Let them eat cupcakes

By KatherineGamby

Clusters of people curiously peeked into the quaint, coral-colored venue to discover what was creating the titillating aroma. Dozens of tasty, colorful little treats sat on the shelf behind the cashier, while chefs in the kitchen worked rigorously to supply the demand for something edible and unique.

The Cupcake Gallery, 1319 W. Wilson Ave., officially opened on Nov. 7, but had its grand opening ceremony on Nov. 22.  About 50 people attended the event and enjoyed music and free cupcake samples.

“My plan is to dominate the cupcake game when it comes to Chicago,” said Darius Williams, owner of the Cupcake Gallery Inc.

Williams, a West Side native, is not only taking the Chicago market by storm, but also the national one, with some celebrity clients like John Legend and the Minnesota Vikings football team.

“I’m just a little black dude from the ghetto that was working in corporate America [and] got laid off,” Williams said. “In four months time, I raised enough money to open a place, so that was a challenge for me in and of itself.”

Plans for The Cupcake Gallery were first put into action four months ago when Williams was laid off from his job as a payroll manager for a hotel management firm.  Prior to being laid off, Williams was a finalist in The RedEye’s Kitchen Stadium contest and had operated a food blog, EverydayCookin.com, for six years. He said he tried baking cupcakes because making desserts was a challenge for him.

“That’s typical because most people who cook can’t bake and most people who bake can’t cook,” Williams said. “I had to get on this challenge—can’t be this food guy and not be able to make something for dessert or bake.”

His first dessert venture was a red velvet cupcake, which he asked his friends to sample. He said his feedback was very positive and he then began to post the news about his cupcakes online via Twitter and Facebook. After the postings, he said he began to receive orders and the business grew from there. He now offers 34 flavors, which can be ordered gluten-free and/or vegan by request.

“He can cook; I know he’s an amazing cook, but I’ve never had any of his desserts,” said Terrance St.  James Morris, a Chicago public schools teacher.

Morris came in support of Williams, who is a friend of his. He said he is very proud of Williams because he knows the struggles he has overcome to achieve success. He said he was also amazed at how tasty the cupcakes are, after trying the Red Velvet and Strawberry-Banana cupcakes.

“I’m not a sweet person at all, I hate sweets … [the cupcakes were] phenomenal coming from a person who doesn’t eat sweets,” Morris said.

Michelle Ramirez, a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, attended the opening with her two daughters and a friend.

“I know I’ll be letting all the mothers at school know about it,” Ramirez said.

She said the cupcakes will be a nice treat for children instead of cake, which can sometimes be overwhelming for them.

“For kids, party-wise, cupcakes are the best,” Ramirez said. “I do cupcakes for my kids’ birthdays because they’re easier to distribute and if they don’t want to eat it, they can take it home.”

Ramirez said The Cupcake Gallery will also be a nice place for college students to lounge and enjoy.

“It’s very diverse and comfortable; I think it would be very nice for college students to sit down and network and study … [or] just have coffee and a cupcake with somebody,” Ramirez said.

Cupcakes at The Cupcake Gallery come in 34 flavors and are priced at $2.50 each and $28 for a dozen. For more information on The Cupcake Gallery, visit Cupcake-Gallery.com.