After the ‘Cupcake Wars,’ the suite taste of victory
Sisters excel in baking business
Bake a better cupcake and the world will beat a path to your door, and that’s exactly what happened to Christiana “Christy” Grammer and Rebecca Grammer-Ybarra, co-owners of Suite 106 Cupcakery.
Food Network located them on Christy’s website and tweeted her about a spot on their new show “Cupcake Wars.” Initially, she thought it was a prank, but Food Network was persistent. Finally, Christy gave in and interviewed with the staff. She and Rebecca did well in the ensuing audition.
To win their chapter of Cupcake Wars, they had to beat out competitors in three different elimination challenges. Some of those competitors were professional pastry chefs. A panel of three judges decided the winner. When Justin Willman, host of “Cupcake Wars,” announced that Rebecca and her team had won, she could only think of her family. “I was just really, really, really overjoyed,” says Rebecca, with tears of joy flowing as the credits rolled.
As winners of their “Cupcake Wars” episode, Rebecca and Christy went home with $10,000 and a chance to showcase their wares at an A-List gig—the Children’s Mending Hearts gala fundraiser in April 2010 at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood. Children Mending Hearts is a global arts exchange between at-risk children here and abroad that educates, empowers and encourages them. The “Cupcakes for a Cause” episode, which the Grammar sisters won, aired July 20, 2010.
Winning “Cupcake Wars” has resulted in worldwide exposure for the sisters. They have received emails from as far away as Canada and England. So many messages came in that their email system crashed. “It’s overwhelming but we wouldn’t take it back,” says Rebecca.
Christy and Rebecca started their venture after the real estate market collapsed 2007. Their parents, Lee and Harry Grammer, own Lee Grammer Realty Inc., Suite 106, in Rancho Cucamonga. At the time Christy and Rebecca, both in their early 30s, were working for their parents.
Christy and her sister wanted to get out of the finance world to break the monotony. They wanted “to do something different, more relaxing,” Christy says.
“It is kind of therapeutic a little bit, at least baking was for us,” continues Rebecca.
Baking is a skill Christy picked from her mother, watching as she baked “amazing deserts” from scratch.
Christy says, “In our endeavor of trying to find a really good dessert place—we love to eat and we love fine dining—but every time we ordered dessert, it was not a really good type of dessert.”
Rebecca laughs as Christy relives the search.
“So,” Christy says, “we started to bake.”
“We had to create our own desserts,” says Rebecca, “because there was a really small selection of really great desserts [out there to choose from].”
Their daughters were in dance class at the time.
“To get our baking out there, we started to bake for fundraising,” says Christy. “So we helped fund-raise for the dance (studio) and local charities and things like that.”
People came up to them and told them, almost exhorting them, that they should consider going into business. “We started a blog and just started blogging our adventures of baking,” says Christy.
“The disasters of baking,” says Rebecca. “We started posting pictures of how stuff didn’t work out and how we resolved the problems, all the different creations we came up with, the different ingredients, and locally sourced vendors that we would use. We started to get a pretty big following from that.”
People started telling them that they needed to sell their delicacies online, because by then their creations were attracting nationwide attention.
Rebecca says that led to the website. That’s when they got the idea of putting cupcakes in a jar—what amounts to two and half cupcakes beautifully layered inside a Mason jar. Christy adds, “The thing about that is you can ship them anywhere in the nation and they don’t get messed up.”
Fueled by the cupcake-in-a-jar sales, the online store heated up. Local deliveries of their regular cupcakes within the area began soon after. They then went on a tour of sorts doing local shows, wine tastings (which they did at Victoria Gardens Mall), craft fairs and other local events “just to get the word out.” “We did pretty well,” Christy says laughing. After four years, both say baking is still therapy.
November 2010 marked the opening of their storefront in the Victoria Gardens Mall. They chose the location out of convenience since they are based in Rancho Cucamonga. Both grew up in the area. Says Christy, “We thought this was the perfect location.”
They were looking for something “like a quick stop shop,” as Rebecca puts it, where customers can run in, grab a cupcake, and run out. It was the smallest space Victoria Gardens had. But it has a display window that faces one of the streets in the mall. “About 80 percent of our business is from that window,” Rebecca says.
Suite 106 now has 63 flavors. One of the winning flavors from “Cupcake Wars”—Christy’s Southern Red Velvet—is also one of the most popular. The recipe is so secret that not even Rebecca knows the formula. Rebecca calls Christy the “recipe master.” It took Christy two years to find the right combination for the Red Velvet. Other winning flavors are Jamoca Me Crazy and Pancakes and Bacon. They offer about eight different flavors on a rotating basis, but Southern Red Velvet and several others are available every day.
Rebecca explains: “Because those are the (flavors) that people will go crazy (over). They’ll go jump off a building if we don’t have it.”
The name “Suite 106” is a portion of their parents’ business address.. At the same time, both say, “We grew up there (in the office).” From spending so much time there, they learned how to run a business from their parents.
At first it was just Rebecca and Christy. They soon had to hire additional staff to keep up with the demand for their confections. Eight bakers now make up the kitchen staff. But Rebecca and Christy are there every day baking. Some of their bakers start in the kitchen as early as 2 a.m., depending on the day. Cakes are delivered to the store from the locally situated kitchen, sometimes twice a day.
Christy is a confessed chocolate lover. Not surprisingly, she uses what she considers to be some of the best tasting chocolates in the world in her creations. She reveals that the vanilla beans come from Madagascar, and some of the chocolates from France and Belgium. “I just try to find the most flavorful and natural and best ingredients that (I) can find. I just think it makes the cupcakes taste that much better. People appreciate the hard work you put into it. I want them to really enjoy it, really have a piece of luxury when they eat a cupcake.”
Their parents are very proud of them. After putting in a full day at their real estate office, their parents drive to the store and help out in the evenings. According to Rebecca, “Our parents are the best people to have here because they know these cupcakes inside and out.”
The Grammer sisters and their cupcakes have been to the Grammys, MTV parties, and many other celebrity-studded events. At the recent 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in late March, Suite 106 Cupcakery became the official cupcake company of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Their cupcakes will be available at the speedway each weekend throughout the season, which runs until fall. Rebecca shared a little bit of what she says this contract will require: “Are you guys geared up to do 50,000 cupcakes?”
With spring weddings picking up, Christy and Rebecca will be even busier. Yet they continue to look to future expansion. Plans include additional stores and a food truck.
The Grammers believe in “paying it forward.” Presently, they have partnered with the Loma Linda Ronald McDonald House. Donations to Ronald McDonald House can be made at the store. They also support other charities. One of their most recent charitable relationships is with Nika water. Nika supports clean water projects in impoverished countries. Suite 106 offers Nika water in the shop.
For more information, visit Suite 106 Cupcakery at 12434 North Main St., Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739 in the Victoria Gardens Food Court. Phone: (888) 977-6458, website: www.suite106cupcakery.com. Also on Facebook.
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