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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Magnolia Bakery

How would you like a business where the only indication of a recession is shorter lines to get in? And sales per customer are limited?
Welcome to Magnolia Bakery, at 401 Bleecker Street in the West Village. This is Sunday morning and, like any weekend, lines await customers, both inside and out, day and night. An employee strolls outdoors and gives advance instructions to the location of goods inside and shopping procedure. Purchases are actually limited to 12 cupcakes per person.

There has been a craze for cupcakes in the city, with a number of retail bakeries specializing in them, such as Crumbs, Cupcake Cafe, Burgers and Cupcakes, and Buttercup Bake Shop. There are many theories as to the success of Magnolia Bakery and cupcakes. Childhood nostalgia has to be a big element - cupcakes are certainly an icon of childhood pleasure. A cupcake is also a very convenient food to eat on the street - each one is a self-contained individual serving. And, of course, there is the chic factor of comfort foods. The shop is located on a section of Bleecker Street with fine boutiques and small shops. It is also only a short walk from the meatpacking district.
Some feel that the cupcake craze is partially driven by the fact that most New Yorkers do not even know how to bake cupcakes and that people would not wait in line like this in most suburban areas - they would just bake cupcakes themselves.

Magnolia has gotten its share of exposure on TV and film, which certainly has not hurt. The shop and/or its baked goods have been seen on Lazy Sunday, Saturday Night live, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Sex and the City, Spin City, and the films Prime and The Devil Wears Prada.

Magnolia Bakery was started in 1996 by Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel. The original baker, Kathryn McCann, was raised in the South - you will find a southern influence with pastry selections such as Hummingbird and Red Velvet Cake. See their website here. The homey, kitcheny decor is as comforting as the old-fashioned baked goods.

Personal taste spans a wide spectrum, as do the reviews and opinions of the Magnolia cupcake. The cupcake itself is not pure artisanal magic - in fact, the recipe is published in their book and is available online. But none of this will dissuade the passionate Magnolia fan - their minds are made up :)


An Honest Man said...

I well remember when cupcakes were called fairy cakes over here!

Sharon said...

I waited with friends in this line once. I didn't purchase a cupcake, the friends did and they gave me a taste. It pretty much tasted like any good quality cupcake. I really couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. However, I do wish I could come up with an idea that would attract this much customer loyalty, heavy business, and huge revenue for such a simple product. Don't we all?

Travel Insurance Insider said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Travel Insurance Insider said...

What is the price of a cake in New York City these days? This interesting article says New York City is the most expensive city to spend a weekend in!

Is it true?

Randy said...

I think you may have misjudged the customers. I'm often at the park next to the Magnolia Bakery, and it seems to me that most of the people in the lines are tourists. Even big tour buses stop here to disgorge their patrons, who then gorge themselves on cupcakes.

Brian Dubé said...

Randy - I did not misjudge, just perhaps did not fully report regarding the heavy tourist trade. I did also read that this actually is a stop for many tour buses.

Lavinia said...

That I'm from Singapore, which is thousands of miles away, to have walked around Bleecker searching for this shop while on holiday in NYC says a lot of its success, within and out of the country.

Those cupcakes tasted pretty damn good to me!