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|Written by Dahlia Liwsze|
|Friday, 22 October 2010 00:00|
When seeking a healthy lifestyle change, it is important to eat protein, fruits and vegetables, drink a lot of water, and reduce sugar and bad carbohydrate intake. A healthy lifestyle, however, means finding a balance and that means that you must also allow yourself the occasional indulgence.
Although Ottawa has a good selection of places to satisfy one's sweet tooth such as Oh So Good (25 York Street in the Byward Market) and the Scone Witch (388 Albert Street), until this past spring, it lacked a store dedicated specifically to a small but delicious dessert.
"We [her husband Chris, and herself] knew there was an opportunity for a cupcake shop in Ottawa," said Melissa Somers, the pink cupcake necklace-wearing owner of The Flour Shoppe, during an interview with (Cult)ure magazine.
"I knew I wanted a storefront with a sweetatmosphere. It allows me to combine my love of baking and having fun experimenting with different flavours."
Although The Flour Shoppe (617 Bank Street in the Glebe) opened its doors in May 5, 2010, Melissa "launched the brand and concept to test the market" at The Wedding Show in January 2009 at The Westin Hotel.
Chris and Melissa worked from home until they found space for the shop. During this time, Melissa was working full-time as a professional fundraiser at The United Way. An English Literature graduate, she has worked mainly her in the non-profit and fund development fields. She also comes from "a large family of entrepreneurs and business owners," which include her parents, grandparents, and extended family.
Melissa now works in the shop full-time while Chris helps in the evenings and on weekends. His siblings work with Melissa, too: brother Matt as a cake designer and sister Janet as a trained baker.
Today, the Cupcakery offers eight rotating daily flavours with approximately 20 different flavours appearing throughout the week. Cookies and cream, double chocolate, coconut lime, and chocolate raspberry are some of the most popular flavours. Cupcakes are also available in more exotic flavours that include chipotle chocolate, pina colada, peanut butter and jam, and s'mores (and many more).
Melissa and Chris pride themselves on using all natural ingredients. "We use local dairy, and our coffee is from a local roastery in Almonte called Equator," said Melissa in between serving customers cupcakes, fair trade coffee and tea, milk, and water.
Christina Gudzio, a 29-year-old Montrealer who visited The Flour Shoppe for her first time on September 5th, enjoyed the cupcakes she tried.
"The texture of the vanilla bean cupcake was very delicate. The frosting was light and not too sweet. The carrot cupcake, on the other hand, was denser, like a muffin, so if you want to go with a heartier, more filling cupcake, go with that," said the self-professed foodie who loves the Magnolia Bakery in New York City and prefers The Flour Shoppe to a few cupcake places that she has tried in Montreal.
"This place, I think, is better [than the ones in Montreal] because the cupcakes are lighter, and they taste natural because of the natural ingredients the bakers use," she added.
Gudzio's friend, Matthew Paradis, agreed. "The vanilla latte had very light cake and a very light whipped topping. I can't wait to try the pina colada one day," he said. He and Gudzio also loved the ambiance in The Flour Shoppe, with cupcake photographs adorning its beautiful purple painted walls, and white tables and silver chairs.
"It's a really nice place to go with some of your best friends to just chat and eat some cupcakes. It's cozy, and you can stay there for a while without feeling the pressure to leave," said the 28-year-old Ottawa resident.
Melissa said that business has been good since the Shoppe's spring opening. "We've had fantastic support from repeat customers. It's been a busy summer for weddings, and we have more corporate partners who are choosing us." She added that she and Chris also cater events, which include birthday and retirement parties and bridal and baby showers.
One satisfied customer was Natalie: "Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart! The cupcakes you made for my wedding not only met but exceeded my expectations. They were so moist and delicious that my guests are still talking about them. The icing was to die for! The cake you made for my top tier was adorable and we've wrapped it up and are saving it for our 1 year anniversary. I can't recommend your services enough to others! You were easy to work with, had a lot of flavour options and just one taste and I was hooked."
Zarina, a Visual Arts major at the University of Ottawa, also celebrated a special day courtesy of The Flour Shoppe: her 22nd birthday on October 1st. That day, she shared four cupcakes (cookies and cream, coconut and lime, peanut butter, and maple brown sugar) with her friends. "I was planning to come here a while ago, but I decided that today was a good occasion for it," she told (Cult)ure with a smile. "I like baking myself, so I'm pretty critical of baked goods. I was put to shame. These cupcakes put mine to shame." Her first visit will not be her last because she liked more than The Flour Shoppe's cupcakes. "It has a nice atmosphere. I think that's one of the first things I noticed."
While quality products will encourage customers to return to The Flour Shoppe, an aura of comfort and relaxation will them sit down to enjoy their purchases (and perhaps buy more as a result!). Ottawans, like many other Canadians, love shops, particularly the coffee kind, where they can sit and talk over a hot or cold beverage and enjoy something decadent.
When asked about the best piece of advice that she has ever received from her entreprenurial family, Melissa smiled. "Always excel at customer service," she said. "The customers are the lifeline of your company."
On September 5th, Melissa closed The Flour Shoppe at 3:40 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. because she ran out of cupcakes.
This article has been changed from its original version. No facts have been changed.