On The Cupcake Thing

Today in the United States we mark “Administrative Professionals Day”, which used to be called “Secretary’s Day”: one of those made-up secular holidays which the retail world came up with to get us to empty our wallets out of guilt. The name change occurred in 2000, in part because the people who come up with such things recognized that some secretaries do not wish to be referred to as such. The Courtier’s extremely talented and reliable secretary prefers to be referred to as his secretary, rather than assistant or the like, and he knows better than to cross her.

In honor of the day, said secretary will find a box of cupcakes when she arrives at her cubicle this morning. Over the past couple of years, cupcakes have become something of the crack cocaine of the Nation’s Capital – at least among non-elected working professionals. D.C.’s dependence on cupcakes has become so pervasive now in the local press, at receptions, and for special occasions, that it has become almost commonplace.

The cupcakes gifted to the Courtier’s secretary come from Georgetown Cupcake, which established the cupcake trend in Washington. Tales have it that when Russell Crowe was in town filming “State of Play”, and staying at The Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, he stumbled across Georgetown Cupcake which, when it opened in 2008, was the city’s first bakery making “designer cupcakes”. He was taken with the bakery’s products, and word quickly spread in media outlets, so that the locals who patronized the bakery were soon far outnumbered by the tourists hoping to run into someone famous as they picked up red velvet, chocolate mocha, and other types of cupcakes.

This popularity has grown to such an extent that there are frequently lines stretching down the block in order to get into the shop, and a slew of high-end cupcake competitors began to pop up throughout the city. The original bakery on Potomac Street soon proved too small to handle the volume of sales, and in December of last year moved a block away to much larger premises fronting onto M Street. The popularity of the business shows no sign of abating as of yet, and if anything is likely to increase. In February of this year, cable network TLC began filming a reality show at Georgetown Cupcake entitled “Cupcake Sisters”, which from the description sounds to be somewhat like the popular Food Network program “Ace of Cakes”, which follows the bakers and cake decorators at Baltimore’s “Charm City Cakes”.

When it comes down to it, baked goods and sweets are not really a tremendous draw for me, and cupcakes do not set my heart aflutter in the way that a good piece of cheese does. However, the contribution that sisters Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis have brought to the village is immeasurable. When so much of the flavor of Georgetown has been lost to national and international chain retailers at the expense of mom-and-pop merchants, the presence of Georgetown Cupcake provides what I hope would be an encouragement to other local entrepreneurs to give their business venture a try, and bring back some of the quirky interest that much of the retail environment in Georgetown used to offer.

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