There are 3 mottos in life that I live by:
You’re never anywhere you are not supposed to be
Everything happens for a reason and
Prepare for the worst, if it doesn’t happen everything else is a bonus! Some may think that’s pessimistic, but I prefer to think of myself as a prepared optimist.
Looking back on the birth of Crazy Cakes and to some extent our first business, Eagle Commodities, these statements were never more obvious.
1) You’re never anywhere you’re not supposed to be.
Back in the mid nineties, my daughter Becky and her future husband Craig were travelling around Europe in an old 1971 Volkswagen Van, named Ed. Of course Ed wasn’t equipped with a porta potty, so Becky was always on the lookout for her next bathroom break. They were in a small town in northern Germany when nature called.
My son-in-law Craig, is an avid wine connoisseur, so while Becky made a break for the restroom, Craig spied a small wine shop and decided to kill some time. Craig has the wonderful ability of being able to talk to anyone about anything, so he started chatting wine with the young salesman manning the shop. Naturally, the question of nationality always arises and this time it was no different. Oh, Canada! I have an uncle in Canada…Craig soon divulges that he is from Alberta and lives south of Calgary. Really, my uncle lives south of Calgary as well, in a place called Lethbridge. Well you can imagine Craig’s surprise…the young man asked if he and Becky would please stop and say hello to his Uncle for him. When they returned from Europe a few months later, they pulled up to the Spudnut shop and said hello to Wolfgang Otto!
Eight years ago, my daughter Jessica, and her future husband Oliver, moved to Vancouver, so she could attend Blanche Macdonald Centre to become a professional make-up artist. At the same time Becky, Craig and their two children were living in New Zealand, where Craig completed a post graduate diploma in Viticulture and Oenology, Jess and Oliver loved Vancouver and exploring the city. One day while exploring, they smelled the most incredible aroma of baking cakes. Following their noses they discovered Cupcakes. Well, Jessica was hooked…she raved about it and called both Becky and me and raved some more! She said that if they all ever happened to come back to Lethbridge we should open a cupcake shop. She felt it was just what Lethbridge needed. Well, I didn’t really believe that any of them would come back to Lethbridge, so I said OKAY!! But they did…
It didn’t take long for us to realize that the Old Spudnut Shop would be a perfect location for Crazy Cakes…at that point we didn’t have a name yet. That’s another story…One day the girls were out driving around when I received a frantic call on my cell phone. Mom!! We just drove by the Spud Shop and the owner is there…what should we do, should we stop…what do we say? I suggested that Becky introduce them and remind him of his nephews hello, so many years before, They did, and a meeting was set up to tour the building the next day.
2) Things Happen For a Reason:
Many years ago, I worked for the world’s largest privately owned company. Through the years, I worked my way up and became the purchasing agent for five locations in the western district. I loved my job…but all the time I worked, I noticed how management received all the recognition, both verbally and monetarily and the people behind the scenes, who worked just as hard, if not harder, came away with nothing. I vowed then that if I ever had my own business, the people who worked hard would be appreciated and compensated for their dedication.
Ten years later I went to work with Bill. We worked together for about 6 years and on April 16, 2004, Bill’s birthday, we lost our jobs. We were stunned, to say the least. Job offers poured in, but in my guts (something I always listen to) I knew that this had happened for a reason and that we had in fact been given a great gift. A chance to start over and if we wanted to, do something totally different. Eagle Commodities was conceived over a glass of wine on the deck of our home. Had we not been given this amazing opportunity, we would not have had the courage to purchase the Spudnut Shop and open Crazy Cakes.
After a few meetings with Wolfgang and Angie Otto, we made the offer to purchase the Spudnut Shop. Wolfy, our pet name for him, was absolutely in love with his building. He had had many offers to purchase, but he wanted to keep the building true to its roots and held onto his dream of finding someone, preferably a family to continue his passion. He didn’t want to sell but knew that the time was coming when he had to. He was heartbroken. I understood completely how you could love a piece of property as much as he did and still does. A few years after my Dad passed away, our family farm was sold and I lost a piece of my heart with it, I promised Wolfy that I would love it as much as he did… I think I may be coming close. We commiserated and shed some tears together. He knew that we were the family he had been waiting for and decided to part with his baby. This was a huge loss for him…even after he closed in 2000, he could still be found in his office every morning at 9:00 AM serving coffee and schnapps to his friends. He may have lost the spud office, but he now joins Bill for coffee and a little something every morning at Eagle. Little did we know that when we purchased the building what an integral part of our lives he would become, and be included in our circle of loved ones. What a blessing that has been!
3) Prepare for the worst, if it doesn’t happen, everything else is a bonus.
We purchased the building in January of 2005 and started renovations in May. The building boom was just roaring to a start and the reno’s seemed to take forever. It didn’t help that I was following historical renovation guidelines in the hope that we would be able to receive some funding to help with the costs. I love old buildings and wanted to bring her back to her former glory, so abiding by those guidelines was not a detriment. It worked out well that I had prepared for the worst in the funding area. We were caught in the middle of government changes in the funding process and we didn’t receive a penny for all the work and preservation that we did.
During the same time, we were working on logo’s, cupcake recipes and coffee tastings. We had a vision of what we wanted Crazy Cakes to look like and it encompassed even the smallest detail. We wanted a total package…based on our beliefs of quality, homemade is best and great customer service. Also, we wanted a look that was unlike anything in Lethbridge…we wanted something new, but with old fashioned values, I think we did pretty well in that respect.
Opening day…WOW!! There was no way to prepare…We wanted to have a soft opening and then at a later date, have a grand opening. The Friday before we were to open we put a sign, and not a very big one, in the front window. The people were lined up down the block! Game On!!! We were overwhelmed, to say the least. This continued for so long we had to call in family for back up, to help serve the masses. For the next year and a half I existed in a fog and believe me I was just existing. Something I didn’t realize until I emerged from it. There is no possible way that anyone could have explained to me what the first year was going to be like. I wouldn’t have believed them and there is just no way to explain the sheer exhaustion, both mental and physical. The non stop work, literally 24/7. I am no stranger to hard work but this was like nothing I had ever encountered and nothing that I could, or my family could have been ready for. We ate, lived, breathed and dreamed Crazy Cakes.
In the end it was all worth it. After only 9 months in business, Crazy Cakes was awarded the New Business, New Venture for 2007. We were Tickled Pink…and if some of you don’t know, that’s one of our cupcake names.
The rewards and public recognition are wonderful, but there are so many other facets of the business that are also rewarding.
We have the most loyal, amazing customers that we have come to know. People whom we would never of had the opportunity to meet had we not opened Crazy Cakes. We have and incredibly talented staff, whom we have also included into our group of loved ones. They are truly amazing people!
I love this business, but I can honestly say there were times when I didn’t. But when I’m in the shop and I watch the little children’s faces light up at the first sighting of the cupcakes, or the delighted looks and comments when the cake boxes are opened and the cake is revealed, it’s fantastic! I realize that that’s what it’s all about. Making people happy, making them feel welcome and hopefully making more memories. One of our dear customers calls Crazy Cakes his Happy Place. Hopefully it will be a happy place for many!
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