Tuesday, April 26, 2016

cakelava Las Vegas is on Instagram!


About a week ago, cakelava joined Instagram @cakelava . If you are wondering why we waited so long to join, there is a little story here. Several years ago I looked into putting cakelava on Instagram, and I didn't get very far. Not getting very far is an understatement. I didn't get past choosing our username, because someone with no association to our company, or to cakes, already had it. At the time I could have chosen another username, but decided to put the process on hold. It wasn't meant to be. I was also turned off by the idea that the photos posted on Instagram don't belong to the individual or company posting them, so I treaded this avenue carefully. We already had a few other social media accounts to maintain and I thought "why add another one." My hands were full with running a cake business and various social media accounts. Why make more work for myself?

Then, our company and cakes started getting tagged quite regularly, which has been the case on Pinterest for many years. People were making comments and we weren't seeing them until much, much later. Sometimes, years! These were clients of ours, students of Rick's and many appreciative bakers in the cake community. It was important to be a part of the dialog and let the people leaving comments know we appreciated them taking the time. In addition to the cakes getting tagged, our clients began asking us if we were on Instagram. "No, but we're on facebook, twitter, and pinterest". cakelava was still based in Hawaii when this began happening.

If you've been following our cake adventures, you know that we moved cakelava to Las Vegas from Hawaii and spent part of last year building out our new custom cake studio at the Montage Shopping Center in Las Vegas. We opened earlier this year. During the period we transitioned cakelava from Hawaii to Las Vegas, we took a hiatus from making cakes and also largely from social media. If there was a time to join instagram, it certainly wasn't then.

We finally decided to take the plunge and join Instagram after we had established our new cake shop in Las Vegas. It was time. We were settling into our new home of Las Vegas and were regularly making cakes we wanted to share. We're enjoying being a part of the Instagram community and happy to see many friends there as well. We're excited to see what Las Vegas has in store for us and invite you to come along for the ride! See you on Instagram!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Surprise! - Rory's Las Vegas Themed Birthday Cake

cakelava of Las Vegas, www.cakelava.com

I love surprises! (Who doesn't, right?) One of the many perks of being married to a cake designer is my annual surprise birthday cake. Unfortunately, we couldn't observe our tradition my past two birthdays because our lives were too hectic with moving preparations for the first one, and this year, we were completely occupied with opening the shop. In both cases, it was a mutual decision to not do my surprise, and it was a missed opportunity for both of us - a gift that was lost, for both the giver and receiver. Having missed out on both of my birthday surprises, I was excited when we received the order for Rory's Las Vegas themed birthday cake, which would be a surprise gift from his family.

Rory and his family were flying in to Las Vegas to celebrate his 26th birthday, and were taking him to dinner at the uber popular Tao restaurant. This lucky combination of factors added up nicely - super nice clients to work with + surprise cake + an artistic Las Vegas theme + delivery to Tao = Jackpot!

I worked with Rory's mother and sister to plan his surprise cake. They provided us some photos for inspirations and requested a Las Vegas gambling theme, specifying the games Rory enjoyed playing and some of the elements they would like to see on his cake. We knew how special this cake was to them. They gave as much thought to the flavors of the cake as the outside, and after careful consideration, they chose our Peanut Butter Fudgey and Neon Lights flavors. Rick worked hard on the Las Vegas cake and looked in his element when he was making all the decorations. He wanted the cake to be a surprise the family would always remember! I could see how satisfied he was to be making a Las Vegas themed cake - in Las Vegas! He's made many before, but it's a little different making Las Vegas themed cakes when you are in Hawaii. I'm happy to say that Rory wasn't the only one who was surprised the night we delivered his cake to Tao! Our clients left the entire design of the cake up to Rick. Witnessing the reaction of the client upon seeing their cake is always the best part and I was lucky enough to see Rory's mother's face when she first saw his cake. Her face lit up and she looked ecstatic - the surprise was a huge success! We were told after the party that the cake was loved not only by Rory and his family but by many of the diners at the restaurant who approached their table and asked about the cake. What's higher than Jackpot? Is there a double jackpot, because I think we just won it!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Opening cakelava, our new Las Vegas Custom Cake Studio!

