I entitled an email to Bobbie of Bertie's CupCakery with the subject that says it all "Yummy". Having accidentally come upon her shop next to the rather flamboyantly decorated Christmas display of her next door neighbor, I didn't immediately have time to partake in cupcake consumption but I made note to return within the hour to treat myself to one or two of those delicious looking treats after the ceremony .
Walking into the store the smell of cupcakes already pulls you in and its friendly shopkeeper/baker welcomes you in with a friendly smile and a bonjour. I wasn't sure which language to start off in. Was she French or American. Turns out neither. Mrs Bobbie Parsons is 100% Canadian. We got to chatting while my husband impatiently waited outside (will have to bribe him later with one of these cupcakes - just hope they are good, I thought). After discovering that she was not French, I asked the usual questions, what brings you here? How long have you been here? etc etc. and it dawned on me that I needed to write about this shop and its owner. And I hadn't even tasted the cupcakes yet.
Bobbie (AKA Bertie), informed me that if there was something I didn't like about either of the cupcakes I bought, Salted Caramel & Strawberry Lemonade, I should let her know. I walked away with my little carrier box promising to do just that. I like a business person who is open to criticism.
I have had my share of cupcakes but this was definitely one of the tastiest that I have had in Paris or anywhere for that matter. Too often some cupcake shops forget that the cake is just as important as the icing or will try to load off some day old cupcakes in a most disgraceful and disagreeable fashion - you know who I'm talking about. So, imagine my surprise and delight to have bitten into each of those cakes and closed my eyes thinking, "damn this is good". Even Eric had to agree.
I decided it was my duty to share with the world the talents of Bobbie Parsons and so I am happy to say that she agreed to a little interview with us. Entrepreneurs always intrigue me - seeing as how I am an entrepreneur myself. So naturally I gravitate towards other brave souls who making it work.
Our young, petite baker has been baking ever since her mom would let her stand on a stool at the kitchen counter. Baking she says, was like therapy and cupcakes were always her and her mother's thing. They marked all the special occasions with cupcakes from birthdays to Christmas. Even her friends came to count on her mom's cakes and welcomed them enthusiastically. So it seemed more logical that during her time in France she would go the cupcake route rather than try to meet the French head on on their turf with their patisseries. Though a lot of the cupcake flavors are from what she herself enjoys and has created in the past, she is inspired by French pastries and sweet treats and tries to incorporate them into her cupcakes. Examples of that fusion are found in the Nutella banana and salted caramel cupcakes.
Surprisingly before her move Bobbie had never been to Paris, so the obvious question to ask was:
I relocated here with my husband. We had to be somewhere in Europe and as long as it was near an international airport and had an internet connection, we could go anywhere. We thought Paris would be an adventure.
When did you arrive in Paris?
She tells me they just arrive this past July. Now given that it is December and the store looks very well established, I am wondering:
When did the shop open?
October 13th 2012. Wow! This is fresh news indeed. And boy am I glad to be here at the start of things. This not quite 30-something entrepreneur impressed me. Adventure hunter indeed! Think about it, moves to Paris in July and already had a business running in October? Chapeau!, as the French say.
Is this your first store?
Yes, she says. Living in DC with her husband, she worked from home mostly for an organization called Icing Smiles pro bono, baking cakes for sick children at Nation's Children's hospital.
As I was interviewing our baker during her store hours, she also had to deal with customers in between questions. 3 French girls came in and I joked with them saying, hadn't they heard that cupcakes were no longer in fashion. Clearly they did not agree (nor do I). I asked them if they had been by before and they said no. It turns out that they had been to the restaurant next door for a birthday drink a few months back and had seen the "CupCakery" which was still under construction and seeing as how their school was not far, they made a mental note to return once open to try it out. The three parted with 4 cupcakes to share between themselves and promised if they liked it that they would tell their friends at school. Not too shabby.
We returned to the Q&A session.
I'm not exactly sure that I would have found the cupcake shop if it hadn't been for the restaurant next door or that I had had 15 minutes to kill before I had to arrive at my appointment nearby. The store is located in rue Chanoinesse which I can't say I had heard of but it is so close to the Seine and Notre Dame on ile de la Cîté that it is bound to attract some attention particularly for those who like to wander.
How did you settle on this location?
I stomped a lot of pavement over the summer looking for just the right spot! I really love my location because it appeals to both the neighbors and visitors. Even though I am on the island alongside Notre Dame I managed to find a spot just beyond the craziness of the tourist main street. For the individuals who like to wander just off of the beaten path, they find a sweet surprise when they discover my CupCakery! Plus, I love that I get to see Notre Dame every morning on my way to work.
How often do you bake and how often do you change the flavors?
Bertie's CupCakery will not sell you a day old cupcake. No sirs and madames, this lady is up every morning baking fresh cupcakes for you to enjoy. You can't put a price tag on freshness. Certainly at 3,50 euros a cupcake the price is worth the delight.
Currently I serve 13 different flavors, so there is already a lot of choice for customers. But starting in the new year, I hope to offer at least 1-2 seasonal/monthly flavors. Of course, folks putting together custom orders can always request something beyond the menu.
What is your top selling cupcake?
The two most popular flavors are “Caramel fleur de sel” & Nutella Banane, but a close competitor these days are the Strawberry Lemonade & Pistache Chocolat.
Anyone who has ever tried to run his or her own business knows that it can be challenging but running a business in a foreign country in which you don't master the language, is mind boggling and possibly even mind-blowing.
Did you find the starting of a business in France difficult or easy?
I think the stars just aligned for me here in Paris because I was surrounded by great people who were all excited about a cupcake shop. A lot of the neighbors contributed greatly to helping me find my way with getting Bertie’s CupCakery up and running!
What are the biggest challenges of working for yourself in general and specifically in Paris?
I really enjoy self-employment. It’s challenging and rewarding all together. Obviously there is a little more stress involved when the success of the business rests solely on my shoulders, but I live for the challenge and excitement of watching my business grow. Other than the language barrier, I think Paris would be no more challenging than back in Washington, D.C.
What would you say the plus side of being self-employed is?
I was a school teacher for a several years, and as much as I loved teaching it was the strict schedule and state mandated curriculums that eventually burned me out. Now that I am self-employed I dictate the days and hours depending on the time of year and level of business, and I have only my own imagination as a limitation for what I create in my store. Even more so I love working the storefront and getting to see the children light up when they see the cupcakes… I am constantly cleaning little finger and nose prints off of the glass display cabinet!
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about living in Paris?
Favorite thing about Paris… there are so many. Since my husband and I love discovering new foods we really enjoy discovering the endless small restaurants. The culture here in Paris to sit down and really enjoy your meal with company, take your time, drink some wine, talk, course after course is such a big difference from home, and something we are really taken by!
Least favorite… I have to say that sometimes I get really bummed about my slow growth in learning the French language. Learning French is something that I really want to do but I am often left dazed and confused. I hate the feeling that I am not doing justice to the French people who have helped me out along the way, I would like to re-pay them by being able to converse in their own language!
So congratulations (and happy belated birthday) to Bobbie Parsons. May Paris bring you great joy - as much joy as eating your cupcakes brought me.
26 Rue Chanoinesse
Phone: 01 43 29 18 70
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