Walking into the new Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery on Ray Road in Ahwatukee, a first-time customer commented that she felt for a moment she’d entered the wrong door.
Except for the aroma of fresh-baked cupcakes.
That’s understandable because the recently opened store is not a typical bakery/ice cream shop.
If you can stop from heading to the cupcakes displayed on two-tier cake stands or the various containers of cupcake-infused ice cream, your eyes rove over wall graphics of oversize guitars, musical notes and the snare-drum light fixture at the front of the shop.
Owners Jamie and Erica Woolford have brought their love of music and graphic design to work with them in their new business, an independently owned franchise that encourages individuality in their stores.
That independence is part of Smallcake founder Jeff Martin’s vision for each of his 200-plus U.S. locations and two in Dubai.
“I think our success is based on the fact that we’re very owner-driven,” said Martin, who appeared on three seasons of “Cake Wars” and attended the Sept. 16 soft opening of Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery in Ahwatukee.
“We give owners some flexibility that you don’t normally see in franchises, like decorating their own store and choosing specialty flavors,” he added.
And it is those specialty flavors – such as Famous Red Velvet, Decadent Chocolate, Wedding Cake, with almond buttercream frosting, and daily specials like “Leggo My Eggo” – that are among the plethora of choices for the jumbo cupcakes that in just two weeks has kept the 1,000-square-foot business busy, especially after school.
“Throughout the school week we have elementary, middle school and high school students coming in after school, and they’re bringing their parents,” observed Erica Woolford, who grew up in Germany and Belgium.
One of the first customers to try Smallcakes was Ahwatukee mom Tamica Branaum, who, along with her 7-month-old Alexander, was celebrating her birthday.
“I decided to go after seeing it on the Facebook group Ahwatukee Friends. I told myself I deserved a special treat because it’s my birthday month, and in our household, we spend the entire month celebrating,” she laughed.
“We were immediately greeted, and Erica came out from behind the counter to greet my son and make him smile. Her husband came and said hi when he said he heard his wife’s ‘baby voice,’” Branaum added.
Branaum said after a period of consideration, she bought a half-dozen assorted cupcakes, taking them home to share with her daughter Willow, 6 and her husband.
“I ate the Red Velvet and the cupcake was so moist it practically melted in my mouth,” she said. “The ratio of cupcake to frosting was on point, and it was the perfect size that I could eat the entire thing without feeling sick for eating too much.”
She returned two days later with her Kyrene de las Lomas second-grade daughter and mother-in-law in tow.
“I’m a huge supporter of small businesses or family-owned businesses within the community, and especially when they’re as kind as Erica and her family. I will continue to support them and their endeavors,” Branaum explained.
Jamie Woolford, also a professional musician who heads his own rock band, The Stereo, immigrated from England as a child.
“And we’re getting rave reviews on our amazing ice cream, too,” he added. “‘The Smash’ is going over very well - that’s where we serve two scoops of your favorite ice cream put between a halved cupcake and served in a cup. The possibilities are endless.”
The couple, who live with their three school-age children in Club West, have secured the Smallcakes franchise for Phoenix and Tempe, allowing them to expand.
But for now, all hands are on deck at their first location in Ahwatukee.
They’ve had experience working together at a day spa they owned and operated in Denver before deciding to move on.
“We’d been searching for business opportunities for some time, and contemplating what was right for our family but would also satisfy our passions of creativity, music, and keeping things local,” said Erica Woolford, noting:
“We learned about this Smallcakes opportunity in 2015 and did a fair amount of research into the brand. We’re true entrepreneurs who thrive in a small business environment.”
“Although there are more than 200 locations worldwide, we’re not a franchise, but are individually owned and operated, which keeps us unique and innovative,” said Jamie Woolford, who’s toured with his band in more than 14 countries.
“Our combined business experience and passion for the music industry is what created the concept for our location,” he added.
Though Smallcakes can’t claim to be 100 percent gluten- or nut-free, the Woolfords said they do carry gluten-free and egg-free offerings.
Smallcakes has already lined up its grand opening entertainment from the Ahwatukee School of Rock. The local franchise is owned by friends they made years ago in Minnesota, Shane and Megan Baskerville.
The Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery is located in the Ranch Circle Plaza, 4302 E. Ray Road, Suite 109. They’re open every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Information: 480-706-CAKE.