SOUTH PORTLAND — Whoopie pies that Marcia Wiggins began making in her kitchen in Cape Elizabeth eight years in the past quickly might be on Wegmans Meals Market cabinets all through Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
It’s been a comparatively quick ramp up that finally might place Cape Whoopies, Maine’s Gourmand Whoopie Pie, in all 106 Wegmans supermarkets throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, Wiggins mentioned this week throughout a tour of her bakery on Cottage Street.
The high-end grocery store chain began carrying Cape Whoopies, an upscale model of Maine’s iconic candy deal with, in its six Massachusetts shops in Could. By August, the butter-rich, intensely flavored confections might be heading into 18 Wegmans in Pennsylvania.
“They need to get to the purpose the place they’re selecting up a full truckload of 24 pallets every month, which might be about 120,000 pies,” Wiggins mentioned. “In the event that they need to put us on the cabinets in all their shops, we’ll do it.”
That probably would require a serious funding in extra staffing, tools and freezer house, and probably a second enterprise mortgage via the Better Portland Council of Governments.
At this level, Wiggins’ 15 crew members, whom she affectionately calls “Whoopettes,” are cranking out two to 3 pallets per week for Wegmans, or about 5,000 individually wrapped pies. Flavors vary from the basic Maine-iac (vanilla cream sandwiched between two spherical chocolate desserts) and MaryLou’s Favourite (peanut butter cream in chocolate desserts) to Sunshine Daydream (tart lemon cream in buttery vanilla desserts) and Britt’s Fave (chocolate cream in chocolate desserts).
One of many largest privately owned firms in the US, Wegmans additionally has 48 shops in New York, 9 in New Jersey, eight in Maryland, 13 in Virginia and 4 in North Carolina.
The corporate lately determined to hold a line of New England bakery favorites, together with whoopie pies. Dan Jackson, a regional bakery merchandiser with Wegmans, discovered Cape Whoopies on-line, the place they’ve been bought since 2014 via goldbelly.com, a connoisseur meals purveyor. He contacted Wiggins.
‘OUR CUSTOMERS WANT THE BEST’
“He mentioned, ‘Our prospects need the most effective. I’ve completed the analysis and also you’re the most effective,’ ” Wiggins recalled. Jackson visited her 2,600-square-foot facility quickly after and subsequent week will return with bakery managers from the six Massachusetts shops.
Jackson was instantly impressed by the kindness and competence of Wiggins and her workers, and the standard of Cape Whoopies.
“They had been only a good match for Wegmans,” Jackson mentioned. “The standard of her product is so good, I can’t overstate that. She mentioned she wished individuals to have the ability to shut their eyes, take a chew and style all the flavors in every whoopie pie. And she or he has a ton of flavors, together with a gluten-free choice, which is vital to our prospects.”
Up to now, Cape Whoopies have exceeded Wegmans’ expectations. The corporate anticipated promoting about 250 pies per retailer every week in Massachusetts, however they’ve been promoting greater than 1,500 pies per retailer every week, Wiggins mentioned.
“They’re doing very well in our Massachusetts shops, the place whoopie pies are common,” mentioned Marcie Rivera, Wegmans spokesperson. “We’re testing them in Pennsylvania, the place whoopie pies are additionally very talked-about.”
If Cape Whoopies do effectively in Pennsylvania, and Wiggins can sustain with extra orders, Wegmans intends to develop distribution to all of its shops, Rivera mentioned.
Wiggins talks about turning into a enterprise proprietor as if it occurred on a whim or by chance, although she clearly deliberate every step alongside the way in which, beginning with in search of a SCORE enterprise mentorship via the Small Enterprise Administration.
“I had all the time been a mother,” mentioned Wiggins, who has 4 grownup youngsters. Her husband, Dennis, was a pilot with Continental Airways, so he was gone 4 days per week. He’s retired now and helps out at Cape Whoopies when wanted.
A GOOD IDEA THAT COULD BE BETTER
Wiggins had all the time loved cooking, too, and her husband’s profession had allowed her to journey extensively and pattern a few of the most interesting desserts made in Europe. And whereas she appreciated whoopie pies, which had been named the official Maine State Deal with in 2011, she wished to enhance on commercially obtainable choices.
“I actually felt it was a good suggestion that could possibly be so significantly better,” Wiggins mentioned. “So I simply took the Maine State Deal with and gave it a twist.”
The cream filling in Cape Whoopies is made with butter and marshmallow creme as a substitute of vegetable shortening and powdered sugar, Wiggins mentioned. And the desserts are made with baking powder, butter and cream cheese as a substitute of buttermilk and baking soda.
Her purpose, when creating the recipe for relations and buddies, was to create a extra delicate dessert with lighter desserts and a creamier filling that wasn’t fairly as candy however simply as satisfying.
