Now a new baker is about to enter the fray. Pearl’s Bake Shoppe, which specializes in cupcakes, will open soon at 711 West Main Street, say co-owners Laurie Blakey and Laura Condrey, who once worked together in the real estate industry. A full service bakery, Pearl’s will also sell wedding cakes, macarons, cookies, brownies, and more. What makes them believe that they can thrive in an already crowded market?
Well, for one thing, history. In 2010, Blakey and Condrey, both of Richmond, opened Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe in Richmond. It was what Blakey had decided to do after retiring from real estate, and when Condrey learned of Blakey’s idea, she said: “You didn’t ask, but I’m in.” Friends of Blakey and Condrey had often told them they should start a business in the food world. It seems they were on to something, as Pearl’s business has grown so fast that they now sell 1,200 cupcakes per day, at $2.75 each.
The reason for Pearl’s success may be as simple as the quality of their product. Richmond.com readers and Richmond Magazine both voted Pearl’s best cupcake in a Richmond market that is just as competitive as Charlottesville’s. Virginia Living went a step further and named Pearl’s the best in all of Virginia. Pearl’s has been so popular that it is already expanding the Richmond location.
And, it’s not just business that has grown. The variety of cupcakes has, too, going from 25 when Pearl’s first opened to 140 different types that Pearl’s now rotates through its daily selection. Each day, there are eight standard “everyday cupcakes,” plus five rotating varieties of specialties, as well as a handful of vegan and gluten-free options. And, the repertoire continues to grow, with 1-2 additions each week, many of which come from customer suggestions.
With such a large variety, how to decide? We asked the experts, Blakey and Condrey, who told us that the top-selling everyday cupcakes are the Red Velvet and the Black and White, which is chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. The most popular specialty cupcake, meanwhile, is the Wilma Ray, champagne batter cake frosted with an Italian champagne buttercream and topped with a real miniature rose.
As for personal favorites, Blakey’s favorite everyday is the Double Trouble, chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting; and, her favorite specialty is the Candied Sweet Potato, roasted sweet potato batter filled with marshmallow fluff, and topped with vanilla and marshmallow frosting and candied pecans. Condrey’s favorite everyday is the Pearl Goes Co Co, which is chocolate buttermilk cake with seven minute frosting and grated coconut. And, her favorite specialty is the Elvis, bananas foster cake with peanut butter whipped frosting.
We were fortunate to taste a few ourselves, and would add to the list of recommendations the Peanut Butter & Jelly, peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting topped with a dollop of grape jelly.
So, what brings Pearl’s to Charlottesville? For one thing, the namesake of Pearl’s, Blakey’s grandmother, was actually born just outside Charlottesville. Blakey recalls that as a child, the night before her birthday she would stay over at Pearl’s house, and the next morning, her favorite cupcake would be waiting for her next to her breakfast plate.
And, Blakey is from Charlottesville as well. Ever since they opened in Richmond, Blakey and Condrey have planned to one day open in Charlottesville. “It’s home for me,” says Blakey. In fact, for Valentine’s Day , Pearl’s is releasing a specialty made with wine from the Charlottesville area – the “Union” red blend from Cardinal Point Winery. The Punch Drunk Love is chocolate wine cake with wine-infused chocolate ganache, and frosted with a whipped ganache and shaved wine chocolate. Look for an opening by April.