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Spring 2013 Cupcake Craze

pennydan-copyWildly popular cupcake stores have owners launch franchise operations.

It was in 2007 that Penny and her husband, Dan Lessa, were selling real estate when the market crashed and the couple found themselves looking for a new career. “We knew we wanted our own business,” Penny says, “I always loved baking, and Dan can pretty much do anything he puts his mind to—so a cupcake venture was born.” Cupcake Charlie’s opened in June 2008 at the Mashpee Commons in Mashpee, MA, on Cape Cod and it was an instant success.

That success quickly grew into two additional locations—in Plymouth, MA and Newport, RI—and now the Lessas have just opened a fourth owner-operated store at the Patriot Place shopping center in Foxboro, MA.

Cupcake menu

CupcakeCharlies6-copyCupcake Charlie’s offers cupcakes in 15 regular flavors daily that have proven to be fan favorites. These include Rockin’ Red Velvet, Hostess with the Mostess and Grammy’s Carrot Cup. The last one is Dan’s mother’s secret recipe. “She was a great baker,” Penny says, “we have a photo of her with the carrot cake cupcake in each of our shops.” A Flavor of the Day, which draws from over 150 different recipes, adds to the daily lineup. Flavors of the Day can include Boston Cream Pie, Chocolate Caramel Seasalt (a customer favorite) and Lemon Raspberry Swirl, among others. When the Lessas participated in the Cupcake Wars on the Food network, they made the Lemon Raspberry Swirl cupcake.

Penny says the shop offers seasonal flavors as well. “Light and fruity” flavors such as Strawberry Shortcake, Raspberry Lemonade and Lemon Blueberry Burst are offered over the summer. In addition to cupcakes, Cupcake Charlie’s sells cake pops, original size cake cups and frosting shots. Whoop cakes, which are cupcakes made in the shape of whoopie pies, are popular items online. Since cupcakes themselves can be fragile to ship, the store ships larger cake cups and cupcake push-pops through online orders. Non-food items include branded merchandise with the store tagline, “Life is Short…Eat a Cupcake.”


Franchise options

The stores’ popularity has had the Lessas go the franchise route. “We want to share the cupcake love,” Penny says. Incentives include “a more rapid growth rate, a chance to become a nationally recognized brand/business and the opportunity to become the largest cupcake company in the country.” Franchising details including fees are being finalized and Penny suggests emailing for information.

Penny says that opening and operating a successful business in “the poor economy we have seen over the past several years” has given the couple great satisfaction. “Having family members that are interested in us and our business to the point that they want to work for us, is awesome,” she adds. “Being creative with flavors, and making the best tasting cupcakes we can is always a goal of ours. So when customers come in and take a bite and then rave about how great the cupcakes are—then we know we have done it right,” Penny says.


By all indications, customers are doing just that. “People have told us ‘Wow, this is the best cupcake I have ever eaten. I have been all over the country and visited many cupcake shops, and you, by far, have the best cupcakes out there.’ [and] ‘The cupcakes were a huge hit at our wedding—thank you so much.’ We cannot thank our fans enough for all their praise. Without our wonderful customers, Cupcake Charlie’s could not continue to exist,” Penny says.

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Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is the managing editor for GIFT SHOP, GREENRetailer and Specialty Retail Report magazines. She oversees and executes all editorial processes and is responsible for delivering editorial content for both magazines. To implement the magazines' editorial missions, Apte works with an extensive team of writers and photographers from across the country. She is also responsible for certain online deliverables including editorial content that complements the print edition of both magazines.

Prior to joining Pinnacle Publishing Group in 2006, Apte was Editor-in-Chief for INDIA New England, a bimonthly publication catering to the South Asian community in New England. In her role for the company, she oversaw an extensive editorial lineup featuring a wide variety of news reports and features. Apte first joined the newspaper as a general assignment reporter. Her reporting, specifically on a series of stories about Indian immigrants returning to their home country in the wake of India's economic boom, earned her a national award from the South Asian Journalists' Association at their 2005 convention held at Columbia University's School of Journalism.

Formally trained as an engineer, Apte made a gradual switch to journalism after a stint in technical writing at Abaqus, Inc. Apte enjoys reading and reviews contemporary literary fiction for in her spare time.

Apte earned an M.S. in Energy and Environmental Studies from Boston University and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL.

Apte welcomes reader input. Please email her at

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