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March 6, 2017

Worcester gives dessert shop $15K to move to Canal District

PHOTO/SAVANNAH DONOHUE The Queen's Cups bakes almost 20 different types of cupcakes a day, ranging from forbidden chocolate to pink lemonade.

As a senior in college, Renee King began baking cupcakes as a hobby. The then-psychology major would never have imagined that today, she would be the head decorator and owner of The Queen's Cups, a bakery that produces thousands of cupcakes a week and bakes for 30 weddings a year.

“I always liked eating dessert, but I never had much of an interest in baking. It wasn't something that I loved to do until I started,” said King.

The Queen's Cups started with a simple Instagram page, said King.

“I would post pictures of my cupcakes on Instagram, and people would ask if they could order them. I said, 'Sure why not,'” King said.

Without a job after graduation, King's parents suggested she start a bakery and paid the $100 deposit for The Queen's Cups location in Millbury.

The Queen's Cups' 750-square-foot location provides a storefront for customers to purchase cupcakes to go or pick up orders but has little space for customers to enjoy their baked goods in shop, containing one solitary table.

King, however, has big plans.

In January, King announced the bakery's upcoming move to the former Bucky's building in Worcester's Canal District later this year.

The Canal District is the fastest growing area in Worcester, driven by small independent proprietors similar to The Queen's Cups, said Allen Fletcher, a member of the Canal District Alliance.

“The Canal District is becoming a day and night time district, and The Queen's Cups is one new element to that,” said Fletcher.

Falling in love with the Canal District

King's long-time dream of a larger location quickly became a reality after the City of Worcester gave her a $5,000 small business grant to move into the city, contingent on her hiring two Worcester employees.

“The grant was the reason I decided to go forward now,” said King.

The Small Business Grant Program is funded through Community Development Block Grant dollars and is aimed at filling empty store fronts with retail business, said Peter Dunn, business program manager for the city. In addition, King will receive a $10,000 microloan from the city.

King said she fell in love with the historic 3,200-square-foot building at first sight, and the location in the Canal District made it perfect.

“The Canal District is where it is at now for sure, and I don't see that changing” said King.

King is good friends with Amy Lynn Chase, owner of Crompton Collective in the Canal District, and King said she is a frequent visitor to the neighborhood anyway so moving made sense.

King describes herself a Millbury girl and said the small town support in Millbury was important to The Queen's Cups' success. In the Canal District, King finds a similar support system.

“They are all cheerleaders for each other. Being from a small town, I wanted to go where I felt like I would have the same support,” said King.

From trash cans to Dumpsters

King's vision is inspired by Cafe Dolce, the closed Worcester cafe, where King said her friends used to hang out in high school. The new location will include ample seating for customers to spend time enjoying their baked goods.

“I want my customers to enjoy the people they are with and the finer things in life,” said King.

To create the relaxed a social atmosphere King wants, The Queen's Cups will begin selling coffee and allow customers to bring their own drinks. However, the focus will remain on The Queen's Cups baked goods.

King hopes to create a location for people in the Canal District to gather after they have finished their meal but before they are ready to go home.

“A lot of my friends, they don't want to go to a bar, but they would want to go somewhere after dinner to get dessert,” said King.

To accommodate the after-dinner crowd, The Queen's Cups' new location will be open later, until either 9 or 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, depending on demand.

In its new Canal District location, The Queen's Cups will have a custom kitchen, going from one oven to five, and two decorating stations to eight, in addition to other new equipment. In addition to her current seven part-time employees, King plans to hire four to five new part-time employees.

The move may be an additional 2,450-square-feet, but King prefers to measure the success of The Queen's Cups in other ways.

“We weren't guaranteed to succeed. The fact that we used to have one small trashcan and now have a Dumpster, or the fact that we used to have one mixer and now we have five, I take pride in those little things,” King said.

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