Bites & Sips - From cupcake shop to cafe, offerings evolve
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 8:20 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 8:20 a.m.
Enthusiasm can be a wildly infectious thing. I've seen a lot of it through January as area entrepreneurs have been stretching, growing and expanding their dreams into new territory.
The biggest smile around? I'd have to give that award to Hot Pink Cake Stand owner Jody Carmichael. She's all grins because the evolution of her business is in full swing.
"We're making the transition from cupcake shop to full café," Carmichael said.
The shop has added a number of wines and beers, all paired with her cupcake offerings. Full coffee service is brewing as well.
The space at 114 N. Front St. has received a fairly significant makeover. Among the notable changes are the closing off of the kitchen; seating has been expanded from 25 to nearly 50. Gone are the shelving units that ran down the space's north side, swapped out for elegant tables. A sleek, granite-topped bar has moved closer to the front door. And a significant chunk of real estate toward the rear of the store can be curtained off for private events.
Carmichael said she wants to make better use of the available elbow room in her shop, which is narrow but quite deep.
While she readily confesses that her strengths are more in the realm of sweets than spirits, Carmichael is perhaps most charged by the revamped menu. She handed copies to Jacqui White of Tryon Distributing and Country Vintner wine rep Chris Thompson for assistance. If you want to see the smile on her face I was talking about earlier, order the chocolate peanut butter cupcake paired with a fruity 2011 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec.
"It really tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," Carmichael exclaimed, invoking more than a bit of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka: "The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!"
Carmichael said she hopes to see her shop become the town's premier destination for a post-supper treat with tipple, but notes that some savory options are being added for anyone seeking a quick nibble or appetizer. Expect live music on Fridays and Saturdays with hours until midnight. Last call will be 9 p.m. the rest of the week.
Curry on wheels
Across town, an invigorated Sunny Singh is eager to roll out a new project. He's just put the finishing touches on a food truck intended to take his longtime College Road eatery India Mahal mobile.
Joining a growing legion of successful brick-and-mortar restaurateurs who have embraced the food truck craze as a way to grow their business, Singh sees the new wheels as a chance to better serve the curry-loving community. He said the truck will be deployed to events and do private catering in addition to parking on the curb for walk-up service.
Able to prepare two or three entrees at a time, Singh said fans of his existing eatery will find the offerings familiar. He's not limiting the truck's range to Wilmington, either.
"We can use it for anything," Singh said. "We're planning to go to Southport one day a week, Castle Hayne, small towns that can't support an Indian restaurant."
To follow the truck's path through the region, Singh says the restaurant's Facebook page is the best bet. To book him for a catering event call 799-2089.
"Look in the mirror: That's your competition."
"You aren't going to get the butt you want by sitting on the one you have."
"If you still look cute at the end of your workout, you didn't train hard enough."
These slogans and scores of similar mantras cover most of the available wall space in Don Varady and Evonne White's new restaurant. As you can probably guess, they are not a deep-fried or butter-poached kind of operation.
What they are, however, is one of very few fitness-first eateries in the Wilmington area. Clean Eatz features a menu built of items less than 500 calories and 10 grams of fat, but Varady stresses that they're happy to create on the fly for any specific diet needs from gluten-free to paleo and everything in between.
"The demographic is all over the place," Varady said. "There's something here for everyone."
While they aren't printed on the menu, White said she's worked up Weight Watchers points for everything, and is happy to help anyone following that popular program. They also offer a packaged meal service, with prices starting at $35 for five meals.
The couple, who ran a restaurant called Lo Cal Cafe in the St. Louis area, had hoped to relocate to Florida, but the hunt for real estate was a bust. The pair are avid bodybuilding and fitness competitors, and during a chance conversation with industry icon Jen Hendershott at the Arnold Classic bodybuilding event, they were left with advice that changed their plans completely.
"She said, ‘Wilmington, go to Wilmington,'?" White recalled.
In a beautiful stroke of serendipity, Clean Eatz is located within crawling distance of a perfect customer base. Scouring the Internet for a possible location, they stumbled across a Craigslist ad for the cafe space, and decided to make the 16-hour drive to scout the location out, having no idea that Gold's Gym is located just doors down at 200 Racine Drive.
"We stayed at the Hampton Inn, worked out at Gold's the next day and came over to sign the deal here," White said.
Clean Eatz is in the former Picasso's Café at 203 Racine Drive (the Blue Moon Gift Shops plaza). They are on Facebook, or you can call 452-3733 to place orders.
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