Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series featuring successful small businesses located within local farmers markets.
By Lisa Z. Leighton
For the Daily Item
LEWISBURG — When visiting Suzie Cupcakes at the Lewisburg Farmers Market on a recent Wednesday, it was fairly obvious that Sue Brown of New Columbia has a steady and loyal following — the line of customers was non-stop during the 10 a.m. rush.
Customers placed birthday orders, selected decadent cupcakes from her cold refrigerator case, or simply stopped to chat.
At the end of a typical Wednesday, she will have sold pproximately 300 decadent cupcakes — all lovingly baked, filled, and iced just a day or two earlier.
“It’s all word of mouth,” she said.
Other than being a member of the Central PA Chamber of Commerce and having a Facebook page, her customers are primarily repeat buyers and share the good words for her, a dream come true for any new business owner.
It took Brown a long time to enter the cupcake-making world full-time.
For 30 years she was a self-described “pill counter” working at a local CVS and then at an independent pharmacy, but as she approached 60, she was looking for a change of pace and scenery.
After many years of successful home baking and encouragement-turned-urging by her longtime friend and market helper, Sue Berkheimer of SuzieQ Catering (they both love the Suzie name and often partner together for events), Suzie Cupcakes opened up shop in November 2018 at the Lewisburg Farmers Market.
She was pleasantly surprised to find that week after week, she sold out of her $3 cupcakes by early afternoon.
Open from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. year-round at the market and select festivals, including the New Columbia Apple Butter Festival in October, she specializes in gourmet flavor combinations, dazzling decorating, and as much vareity as possible — offering new flavors each week.
Customers occasionally suggest flavors for her to try (like maple bacon, which didn’t sell well) and other times, she dreams up the combinations.
One of her recent creations was a cannoli cupcake – a traditional white cake with an authentic homemade Cannoli center then dipped in chocolate for a finishing touch.
She also specializes in gluten-friendly varieties, offering up to ten varieties weekly.
She has tested and re-tested her recipes, ensuring that her gluten-friendly varieties are not gritty or bland like most gluten-sensitive people are often forced to accept.
“Even my husband can’t taste the difference between the regular and gluten-free cupcakes,” she said with a smile.
He’s one of her official taste-testers, as is her daughter who is a professional graphic designer and creator of her marketing materials including banners, business cards and social media posts.
Typical flavors for Suzie Cupcakes include: Almond Joy, Peanut butter cup, mint chocolate chip, Oreo, Mocha, Death by Chocolate, Lemon Raspberry, Coconut, Carrot and Butterfinger. Nearly all of her varieties are filled, with the exception of carrot. Her recipes have been tweaked over the years to deliver soft, moist cake and luscious but not overly-sweet fillings and icings.
“This is an intense business, but I love what I do,” she says.
Suzie Cupcakes has expanded into custom cakes too, for birthdays, weddings, holidays, and special celebrations. She loves talking to her customers about some of her unique creations, from unicorns and trains to Wonder Woman, and everything in-between.
If a customer can dream it up, Sue can probably create it. Customers can pick cakes and cupcakes up at the market or she will deliver upon request.
“That’s the worst part – the delivery. I get so nervous when we have to deliver a cake, I feel every twist and turn,” she says laughing.
Find Suzie Cupcakes on Facebook or any Wednesday inside the Lewisburg Farmers Market near the back of the building.