In late December 2015, we shared photos taken towards the completion of our shop build. While most people were busy celebrating Christmas and New Years with their families, we were hard at work creating new cake flavors, (and gaining the 5 extra pounds from all the tasting!), making display cakes, and getting our business established in Las Vegas. This was all in preparation for our actual "Opening." If you missed our previous posts, or would like to revisit them, here's a quick recap! In Part 1, we hunt for and find the perfect space. Part 2: The build out continues. In Part 3, the kitchen gets installed and our space begins to resemble a shop!

We opened cakelava, our Las Vegas custom cake studio during the week of January 10th, 2016, or, as we more commonly referred to it as, "sometime in Mid-January." The last time we opened cakelava in a new city was in March 2005, almost 11 years earlier, in Hawaii. After a year long hiatus from making cakes, we couldn't wait to open our cake shop in Las Vegas! Unlike many food businesses, we didn't have a Grand Opening or even an official Opening Day. cakelava's actual "Opening Day" became a little joke between Rick and I because we kept getting asked by people when we were opening and we didn't have a definitive date for them. We answered with "when Rick is finished making display cakes" or "when we're done testing flavors". In other words, we would open for business when there was something tangible for customers to see and taste at our shop.

If you are a baker, you know that baking in a dry climate and at higher altitudes is different than baking in say, Hawaii, where we moved from. A place that is hot and humid and higher altitudes are not an issue. It takes a lot of experimenting, and plan to gain at least a few pounds in the process, but don't worry, the stress of opening a business in a new city will likely cause you to lose those few pounds which you just gained. Our new menu for Las Vegas is a combination of our tried and true flavors we offered in Hawaii and a selection of flavors honoring our new home Las Vegas. We are excited about the menu and have had great feedback so far on the new flavors!

"So, how will we know when you're open?" .... We had people ask us if we will have a neon OPEN sign when we Open. We have no neon OPEN sign in front of our shop, or even an "Open" sign. Our doors says "Open by Appointment", so technically, we have the word "Open" in front of our shop. cakelava's new shop opening was more like one day our shades were up, there were display cakes in the window, and we began meeting people at our new studio rather than just talking to them on the phone or by email.  To us, being "Open" was just a formality. As far as we were concerned we were already Open. Our business and creative minds were open, we had started taking cake orders, we were excited and ready, and everything was in place! We had been corresponding over email for a number of months with customers prior to opening our doors, and delivered our first cake order in Las Vegas before we officially Opened.

After "Opening" I was quickly reminded how tough it was to establish a new business in a new city. In Hawaii we were there for 10 years, we were a known business with a reputation, and here we were starting from scratch all over again. With every new inquiry, I had to pull up a map of Las Vegas and see where the heck we would be delivering to - it was all new and there is so much to learn! We had requests to go to California to deliver cakes. It's been over a decade since we had to drive more than an hour and a half for a delivery. We are learning fast here! We've already made our first delivery to the The Strip at night, and for the uninitiated, the traffic can be quite the adventure, though so far, not nearly as bad as delivering a cake to the North Shore during a surfing competition. You haven't experienced fun until you've done that! So far, we are enjoying doing business in Las Vegas. We've met so many kind people, many of whom have taken us under their wing, acting as mentors, and showing us the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of Vegas. We're also learning why Las Vegas is called "The Ninth Island" - we are constantly meeting people who are from Hawaii or have some connection to Hawaii, and we love that!

cakelava, after Opening.

Here is a glimpse at part of the front room of cakelava's Las Vegas custom cake studio. It is completely different from our Hawaii cake studio which was painted green and had wood furniture and a client area that resembled a living room. For our Las Vegas studio, we chose a clean, modern, white, grey and silver palette, mixing metals, wood, stone and glass for a rustic industrial feel. Our client meeting area has white countertops and wood and metal barstools. We chose concrete flooring and an open ceiling with exposed ductwork. The studio feels like a gallery filled with beautiful artwork and it is such a nice place to come to work every day! There are eye-catching cakes displayed in the front window and spotlighted on floating shelves above the client meeting area. We also have framed photos of cakes on the wall and a handpainted sign of our Flavors, which we absolutely adore!

