It seems that the whole country collectively freaked out when news broke that the Crumbs Bake Shop empire came crumbling down last Tuesday. Pun fully intended.
I have been soaking in everything I’ve been hearing and reading to fathom what comes next for the dessert world.
So Crumbs was a mom and pop shop that first opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in March 2003 by Jason and Mia Bauer. They are best known for their over-the-top, oversized cupcakes like their Girl Scout Cookies range topped with half of either a Thin Mint, Lemon Shortbread, or PB Creme, or Red Velvet and Red Velvet Cheesecake with a surprise cheesecake filling. Most of their cupcakes had the surprise pocket of icing in the middle. Not to mention they also had monstrous cupcakes that were probably equivalent to four of their already-large cupcakes.
The company went public in June 2011 when ownerships switched hands to a large corporation. Crumbs had 79 locations in 12 states and Washington D.C., making them the largest cupcake chain in the nation. They’ve tried many different products, like brewing Starbucks coffee and teas, gourmet sandwiches, knock-off cronuts (dubbed “Crumbnuts”), and even opening an gluten-free shop.
On July 8, Crumbs announced that they were closing all of their shops and notified employees at the end of the previous day, thus ending the end of the cupcake empire.
Why Crumbs Lost Business
If you want cupcakes, there are so many other cupcake shops out there, so it’s not like it’ll be a huge loss for the dessert world. The two shops that come to mind are Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles Cupcakes. What I think Crumbs made the mistake of doing was getting big too fast. And others have been saying the same. Magnolia always draws long lines because they only have locations in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles in the U.S.—seven locations in total. The exclusivity of Magnolia is what drives their business.
In an interview with Newsweek back in February 2011, Jason Bauer said that he wanted to make Crumbs “the dessert destination the same way Starbucks is everybody’s coffee destination.” He adds:
“Cupcakes are part of our dessert culture, like cookies and brownies. We’ve had double-digit growth eight years in a row from our oldest store. You can’t argue with the numbers. Cupcakes are here to stay. When people stop eating dessert, they’ll stop eating cupcakes.”
A cup of coffee and a cupcake are not the same. People rely on coffee to jump start their day or act as a pick-me-up. Cupcakes are a once-in-a-while treat. Even with chains like Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, the portions are small for a doughnut or cup of ice cream and cheaper. Definitely not as decadent as a $4.50 cupcake.
I know I sound like I’m hating on Crumbs, but honestly I really liked them. Last fall, I went to Crumbs a lot for the Crumbnut because I could not get (and still have not gotten) my hands on the highly-coveted cronut from the Dominique Ansel Bakery. When I used to intern in Chelsea, I would stop by the Crumbs on 6th Ave. for a cup of Americano and a Crumbnut. And you know what? I really liked the Crumbnut, even though they got a lot of flak for knocking off the cronut. Especially the apple pie flavor. Crumbs did get its fair share of customers, too. In March, I visited the Crumbs in Times Square and there was a long line—business looked like it was booming! And I passed by the gluten-free shop spontaneously a couple of weeks ago, which I was hoping I could visit. But I did see the signs of business dwindling when the a location on 7th Ave. near Penn Station shuttered sometime last fall. It just seems surreal that they are now closed.
The End of the Dessert Era?
Time Out New York claims that ice cream is the new cupcake. I can’t say I disagree, but I don’t think cupcakes are making their exit just yet. Magnolia and Sprinkles are still doing well. I just don’t think the world is ready for a cupcake conglomerate on every corner of a neighborhood. So here’s a final farewell to Crumbs. Thank you for your inventive cupcakes and for giving me a taste of what a cronut might taste like. You will be missed.