Friday, July 08, 2011

The Influence of Cupcakes Upon Pittsburgh: 2003-2011

Judging from the email I am getting I have to comment on the ‘news’ that the cupcake stores in town are closing.  Where do you begin to comment on such a big event in Pittsburgh history?  I am waiting for Mike’s take, but we clearly are doomed if we do not find a new path for a post-cupcake Pittsburgh. 
Where to begin??  First off, why does the closure of a relatively small cupcake shop rate news in a major metro area?  Breaking news no less!! Where else can something like this be raised to a metaphysical level? That in itself tells the tale of how overblown the story of the cupcake is here.
The whole story goes quite a way back.  It probably is all Mike’s fault when you think about it.
(Pittsblog: Rise of the the Cupcake Class 

No matter that the business model of the cupcake stores could not be sustained, the folks behind the biz really ought to be in advertising.  Never has such a level of ‘earned’ media been generated for something that mattered so little.  For years the rise of the cupcake shop was hailed as the future of the Pittsburgh.  News articles, magazine covers and idle chat all around was all about the cupcakes as if they were just invented.  You may think the coverage was all tongue in cheek, but it really wasn’t.   There were seriously people in town who attributed the existence of these newfangled cupcakeries as somehow causal to Pittsburgh’s economic growth.

Some years ago when this was only beginning out of hand there was a whole news story on the economic development impact it would have on the region.  (Trib: City Welcomes Pair of Trendy Cupcake Cafes).  It must have been the 'trendy' part that got us all excited; there can't possibly be anything 'trendy' in town here.   The story that exists online is not the original story as it made print.  You will see in it some references to a few wise pundits in town and the positive impact of cupcakes on Pittsburgh.  Nobody talked to us, or at least nobody talked to me for that story and the quote was really a lifting of some comments made here and over on Pittsblog.  However the words “Semi-seriously” or "joking" were not in the original story at all.  The revisions made clear what really ought to have been clear at the time that satire was the point.  It was funny that anyone could even have thought for a second they were serious.  Says a lot about how serious people are about economic development in town I hate say.  Read mikes reaction at the time to the curious news item (Pittsblog: Truthiness about the Cupcake Class).
How big a deal was this whole kerfuffle?  I mean, even Rich Florida weighed in.  That’s how serious a debate this all was here and around the world.   (Creative Class Blog:  Do we ever need a better press corps).

I guess I have to share a small bit of blame along with MIke.  This all had gotten so out of hand that with the nudging of our friend John A. at the PG his “Next Page” feature in the Post-Gazette went all-Cupcake for April Fools Day 2007.  Three articles that day addressed Pittsburgh's cupcake craze.  Mike:  The Cupcake Class and its Contentment,  Me: Cupcake Econometrics 101.  For my part I am quite proud to point out that every single factoid referenced was a real statistics you can look up yourself.  The trifecta of articles also included one article by honorary Pittsburgher Rachel Kramer Bussel who wrote Why Cupcakes are Hot.   As is described in her byline, Rachel had been the sex columnist for the Village Voice which makes my own contribution that day about as close as my writing will ever get to the carnal. 

So where does it all leave us?  We had better hope the emergence of cupcakeries was not a correlate of a new Pittsburgh or else today’s news may mean some dire times are ahead.  Maybe that angst is why it is such a newsworthy event?  Don’t worry Pittsburgh, you can still get cupcakes at Paddy Cake Bakery if you are really Jonesing .  If that fails, there are always the Ho-Ho's that Pittsburghers eat aplenty.  


Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

From today's edition of the story:

"Dozen's history has been marked by frequent reshuffling of locations. At various times, it has had outposts in Squirrel Hill, Downtown, the South Side and the North Side, as well as Oakland and Lawrenceville.

"In the last few years, it has had other financial trouble as well. The business has defaulted on a loan of more than $40,000 from PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and there are several outstanding state tax liens that have not been resolved, according to court records."

When I read posts like the one previous to this, I worry seriously that Dozen might be an apt microcosm for Pittsburgh. Lots of critical acclaim, lots of fantastic buzz, lots of new theories for success sprouting. But look past the vibrant pastel facade and oh snap, what that coming this way...

Saturday, July 09, 2011 1:16:00 AM  
Anonymous MSL said...

I don't know why everyone is getting worked up about Dozen closing. It doesn't say anything about the market for an upscale cupcake store in Pittsburgh, IMO. It says something about an upscale cupcake store that makes bad cupcakes (look at reviews on urbanspoon and the fact that their cupcakes finished last in a blind taste test by the PG) and bad business decisions like opening a new store every year. Sounds like they are skipping out on their debts, too. I say good riddance to these guys.

Saturday, July 09, 2011 2:34:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

What an odd thing to go all WWF about.

Saturday, July 09, 2011 7:36:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

What an odd thing to go all WWF about.

Saturday, July 09, 2011 7:37:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...


Saturday, July 09, 2011 7:38:00 PM  
Blogger Conservative Mountaineer said...

Cupcakes, schmuckates. From what I read in the PBT, "2 months" of declining revenues caused the closure. Is that all? Then, the owner(s) did not have enough capital, a bad business plan and/or were too lazy to work through it.

Now, let's get to doughnuts. I want my Krispy Kreme and Dunkin back in the Western 'burbs. I want Hotels to sh*tcan the bagels, fruits and 2% milk (yes, Marriott and Hampton.. I'm talking to you) and bring back doughnuts and WHOLE milk. I'm a big boy. I can handle doughnuts and milk. Now, I'm in the hankering for some Oreos and milk for desert. Wish I had some Oreos.. will settle for a glass of WHOLE milk and Nestle chocolate.

Saturday, July 09, 2011 7:40:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Milk is for children and Protestants.

Saturday, July 09, 2011 9:03:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

I just wanna drink a big-ol' cup of melted LARD for breakfast!

Sunday, July 10, 2011 3:35:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

I think you might be milking the wrong species.

Sunday, July 10, 2011 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

When I wrote: "When I read posts like the one previous to this..." I actually meant the "Why Ask Why" post, not the Delta flight to Paris.

Sunday, July 10, 2011 1:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Sheel Mohnot said...

What about the fact that Dozen in Squirrel hill was replaced with Wafflonia?
maybe this is the future?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 5:58:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I believe the honorable Ms. Rudiak is well ahead of you on that thought.

Though I myself think Waffle House is the bomb and Pittsburgh needs a bunch.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 7:47:00 PM  
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