If you’ve been following me on Twitter or regularly read this blog, you may have known for a bit that there were some major life decisions going on here in the Robicelli’s household.
Heads up if you couldn’t tell, this is going to be one of my longer posts, and though it’s chock full of news and super-exciting developments, I know some of you just come here for a few laughs and dirty pictures of cupcakes. So for you speed readers, may I present this video of the Sanford & Sons theme song: press play, dance a little in your chair, then just scroll down to the bottom for flavors and get right on along with enjoying your Friday!
For the rest of you who have decided to come along for the ride- back to major life decisions!
As I’ve alluded to in the past and mentioned in countless interviews, we always said that we wouldn’t consider opening a “real store” again until our kids were in school. When we had our old shop in Bay Ridge, we barely saw our kids or each other, our marriage nearly fell apart, and true to the old saying, the store owned us more than we owned it. We were very happy running our wholesale bakery, having our stuff not in one place but in dozens of places, but people continually asked “where’s your store?” as if being a wholesaler wasn’t a legitimate direction for a bakery. We opened DeKalb last year as a sort of experiment- it let us test the waters, see how it felt to have our own retail outpost again while simultaneously running wholesale and catering, doing markets and events, writing a book, and raising two little boys while finding time to also be husband and wife.
In two weeks comes the moment we’ve been talking about in theory for almost three years as if it was some far off date that would never actually happen: our boys are starting school full-time. For years, I fully expected us at this moment to announce that we were opening a traditional brick-and-mortar store, just like every food truck or artisinal jellybean maker is pushing to do.
But here’s what I didn’t take into account in this plan: our kids are AWESOME right now, and they keep getting better. Toby is 4 and Atticus is 5, and they are bright and funny and wonderful, and we have all sorts of amazing adventures together. This summer we’ve searched for chipmunks and poked frogs with sticks, built sandcastles and bonfires, explored museums and zoos - we’re even teaching them to cook (Mommy brag: Atticus butchered his first lobster yesterday! *sniff*).
We also learned that frogs really don’t like being poked with sticks.
Thing is with kids, there’s no way to pause them. There’s no “Stay right here and don’t age at all while Mommy and Daddy build this company- we’ll be right with you once we’re set!”. And if there’s anything we’ve learned since we’ve started this company, it’s that there’s absolutely no measure of success or amount of money that is more important than the family we’ve built together.
We’ve been talking a lot about the future this month, and then once Katie died on Sunday, we sort of cemented our decision.
Robicelli’s at DeKalb Market will close next Friday, August 31st. We will not be doing any long term markets like Madison or Union Square. And we are not going to open a brick-and-mortar location.
Now this is the part where it gets mildly tricky, and I want you all to pay incredibly close attention to the next part, because I’ve been through this with people and the media before and they always get important details messed up. I’m even going to outline this as a Q&A to try to make it as clear as possible:
Q: So if you’re closing your store and not opening a new one, does this mean you’re going out of business?
A: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Not only are we continuing to wholesale to existing retail partners, but we’ve picked up over 6 more in August alone (with more to come), and will be focusing our energies on developing an alternate style of retail presence for us that will benefit our customers and small businesses. We’re also going to be packaging our hot cocoa mix this year (named one of the five best in New York!), and hopefully start shipping that along with brownies come Columbus Day weekend. See? You thought for a minute we were going to run off and go join some sort of nudist colony in Upstate New York where we’d spend our days playing hackysack and wouldn’t be driving ourselves nuts. We’re still going to be ridiculously busy- just in a different direction.
Plus, remember we were being evicted by DeKalb on September 30th anyway so they could build a giant skyscraper on the property. Progress!
Q: But why wholesale? Why not just open a cute little shop somewhere with a retro-40s motif? I mean, we really need more cupcake stores in Manhattan. There’s only, like, two in DivaliStoDi.
A: Because we honestly love being wholesalers. Let me put it like this- say we had a shop in DivaliStoDi (for all of you who aren’t real New Yorkers, that’s the “DVD and Lingerie Store District from 37th to 40th Street btwn 7th & 10th). Now if you’re from South Brooklyn like we are, you need to get on the R and schlep your butt aaaaalllll the way up there to grab them, then schlep them aaaalll the way back. And more importantly (at least to us), we’ll only employ maybe 4-6 people at that store.
However as a wholesaler, we can be almost everywhere- provided that there’s not such ridiculous traffic that our driver can’t get the product there (sorry, Midtown). Currently, we’ve got shops all across Brooklyn, parts of Manhattan, and even out in Patchogue Long Island. Best part? That’s dozens of stores hiring more people. And when people go in specifically to buy our products, they’ll start frequenting those shops for other things as well, and the stores begin to do better across the board, meaning that those small businesses stay in your neighborhood and don’t turn into a Subway. Sort of like how a monkey will bang, like, TONS of female monkeys to increase his chances of having his genes live on.
Should I have brought up promiscuous monkey sex in a post about baked goods? Probably not. But it’s really late and I have a lot more info to cover, and I’m way too tired to delete that and think of another metaphor. Plus I’ve been to the zoo twice this week and I’m having a hard time thinking about anything non-monkey related.
In a nutshell: less stress for us, better for our community, more locations for you to be stuffing your face in. Win-win-win.
