrepreneurial creativity is actually increasing. “I think that my dreams and ambitions for CakeLove are still very, very big. What I'm excited about is that I'll be able to achieve my dreams with this version of what we're doing and this phase.”
Lessons Learned Propel Future Developments
The first phase that began in 2002 grew from the first U Street store to sevenCakeLove shops in the D.C. Metro area. Producing portable cake desserts that are shipped frozen to Whole Foods, other gourmet markets and online customers liberated Brown from the daunting tasks of staffing, stocking and overseeing multiple locations. “The crash of 2008 came right when we had completed our growth and expansion,” says Brown. “That really changed people's habits and our sales profile. The overhead was not attractive.”
Lessons learned from the storefront experiences are being incorporated into a new recipe for success. Brown now has more time to spend on researching what customers want when they open CakeLove's re-sealable jars. His aim is to deliver scrumptious cake and cream cheese frosting made from scratch with natural sweeteners and no artificial preservatives. “I'm an optimist by nature. I think and I see that the product can do well wherever it's given a chance to be sold,” says Brown.
Brown has been able to assemble some of his former employees into an all-star team that is taking CakeLove into the future. Together, they have already developed 15 flavors for the cake in a jar. They are fine-tuning more options, including a new tiramisu dessert and a multi-jar box.
CakeLove's founder remembers how it felt to be a pioneer opening his first store long before redevelopment transformed boarded-up buildings and trash-littered sidewalks along U Street in the District's Shaw neighborhood. Nor will he ever forget the fans and supporters who made CakeLove possible then and today. “I'm just very, very thankful,” says Brown. “I look forward to serving our customers with what I think will be a strong set of options that are exciting and delicious.”
A list of places where you can buy CakeLove in a Jar is available on the company's website at cakelove.com. Look for the dessert in the refrigerated aisle, the grab-and-go section or ask your grocer. You can also shop online for CakeLove's new portable desserts as well as full-size cakes that can be delivered or picked up from the new warehouse in Alexandria, VA.