To start with the good news: Just Bakedrecently became an independent business and, because it’s no longer under franchise rules, can sell anything it wants. In addition to the addicting cupcakes, owner Debbie Baxter has added chocolates by local chocolatier Nancy Biehn (Sweet Gems Confections) and gluten-free cupcakes by Julie and Ran Rabinovitz at Tasty Bakery.
For awhile, things were shaky. Baxter says ruefully that she found out that the regional chain of cupcake shops she was franchised to was going under “on January 8, when I read it on Facebook.” There has been a wave of cupcake store crashes since last summer, starting with the New York-based Crumbs, which got so big it traded on Nasdaq. Baxter’s store was part of a regional chain started by Pam and Todd Turkin in Livonia, who ran the Just Baked bakery and delivered them to their seventeen or so locations in southeast Michigan and Ohio. Baxter says she knew the cupcake wave was receding, but “they had assured us they had a different business model.”
Baxter quickly reviewed her contract and realized there was no reason she couldn’t keep her store open, but where would she get her product? Though they closed all their stores, the Turkins decided to keep baking cupcakes. “For three weeks my stomach was in knots. If there were boxes on the counter when I came in, I knew I was in business for another day,” says Baxter. She’s no longer obliged to sell the Turkins’ cupcakes but doesn’t plan to stop: “It’s a good product,” she says of the thirty-two flavors like toasted almond, salted caramel, and tiramisu.
She pauses to wait on a customer who opens with “This is going to sound odd, but what’s the plainest, non-chocolate cupcake you have?” eventually admitting it’s for her dog. Baxter steers her toward another flavor she hadn’t mentioned: the one with the dog biscuit on top. “It’s carrot and peanut butter and has no added sugar.”
Just Baked, 2463 W. Stadium (Westgate), 585-5354. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.