Cindy Bullock, one of thirteen children, is used to making meals for a crowd. Cooking and baking were daily occurrences when she was young. As an adult, she cooked for her daughter’s birthday parties and debutante balls.
Now, Bullock has turned that love into a business, opening Olivia’s Cupcakes in a row house on Minnesota Avenue in Southeast. And she’s bringing her daughters along for the ride. The business’ namesake, Christina Olivia, 20, came up with the ‘grown up princess” theme. Alexis Royelle, 18, runs the upstairs “party palace,” which is decorated in glitter and used for tea parties, pedicures and karaoke.
In five months, the cozy outpost has built a small following. The Bullocks make about 400 cupcakes a day, occasionally more. They also serve cookies, coffee and smoothies. The hours are long and sometimes Bullock stays overnight. She doesn’t mind.
“I love to bake,” she said. “I love to cook. When I see people walk away smiling, it makes it worth it.”
The Bullocks are no stranger to business. They have owned a flower shop, beauty parlor, and day care. Her husband, Bob Bullock, runs a medical transportation company. Now the family is pouring their efforts into the cupcake and party business.
The idea came from her daughters, who Bullock charged with coming up with a business idea with a positive outlook.
“This is all a family affair, but it’s really to push them to the forefront of entrepreneurship,” she said. “It’s a must that they venture out and take stock in starting their own business.”
Olivia Bullock took a semester off from Virginia State University to help run the business. “I’m here daily I really do feel the comfort, and meeting different people and serving them to the standards that we do,” she said.
Walking past the pink and purple entrance and into the sweet-smelling, parlor-style front, guests are greeted with a flavor list that is both classic (chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet) and creative (Lovin’ Lavender, Sweet Confession, and Frost Bite).
Bullock, a native Washingtonian who is fondly known as “Ms. Cindy,” couldn’t think of a better place to house the business, off Pennsylvania Avenue, just past the Sousa bridge.
“I love this area, and I would never want anything I do in terms of building business to be anywhere else but this ward, because this is home.”
One nod toward the neighborhood’s negative reputation is the plexiglass that divides the ordering area from the rest of the shop.
“When I decided to do that, I did it in a way where it was warm and comforting,” Bullock said. “Everyone makes sure they’re safe wherever their home is. This is our business, but this is our home.”
Brittney Robinson, an admitted “cupcake fiend,” said she was initially taken aback by plexiglass between the customers. “I grew up in Ward 8, and I remember that was one of the reasons that my grandmother and I didn’t support businesses in the neighborhood was because of the plexiglass,” she said. “It’s not that welcoming.”
Forest Heights resident Monica Smith, who makes it a priority to stop in twice a week, has a fondness for the red velvet, which was spotlighted online for the flavor by local blog The Cupcake Critic. “I even work in Arlington and I still on my lunch break will drive here really quick just to get a red velvet cupcake,” she says, who prides the business on their family-friendly appeal. “Both of the daughters, the mom and the dad - they know how to talk to people.”
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