EAST COUNTY — To make a national brand feel like the store next door, Gigi Butler sends her employees to Nashville and teaches them how to swirl frosting — the orientation for the business.
A new hire at one of Gigi’s Cupcakes stores — which are individually owned — doesn’t need to know much about cupcakes.
The owners of Gigi’s 92nd store, which is located in the East County at The Shoppes at UTC on Cooper Creek Boulevard, worked in the medical field; Kevin McGaharan owned a rehabilitation practice, while his wife, Jodi, was a nurse.
For 30 years, Jodi McGaharan has made cupcakes for her children, including daughter, Blair Greene. The desserts tasted good, but they didn’t tantalize the taste buds with creative flavors, such as midnight magic, pumpkin white chocolate and banana cream pie, like they do now.
“These cupcakes are what every homemaker tries to achieve but doesn’t,” Jodi McGaharan said. “We get the recipe book. We get the swirl lessons and, soon, we’re making Gigi’s Cupcakes.”
The McGaharans’ Gigi’s Cupcakes’ location opened Sept. 22.
The store looks the same as any Gigi’s — pink walls, pink lights and its slogan prominently written on the wall: “Swirls above the rest.”
But the McGaharans have freedom to set their own prices and use their own managerial style.
Butler also encourages them to know the market and then to own it by opening more locations.
For the store’s grand opening Oct. 19, Butler dropped by — as she does to every new store — to check on things.
Before the store opened, the McGaharans and Greene trained for two weeks in Nashville, where Butler lives and where Gigi’s launched.
“They have to have business experience, and at least some baking experience helps,” Butler said. “But we really look for passion. Are the cupcakes baked with love? The McGaharans have a goodness about them. They are wonderful.”
The McGaharans knew nothing about the Gigi’s brand before becoming a part of it.
Raised on a farm in California, Butler wanted to tour the United States singing country music, not promoting cupcakes.
At 15, she started a cleaning company to save money to travel and because she wanted to work for her herself. Soon, she cleaned during the day and sang at night.
In 1994, she sold Gigi’s Cleaning Company; she had $500 after she paid her bills.
When she turned 30, she quit the music industry.
In 2007, her brother, Steve, stood in line for two hours at a famous cupcake shop in New York.
He wasn’t impressed and thought Butler, with her impressive lineage — her mother, grandma, great-grandmother and great aunts had bakeries in Oklahoma, where she was born — could do better.
The first Gigi’s Cupcakes opened Feb. 21, 2008, in Nashville with help from a $100,000 loan.
Now, the brand is franchised.
Greene, the McGaharans’ daughter, was introduced to Gigi’s while she worked in fundraising for North Carolina State. She soon raved about the cupcakes to her parents.
Jodi McGaharan flew up to visit her daughter — but she really came to taste the cupcakes.
“I thought, ‘They can’t be as good as mine; I’ve been making cupcakes for 30 years,’” Jodi McGaharan said. “I was wrong.”
Jodi McGaharan, who always wanted to own a business, knew immediately she would be more than a customer.
The family contacted Butler and sold her on the growing East County market and how the The Shoppes at UTC’s demographics — plenty of women with children eating at restaurants and shopping — screamed for cupcakes.
“Now we are having the most fun we’ve had in our lives,” Kevin McGaharan said.
The family works long hours. Jodi McGaharan is the chief executive officer, and Kevin McGaharan is the chief financial officer. Greene uses her marketing skills.
They have 10 employees working either as bakers, frosters or cashiers. Each worker will be cross-trained and swirl-certified.
And, after a month in, Kevin McGaharan has learned how to eat a Gigi’s cupcake — a creation so large and pretty you almost would rather preserve it than eat it.
“There is a correct way to eat a gourmet cupcake,” Kevin McGahran said. “You stick in it in a bowl and spoon it. People will learn.”
ABOUT THE OWNERS:
Before founding a cupcake business, Gigi Butler cleaned houses to help launch her dreams of singing professionally. Butler stopped singing when she turned 30 to focus on cupcakes. Now, Gigi’s Cupcakes is a franchise with nearly 100 stores.
Kevin and Jodi McGaharan and their daughter, Blaire Greene, became owners of the Gigi’s Cupcakes in The Shoppes at UTC with little baked-goods experience. The McGaharans worked in the medical field, and Greene was a fundraiser. But one taste of a Gigi’s cupcake in North Carolina inspired them to open a store, and, now, they work 12-hour days running a franchise.
Local owners: Kevin and Jodi McGaharan and their daughter, Blaire Greene
Opened: Sept. 22
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Location: The Shoppes at UTC, 8435 Cooper Creek Blvd., Bradenton
Services: Gigi’s Cupcakes bakes and sells fresh gourmet cupcakes every day. The menu changes daily.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected]