Walking into BakeShop, you quickly realize that you're not in a "trend" bakery. This place is genuine. I was expecting the glam you see at most cupcake shops- you know, the cutesie decor and meticulous color coordination. Georgetown turns off locals because it's transformed into a tourist attraction while Cake Love and Sprinkles are chains. One of the things I love most about visiting my cousin in Brooklyn is the abundance of local, one-of-a-kind shops.
That's where BakeShop stands apart. Not only are their culinary confections tasty- but they're VA local and proud of it. There's none of that corporate fluff. Initially, I asked to interview them because they are the only shop whose red velvet cupcake I enjoyed.
Then I stepped into the kitchen. The TV was turned onto a soccer game. The ipod dock was blasting "Bam Bam" by Sister Nancy. The owner was rocking Nike Frees. Awesome!
Meet Justin of BakeShop!
Justin grew up in Northern Virginia, the Great Falls area to be precise. He was raised by his mother who balanced a hectic schedule raising two sons and all the activities that come with it- soccer, football, etc. Somewhere in between all the hustle, she found time to teach them the finer things of life many of us take for granted: baking, sewing, etc.
After majoring in business at VA Tech, he turned his passion towards the kitchen. He felt that even though there are 50 great pho places around the nation's capital- there was no stand out bakery. It became his mission to change that.
- Color: Green
- Food: Generally dessert, the specifics change daily
- Animal: Bees
- Kids: None; they are cool we have a lot in common
- Books: Lord of the Rings
- Movie: old James Bond flix
- TV: gave it up because of commercials
- Krispy Kreme vs Dunkin Donuts: given the choice KK, but i'll take either with pride
- Peeve: messes in the kitchen
- Inspiration: mom
- Music: Weezy
Like many true to life bakeries, BakeShop's roots are in a mother's kitchen. Through word of mouth, he began to amass a business quickly. When he started having to deliver orders in his car, he knew it was time to look for a space to open shop.
While the turn in economy hurt many of us- it opened a window of opportunity for BakeShop! Landlords were desperate to rent their space and one decided to took a chance on the fledgling bakery. The rest is history in the making.
You don't need a degree to be amazing in the kitchen. Justin's experience commenced at a young age under the instruction of his mom. It started with a love of sweets and grew from there. He loved to eat cake! It soon became apparent baking (and eating) came naturally.
The NOVA area is filled with cupcake shops- a title BakeShop refuses to be pigeonholed with! The shop makes everything from pies, to cakes, to cupcakes, to cookies, to puddings. Heck they even have pancakes for breakfast on Saturdays! Though Justin cannot claim one treat his "specialty"- his first love will always be cake and frosting. His cookie game is "on point" and he aspires to make everything his specialty. If you stop learning, you stop growing, so why limit yourself?
Where Do the Flavors Come From
Many of the flavors you'll find at BakeShop are classics- the chocolate, vanilla, lemon sort of variety. If things start to get a little different, it's an in-house concoction.
What it Takes
Holding down a bakery is serious work. It's not the typical 9-5. There are weekends and nights involved., especially when custom orders come into play. Justin is typically in the shop 14 hours a day. Their most popular item is cupcakes followed closely by cookies. It truly is a labor of love: "I'm a slacker at heart, but somehow I'm pulling it off" says Justin.
We all have those days at work. For BakeShop, that day was an order of 40 dozen assorted cupcakes for National Geographic. The kitchen had just been awarded the seal of functionality but the store still was not open. Note- up and running- not open. There was no staff! Justin had to pull off the order on his lonesome. He managed to pull it off- through sheer will power and 20 hours straight in the kitchen. Humble beginnings.
Other ‘Cupcake’ Stores
BakeShop is NOT to be confused with those "other" shops. They are a classic American bakeshop, like the ones you could visit as a kid and see everything being made. They do the things as you would see them in bakeries from our past and present.
Some places insist on the finest ingredients from all sorts of exotic locations. This stores likes to keep it local! They prefer ingredients from VA whenever possible and prefer things unprocessed.
The shop is located in Arlington, VA because it has a neighborhood feel. When they started out, there was a strong, independent small business feel to it (murky,etc..). Recently, however, it has become chain dominated. They still love the area and fight to preserve that home grown vibe.
Down the Road
So where does BakeShop see itself in 5 years? Owning/operating a honey farm. No seriously. Ever since Justin was a kid he loved playing with bees. "They are cute and they love flowers. It's no surprise that I love honey and use it in everything. If it wasn't so sticky, I'd use it as lotion."
"Mixing business with your friends and family is difficult, but who else can one really trust?"
Drop a Line of Inspiration
"Pick a job and be the person that does that job."
1025 N. Fillmore St.