“We pass over plenty of the sugar,” Wiggins mentioned. However she doesn’t skimp on different substances, which embody Dutch chocolate, vanilla bean paste, well-known liqueurs and concentrated taste extracts. Every pie is about 4 bites, and every chew is meant to be a taste bomb.
“Certainly one of my first selections was, did I need to make the most effective or did I need to make the most cost effective?” Wiggins recalled. “I made a decision I wished to make the most effective.”
Making the most effective whoopie pies undoubtedly isn’t low-cost. Nonetheless, they’re promoting like … whoopie pies. Pitched on goldbelly.com as “the one deal with to carry dwelling from Maine,” in keeping with Bloomberg Businessweek, Cape Whoopies promote for $40 a half-dozen or $59 a dozen, together with delivery.
Particular person pies retail for $3.50 and up. Along with the shop on Cottage Street, they’re obtainable in Maine at Lois’ Pure Market, Scarborough and Portland; Attractive Gelato, Portland; Pizza Joint, South Portland; Maggie Mae’s, Yarmouth; LocalCentric, Grey; Uncle Dean’s Pure Market, Waterville; and Maine Homestead Market, Alfred. Farther afield they’re bought at Very good Commodities, Bloomington, Indiana; Depraved Maine Lobster, San Diego and Los Angeles; and Candy Store by the Sea, Kapa’a, Hawaii.
INGREDIENTS FOR A GOOD BUSINESS
Gross sales of Cape Whoopies climbed steadily from the beginning in 2013. When rave evaluations began rolling in and buddies steered she ought to attempt to market her whoopie pies, Wiggins delivered a trial field to the Entire Meals Market in Portland, which carried Cape Whoopies for just a few years.
A yr later Wiggins moved manufacturing from her dwelling to a shared kitchen rental house at Fork Meals Lab in Portland. That’s the place she and a rising crew produced 11,000 to fifteen,000 pies per thirty days for an Amazon shock sweets reward field from 2014 to 2018.
In 2018, Wiggins determined Cape Whoopies wanted its personal house. She discovered the constructing at 185 Cottage Street, a former consignment retailer that she shares with Rwanda Bean, a socially accountable espresso firm. And she or he utilized for a enterprise mortgage via the Better Portland Council of Governments to purchase tools. Once more, she confirmed up with a field of whoopie pies.
“The $50,000 we loaned to Marcia was for working capital,” mentioned Josh Kochis, finance director at GPCOG. “We loaned her the cash as a result of her marketing strategy and financials had been sound. She was wonderful, and naturally the whoopie pies had been scrumptious.”
Wiggins bought a five-year mortgage at 4 % curiosity via certainly one of a number of government-backed mortgage packages administered by GPCOG.
A religious Christian, Wiggins credit a lot of her success to her religion, in addition to a slew of people that helped her to begin and develop the enterprise. They embody Kochis, who has offered enterprise recommendation far past mortgage counseling. And Raynor Massive, a enterprise adviser with the Maine Small Enterprise Growth Facilities. And her landlord, Craig Church, who readily responds to any issues that crop up.
“You wouldn’t anticipate your landlord to be so variety and useful, however he’s,” Wiggins mentioned. “These three persons are my first cellphone calls when I’ve an issue.”
Issues have gone fairly effectively for Wiggins total, nonetheless, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that quickly closed or shuttered many different companies. None of her crew contracted the virus and everybody bought vaccinated as quickly as doable, so that they’ve been in a position to sustain with demand that by no means waned.
Annual gross sales are on monitor to high $500,000 this yr earlier than the Wegmans enlargement into Pennsylvania, Wiggins mentioned, up from $350,000 in 2020 and $270,000 in 2019.
To fulfill the rising demand from Wegmans, Wiggins plans to purchase a second Baxter booth-style oven that may bake 20 trays of whoopie desserts on a rolling rack in 10 minutes. She’ll additionally want a second 80-quart Hobart mixer and a second walk-in freezer, which might be put in within the storage behind the bakery.
“I don’t anticipate shifting anytime quickly, however we could have a second shift and a 3rd shift if needed,” Wiggins mentioned. “It’s laborious to rent individuals proper now, and I’m searching for individuals who need to be concerned.”
Most of Wiggins’ workers are of their 20s and lots of are going to school. The place hums with upbeat music, employees’ chatter and the occasional clatter of baking tools.
“I’ve been fortunate as a result of I’ve been in a position to rent sensible younger individuals who will keep and do what must be completed,” Wiggins mentioned. That’s particularly useful in December, when her crew usually works from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day to fill vacation orders.
As the corporate grows and turns into extra steady, Wiggins mentioned she hopes Cape Whoopies can develop into a mannequin employer and group supporter. She pays $13 to $15 an hour or extra, and she or he strives to be a respectful, variety and appreciative boss. However she’d like to offer well being protection and different advantages for her workers as quickly as doable, and the increasing contract with Wegmans might assist her try this.
“All the things that occurs to me, occurs to them,” she mentioned.