Like every single item in our studio - even something as simple as a chair, or a light, or a clock - Rick and I labored over how to present our new flavors. We were proud of our new flavors, many of which were created specifically for Las Vegas, like our Red Velvet Elvis, "Jackpot!!!" and "The All-Nighter" to name a few. We wanted a sign that was artful and preferably handmade. After spending a good amount of time researching different shops on Etsy for a handpainted sign, we encountered the super wonderful Tessa, who owns ChippyPaintDesigns. We collaborated with her to create a handpainted sign for our flavors, and she created the beauty shown above! The sign fits with our shop decor perfectly! Thank you, Tessa!

The front room of the studio has a lot of light coming in and continues the clean, minimalist look we were going for. We selected a handful of photos of our favorite cakes to display on the wall and Rick designed some gorgeous cakes for our storefront window.

Now that our shop is Open and we've begun meeting with new clients and have some cake deliveries under our belt, we are starting to love working in Las Vegas! A huge thank you to everyone who has supported us in our journey and efforts! We're excited to see what adventures await us and look forward to sharing them with you as they happen! Stay tuned! ...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Building cakelava, our new Las Vegas Custom Cake Studio, Part 3

In today's post, we're quickly approaching the end of our new Las Vegas cake studio build-out. In case you missed Part 1, you can read it here, and Part 2 can be seen here.

When we took the above photo of the shop after our new illuminated sign was installed, there was still plenty of building commotion going on inside, as witnessed by the large workman's vehicles out front. In much the same way we dealt with all the photobombing ladders on the inside of our shop, having obstructions in our photos was part of the build. Embrace it or fight it. Capture the moment, or wait for a picture perfect moment. I wasn't about to ask our hard working team of contractors if they could move their trucks so we could get a unobstructed photo with the new sign. So here it is!

Whether you have built your shop from a grey shell, as we did, or moved into an existing space for your business, chances are, at some point you had to purchase a sign, or two, or maybe even three. Prepare for your jaw to drop clear down to the floor, as ours did, when you begin researching the cost of signs. Those illuminated signs you see everywhere cost a pretty penny! Consider it an investment into your business and advertising costs, and then take the time to bask in the glow of your company name in lights, because it is really quite spectacular! We made a nighttime pilgrimage to the shop to see both our lighted signs - the "Monument" sign in front of the shopping center and our main sign above the shop. We have a different kind of sign on our front door, and another on the inside of our shop, because you can never have enough signs!

Meanwhile, back on the inside of the shop, we walked in and saw the walls were painted, the pendant lights were installed, the concrete flooring had been polished, and there was a giant ladder obstructing our view as we looked at the wall. We had already had discussions of what would go on that wall behind the ladder.

Once our kitchen build was finished and it began to resemble a kitchen, the equipment began arriving, and it was chaos once again! We could feel the excitement building as we watched every piece of our carefully laid out kitchen plans taking shape.

Then, one day we walked into our kitchen and it looked exactly like the kitchen we imaged, only 10 times better. It was perfect for our needs, fully functional, and it was GORGEOUS!

We went to great efforts to make sure everything was color coordinated in the shop, even in the restroom, which is very nice inside. We were surprised how many of our contractors, vendors, and even our inspectors, were impressed with the restroom...

On another visit, we were greeted with the orange ladder, which was now moved to a different wall. I could have moved it. I decided not to.

Since our shop didn't have electricity at the time, we often saw the front room in this light. Here is a view looking out into the parking lot.

As more of the decorative components were installed, our excitement level started going through the roof! In Part 4 of this series, we'll share how it all came together!

We would love to hear if others have been through a similar experience with a build out of their shop and what their experience was like. We hope you have enjoyed reading about ours!

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