If any company could launch the next dessert craze to hit the District, it’d be Magnolia Bakery — yes, the same New York-based confectionary credited with kick-starting America’s cupcake fad in the early-2000s. The boutique bakery, which opened in 1996 and shot to international fame after brief cameos on “Sex and the City” and later SNL, opened its first Washington location at Union Station on Monday.
As I spooned my golden banana pudding, I couldn’t help but wonder: Would it be the next cupcake?
The global chain, best known for that best-selling pudding and its colorful cupcakes, is the latest dessert destination to open at Union Station. The shop joins the French patisserie Ladurée, candy chain Sugarfina and Neuhaus Chocolatier at the commuter-packed terminal.
“It was an opportunity that came to us through the owners of the building, that also run Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston,” president and self-appointed “chief baking officer” Bobbie Lloyd said. The bakery will replace a former Art of Shaving store.
Unlike certain competitors (cough, Crumbs) the confectionary was able to outlive the ill-fated cupcake bomb in 2014. “My kids used to walk into Crumbs and their eyes would explode. Yes, they were big and had fun flavorings — Oreo cookie this, turtle that — but did they taste good? No,” Lloyd said. “We keep it classy and classic [at Magnolia]. What we do, we do really well, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Lloyd and chief executive Steve Abrams, who bought the bakery from its original owners in 2006, plan to launch more than 200 franchise locations in the next five years. Beyond New York, they have stores in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. They also have also expanded abroad — in the Middle East, Asia and Mexico.
The 1,350-square-foot express store at Union Station will serve the same popular confections from Magnolia’s flagship location on Bleecker Street in Manhattan, along with some special D.C.-exclusive menu items to be announced this fall. “It’s been very difficult to find something that would be considered a food very specific to D.C. There isn’t really anything,” says Lloyd. “But we’ve got some crazy ideas.” (Hint: Probably something patriotic.)
Breakfast items (coffee cake, muffins, etc.) and beverages, including hot and frozen coffee drinks and flavored iced teas, will also be served. However, plan to take your treats to go: There’s no seating inside.
The store features the chain’s signature old-fashioned look — hand-drawn chalkboards, Mason jars, hex tile flooring — along with large windows where sugar addicts can gawk as bakers frost cupcakes with the store’s signature swirl. Expect long lines — and lots of sugar-filled tourists.
Magnolia Bakery, inside Union Station, 40 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. magnoliabakery.com.