After baking her special cupcakes and cakes for sale in her licensed kitchen at home, Ahwatukee native Chelsea Mellor took a big step.
She found a storefront at 1490 E. Williams Field Road #103 in Gilbert, on the northwest corner plaza at Val Vista Drive and Williams Field Road and opened Iced for Life.
Four years later, she’s more than thriving, with 7,000 loyal customers bringing repeat business and hundreds more coming to see her imaginative spin on cakes and cupcakes.
And do they get imaginative.
“Just the other day I made a Sesame Street cake with all the characters,” said Mellor, who giggled when she recalled a specialty order for a 3D rotisserie chicken with a side cake made to look like a raw potato.
Then there are innumerable “gore cakes” with red icing splashed across a white icing, surrounded by figurines from popular horror movies like “Chainsaw Massacre.”
“There are a lot of requests for blood and gore,” she said.
Then there are the odd ones like a honey badger for a toddler’s first birthday. “They’re scary,” Mellor remarked.
“I’ll make pretty much anything the customers want,” added Mellor, who graduated from Arizona State University with honors and a degree in management and entrepreneurship. She uses X-Acto knives to make many of her creations and believes “baking from scratch is most important when it comes to cake.”
On Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mellor will be celebrating Iced for Life’s fourth anniversary as a brick-and-mortar bakery with treats, prize-wheel spins for purchases and some tasty giveaways
Several people will win a free babycake a day for a year – a prize valued at more than $1,100 if the winner indeed goes there to pick up a cake a day. Babycakes are her version of a “cupcake” – 6” square and stunningly decorated.
Things have changed a lot since Mellor opened Iced for Life four years ago, doing most of the baking herself and running the business with the help of three people.
She now has a manager who handles most of the day-to-day business as well as social media and she’s taught some of her employees her recipes.
“I have more of an owner role,” she said, explaining that includes working on specialty orders, usually on the weekends.
“That’s a full-time job in itself,” she said, noting customers submit a wide array of specially designed cakes and babycakes for special occasions, inside jokes or parties.
Now in the running for an appearance on a television food show, she declined to identify, Mellor also helped develop a new app for her regulars and creating a new approach to her loyalty program.
Her babycakes come in over 100 flavors and she’s expanded that line with gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options. And she now makes baby cheesecakes, signature square cake pops, pup cakes (treats for dogs), fresh gelato, smoothies, teas and full coffee bar menu with fresh ground local favorite Peixoto coffee beans.
“I got into this business because cake makes people happy and if I can make someone’s day better with a delicious treat, then that makes me just as happy,” Mellor said.
“Anyone can bake from a box,” she said. “I think the problem with many franchises in my industry is they always end up ‘commercializing’ everything, sacrificing the quality of the product. And by commercializing in baking terms, I mean using cake ‘mix’ that often only requires you to ‘add water.’”
Is she at a point yet where she might be thinking of a second location?
“I’m thinking food truck,” she said. “If I get on that television show and win enough money, that’s where we might go next.”