From great recipe to great store: growing a business one step at a time
Carolyne and Jodi Willoughby grew up on a farm near High River, Alberta. The house was always full of home baking. In fact, store-bought goodies were a treat because they were so unusual. Both of them loved to cook, particularly Carolyne who has a degree in Food and Marketing Management.
And they had some great family recipes – their mother’s recipe for vanilla cake and their great grandmother’s recipe for chocolate cake.
In 2004, Carolyne suggested that they start a cookie business in Calgary. They hit dead ends at first when they were turned down by the local farmers’ market. But a large retail space became available in Kensington, so they opened a store instead. Crave Cookies and Cupcakes was off and running.
They now have four and a half locations in Calgary (one spot is tiny and doesn’t have its own kitchen) and they opened a store in Edmonton in February. And last, but certainly not least, they’ll be opening a store on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon in August.
Is it a craze?
Carolyne and Jodi wanted to offer single-serving desserts. Their initial idea was cookies, but there were lots of cookie boutiques at that time, so they decided on cupcakes instead. Cupcakes are really popular nowadays, but seven years ago when Carolyne and Jodi were doing their research, they only located three cupcake stores – one in New York, one in Toronto and one in Vancouver.
I asked Jodi if she was worried that cupcakes were just a fad and would go out of fashion. She said, “No. Any time you have a really great product, it won’t be a fad. Just look at coffee shops or pizza places.”
Baked from scratch
Crave prides itself on having a fantastic product. First of all, they value their recipes, which have stood the test of time and have been fine-tuned to give them a Crave edge.
Secondly, all their products are baked fresh every morning, from scratch, using quality ingredients. They use real eggs, real butter, real cream. When they make jam thumbprints, they make their own jam. And they source their ingredients locally as much as possible.
Staff contribute ideas for the monthly specials, and Jodi and Carolyne continue to work in the stores.
Jodi says she still loves cupcakes and hopes that her customers will enjoy them so much that they want to share them as well. “We strive to live up to people’s expectations and to make them feel special,” Jodi says.
Carolyne and Jodi are married with young families. Jodi has two little boys aged 4 and 6, while Carolyne has a four-year-old son. Jodi enjoys running and yoga, while Carolyne is training for the Penticton Iron Man.
The Saskatoon connection
Jodi and Carolyne are looking forward to opening in Saskatoon. They like the small-town feel of the city, and they like the Broadway location.
But they also have a personal Saskatoon connection as Susan Echlin of Living Sky Winery has been a close friend since they grew up together in rural Alberta. I suspect that we can look forward to some awesome wine and cupcake pairings. Cherry port and chocolate cupcakes perhaps?
Welcome to Saskatoon, Carolyne and Jodi. We’re looking forward to tasting your products!