Cakegirls returns ... sort of
Sisters who owned Lakeview cake shop that burned down starting a business on the Web
August 25, 2012|By Jennifer Delgado, Chicago Tribune reporter
Two and a half years ago, cake lovers watched in horror when a popular Lakeview cake salon featured on television shows burned down, leaving the future of Cakegirls uncertain.
Now, sisters and owners Brenda and Mary Maher are making a comeback, but they won't be whipping up their one-of-a-kind creations for the public. Cakegirls is set to return Sept. 10 in the form of a do-it-yourself website — thecakegirls.com — that sells baking supplies and teaches customers how to make crafty cakes.
That change may come as a surprise to their loyal following, but the women say they learned in the fire's aftermath that the slower pace suited them. Between work, filming their reality TV show and competing in televised challenges, life had been passing them by.
"We were spreading ourselves too thin," said Brenda Maher, 40. "We had more successthan we anticipated."
The women hoped to reopen shortly after the blaze ravaged their 1,500-square-foot shop in the 2200 block of West Belmont Avenue but say they ultimately were too overwhelmed by their grief. The building has since been demolished.
Left with only the business's outdoor sign, a computer and two binders with charred and soggy receipts, they scrambled after the March 2010 fire to refund more than 300 custom orders, including a huge, sculpted Tyrannosaurus rex and a 3-D groom's cake replicating a vintage guitar.
They helped frantic brides find other bakeries and spent a year cataloging all the lost items for insurance purposes, a process that included looking at B-roll stills from their reality TV show on WE tv.
When that was over, they took some personal time and realized what they were missing out on.
"I don't think I ever went to a birthday party that my child was invited to once," said Mary Maher, 42. "Our peak season was in the summer, when the rest of the world is running on the lakeshore and spending time with their family."
The sour economy also played into their decision — they're not sure people are still willing to dish out $700 for a child's birthday cake, they said.
The women are optimistic about the new endeavor, which will be run out of an area warehouse.
"People knew us in one arena," Mary Maher said, "but I'm hoping they'll get to know us in another."