Q: But without your shop, I’m not going to be able to get my hands on the whoopie pies or brownies, or the Chicken n’Waffles, or your hot cocoa once it gets cold, or all the other stuff that’s not in the rotation!
A: Many of our locations are starting to pick up the whoopies and brownies as well as the cupcakes, and if your nearest location doesn’t and that makes you sad, just ask them. Our hot cocoa is currently on the menu at Bergdorf Goodman, and we’ll be shipping bags of the mix (and putting it on store shelves) when the temperature finally drops. As for the Chicken n’Waffles and our other off-rotation flavors, they’ll still be available through our new retail model…..
Q: Ok, what the hell this “Alternate Style of Retail Presence” crap you’re talking about? Is this like another flash local artisan market like the Times was warning me about?
A: This is actually the part I’m worried about people not understanding, even though I’m sure you all shop in this way at least once a day.
Ever go to the Cellar at Macy’s and hit the little Godiva chocolate shop, or even the MAC counter? Those little “stores within stores” where brands represent themselves in a much larger retail space, where you can get lots more than just that brand alone can provide you with? Or what about when you go to a deli that sells EXCLUSIVELY Boar’s Head products, so even though Boar’s Head doesn’t own the joint, you still know you’re getting a quality product.
That’s EXACTLY what we’re going to be doing.
We’ve been quietly rolling out our cupcakes at Gourmet Guild in Williamsburg over the past few weeks, and upon the closing of DeKalb, we’ll be moving all our equipment up there and opening “Robicelli’s Williamsburg”! Not only will you be able to get all the stuff you’ve been finding at our DeKalb shop, but you’ll also be able to sit and grab coffee from the Brooklyn Roasting Company, sit on your laptop or play a board game with your kids, and then on the way out pick up some meat and pantry staples for dinner that night. The owners of this place are fantastic, and we couldn’t be more excited about piloting this program with them. Expect to see Chicken n’Waffles, Bourbon Bacon brownies, and more off-rotation flavors there.
And thanks to a year of prototyping our bakery case model at our 125 square foot space at DeKalb Market, we can now start bringing it elsewhere. Down in Park Slope, we’re taking over the dessert case at Bagel World. We’re popping our heads up in DUMBO for the first time at DUMBO Kitchen. There’s going to be more coming up over the next year. If you’ve got a business and would like to partner with us, check out our wholesale page. And as always, if there’s a place you’d like to see us in your neighborhood, tell them about us! In all the retail shops I’ve worked at, our top corporate buyer was our customers- never be afraid to give any store you shop at your input (politely!), as their goal to provide you with the best possible service.
Q: But I work in Metrotech and this Williamsburg stuff doesn’t help me! What am I supposed to do?
A: There’s no way we’d get you guys hooked and then just up and leave, Metrotech. All our stuff has moved over to Gold Street Eatery at 306 Gold, only three blocks from our current location. It’s actually there right now, so you can start making the transition before we even close. And I heavily suggest you also order the French Dip once you’re there- it’s amazing.
Q: I love seeing you and Matt! I mean, yeah, you guys were almost never at the DeKalb store, but you were there sometimes, and we liked hanging out!
A: We love hanging out with you guys too! But the problem with hanging out is that I don’t actually get any of my real work done, and as I’m currently writing a cookbook that’s due out next year, I really need to sequester myself indoors for a few more months. You’re always welcome to hang out with us virtually over Twitter, and we may be launching a few Google Hangouts over the next couple of months so you can chat with me face to face and watch as my cat eventually takes the whole thing over and plops down for a nap on the keyboard.
We’re also at a ton of events this fall, like: Meatopia, First Book Brooklyn, Brooklyn Local, The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Chili Pepper Festival, Brooklyn Exposed’s Shaken & Stirred, SWEET at the Food & Wine Festival, and Brooklyn Bounty. You will have PLENTY of opportunities to see us. We may even be passed out at the tables at one or all of these events.
Q: Does this mean you’ll NEVER open a store?
A: Not necessarily. It means not right at this very moment. If some big fancy financier came strolling into town and said “Hey Allison & Matt! I’d like to open up a whole chain of Robicelli’s and all you’ll have to do is bake and look pretty!”, then yeah, we’d do it. We just can’t personally handle doing any of that ourselves without contemplating arson several times a day.
In the event that scenario were to ever come true, I would like big fancy financier to be a Texan who only wears white, chews a cigar, screams “YEE-HAW!” every time he gets a good idea, and is constantly accompanied by a pet cougar. It will make meetings all the more bearable.
Q: I still have more questions that you haven’t answered yet!
A: Then hit me up on Facebook and I’ll get to them. Promise.
Q: What about today’s flavors?
A: Here they are- AND until we close, we’re doing our 2 for $5 deal every weekday at the DeKalb shop. More exciting news next week! Or pictures of monkeys doin’ it. Depends on how tired I am before I have to write the Tumblr.
Clockwise from front: Chocolate Caramel Pretzel, Bellini, Lime in de Coconut, Tres Leches
Chocolate Caramel Pretzel: Chocolate cake, salted caramel buttercream, crushed pretzels, ganache, caramel
Bellini: Champagne cake, peach buttercream, champagne simmered peaches
Lime in de Coconut: Coconut lime cake and buttercream, roasted coconut, lime zest
Tres Leches: Three milk soaked brown butter cake, dulce de leche buttercream, caramel shards