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Among the must-see spots in the nation's capital: the cupcake queue

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The growing popularity of Georgetown Cupcake, thanks largely to TLC's reality show DC Cupcakes, has 33rd Street sprinkled with customers. But some neighborhood residents are not excited about the sugar rush.

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By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 16, 2010

Behold the power of Georgetown Cupcake: One sweltering day this month, a young woman was baking in the sun on 33rd Street NW, waiting in the long queue to buy some of the bakery's signature sweets, when she fainted on the sidewalk. An ambulance rushed to the scene, but she declined to go to the hospital.

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Of course she did.

"She didn't want to get out of line," explains the voguish bakery's co-owner, Katherine Kallinis.

And so grew the legend of the Georgetown Cupcake line, which forms daily at the northwest corner of 33rd and M streets and often stretches all the way to Prospect Street, clear at the other end of the block.

"It's crazy, especially on weekends," says Eileen Lohmann, a Georgetown University student who lives a few doors up from Georgetown Cupcake. "Sometimes we can't even get down our steps. I'm not bothered by it, but I am just a little shocked that so many people would line up in the rain or 100-degree weather for cupcakes. I wouldn't want to walk outside in that heat, let alone eat a cupcake."

Yet the Georgetown Cupcake fetishists are there, day after sweltering day -- especially since the mid-summer launch of "D.C. Cupcakes," a reality show on the TLC cable channel about Kallinis and her business partner-sister, Sophie LaMontagne, and their little cupcakery that could. The show, whose debut was watched by more than 1 million people, turned Georgetown Cupcake from a local phenomenon into a tourist attraction of national proportions -- creating headaches for neighbors who now have to cut through the cupcake queue to enter their homes.

Georgetown Cupcake has had lines out the door since opening on Valentine's Day in 2008, in a much smaller space on nearby Potomac Street. But sales have doubled since the TV show's premiere (10,000 cupcakes a day on weekends, at $2.75 a pop, $15 for six or $29 for a dozen). Crowds at the new flagship store, which opened in December, have swelled to such an extent that the sisters felt compelled to add a bouncer to their staff.

A bouncer. At a bakery.

"Everyone calls it a bouncer, but it's really more of a greeter," says LaMontagne, taking a break from squeezing frosting from a piping bag.

"I always think of a bouncer as, like, a 300-pound big guy," Kallinis says. "That's not what it is at all."

One day this week, it was Patrick Foust, a slight, smiling Georgetown student dressed in flip-flops, white shorts and black T-shirt. It was noon, and he was handing out pink Georgetown Cupcake menus, directing foot traffic and answering questions from line-standers, who had come from South Carolina and California and points between. "This is a pretty big stop on people's tours of D.C. now," Foust said.

Angela Jefferson was living, breathing, sweating confirmation. Visiting from Vancouver, B.C., she had already hit some of the usual tourist spots with her family: Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, some of the Smithsonian museums. Now it was time for cupcakes.


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