Business Profile: For the Love of Cupcakes had an evolutionary journey
EDITOR NOTE: The Daily Press will be featuring a series of articles on local businesses, highlighting their history and what makes them unique. The series will run on a regular basis in the Daily Press.
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ESCANABA — Before For the Love of Cupcakes settled into its current home at 807 Ludington Street in Escanaba, the operation went on an evolutionary journey.
“I had a full time job. My kids were little. And I just started baking as a hobby and brought my products to the place where I work,” said Kelli van Ginhoven, adding that her baked goods were a hit with coworkers.
In 2012, she founded a business and named it “For the Love of Cupcakes.” In those early days, it was still operating out of van Ginhoven’s home, and she was fulfilling online orders through Facebook.
“And then in 2014, I decided to do more baking, less full-time work,” van Ginhoven explained. She left her bank job and began working part-time as a secretary at Immanuel Lutheran Church.
“From going to church there and being their secretary, I noticed that they had a commercial kitchen,” said van Ginhoven, “And so I rented the commercial kitchen from them for two years.”
For the Love of Cupcakes participated in farmer’s markets at the old Escanaba marketplace, where van Ginhoven says “it really took off.” It caught the attention of not only customers but also the Downtown Development Authority.
“Judy Schroeder, the DDA executive assistant, and Ed Legault, the DDA executive director at that time, approached me and said, ‘Have you ever considered opening a business on Ludington Street?'” van Ginhoven recalled. Her response at the time was that she would love to but hadn’t been able to find a place. “And then … they actually found me this building.”
In 2016, For the Love of Cupcakes relocated to its current home, which had immediately previously housed Knead Relief Massage. The property owner, Judy Peterson, also ran Upper Cut Hair Salon next door. Van Ginhoven said that when Peterson retired in 2018, the baker purchased the building from her.
When the storefront first opened seven years ago, it was open every day, with hours that became overwhelming. Citing burnout, van Ginhoven said she has since moved to hours that are more manageable. Presently, For the Love of Cupcakes is open Mondays through Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There are currently 27 flavors on the list, which has grown. Several additions have come after customer suggestion. One such item was the Boston Cream Pie cupcake, which is now one of the biggest sellers.
“I’m always surprised at what people will call and ask for,” van Ginhoven said. “A lot of people will call and say, ‘I have a funny question — have you ever done this?’ and I’m like, ‘no, but that’s not to say I couldn’t try.'”
Individuals, families and organizations patronize the local bakery for desserts for special events. Van Ginhoven said she’s provided for weddings, various holidays, graduation parties, baby showers, bridal showers, funerals, and birthdays for children, adults and dogs. A number of repeat customers come back for one occasion after another.
The special orders make up a large portion of the business, but van Ginhoven said it wouldn’t be able to survive without walk-ins.
A rotating selection of treats, baked fresh each day, adorns the bakery cases. There are several flavors of cupcakes on any given day, along with a few bars and double-dunker cookies. At the end of each day, unsold baked goods are donated.
Van Ginhoven said that the popularity of a product comes in waves.
“Sometimes I won’t make banana bars; sometimes I’ll make lemon bars or pumpkin bars or cherry cheesecake brownies … If I find that something’s not selling, then I’ll take it out for a couple months, and then people are like, ‘Oh, when are you going to make this again? I missed that.'”
She said that she believes people tend to associate food with memories, and that it’s an honor to join the ranks of other cherished moments.
One customer, van Ginhoven recounted, began talking about his grandmother’s lemon bars before purchasing one from For the Love of Cupcakes.
“He came back the next time I had them and he said, ‘those were the best lemon bars I’ve ever had, and I’m old!'”
That instance served as one marker of success; others are more tangible. Trinkets and decorations — mostly cupcake-themed — on walls and shelves have been gifted by customers, and that, said van Ginhoven, is “the ultimate compliment.”
In March of 2024, ownership of For the Love of Cupcakes will change hands. Two sisters, Courtney Godfrey and Claire Sovey, asked van Ginhoven to think of them when she was ready to sell — and the time has come. To ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible, both parties have been working together. Van Ginhoven has shared her recipes and has already been guiding Godfrey in the kitchen of For the Love of Cupcakes so that the products will be the same ones current patrons know and love.
The gradual changeover will not include special event orders already booked with van Ginhoven. She will continue to fulfill wedding and special event orders in 2024 while Godfrey and Sovey run the shop.