MONTANA AVE — All Suzanne Kempf needed was a cake for a party, not having time to bake one herself.
When a friend suggested she visit cake shop Nothing Bundt Cakes, little did she know that it would lead to a whole new career for her and her sister, Cindy Burger.
“Now, it’s my life and my passion,” Kempf said.
Kempf and Burger, who were born and raised in Santa Monica, have recently bought a Nothing Bundt Cakes location in the city by the sea, hoping to make life sweeter for Santa Monicans.
Before buying a leg of the bundt cake franchise, which was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Las Vegas, Kempf and Burger were living 2 miles apart in Texas — Burger working in commercial real estate and Kempf doing sales and marketing for E. & J. Gallo Winery, from which she has recently resigned.
But a sample tasting of one of the cake shop’s signature desserts changed that.
“The beauty of this brand is that it’s so nostalgic and reminds you of what your mom and your grandma used to make,” Kempf said.
Wanting to make the move back to California, the sisters started the process that eventually landed them back in their home city of Santa Monica.
“It’s been spectacular,” Kempf said of the local response since taking over March 1. “The excitement and the energy from the staff to the neighborhood to family and friends that we’ve networked with coming back home — the energy’s been phenomenal.”
Kempf likes the love she has felt from loyal customers.
“It’s really a sense of neighborhood, which I think is lost sometimes in other parts of the world,” she said.
In the short time that the sisters have been in business, Kempf is already known by some locals as “the cake lady.”
“I think that it’s just such a nice, warm, neighborly feeling,” Kempf said. “You can’t pay for that.”
The store has received business from those looking for something for a house party to corporate brands like the National Football League and the Food Network, Kempf said.
The recent cupcake craze has shown the potential for bakery boutiques. Cupcake bakeries raked in $100 million in sales in 2010 in the U.S., according to Technomic, the food research and consulting firm, which believes growth in the dessert market will continue as consumers continue to crave sweet and savory snacks.
“We could see growth of numerous dessert trends such as chocolate-covered bacon shops, cream puffs, churros or perhaps macaroons,” said Darren Tristano, food service concept and menu expert with Technomic. “Health and lifestyle considerations will also remain a consideration but a balance with indulgence will likely provide ample opportunities for both healthful and decadent treats.”
The estimated initial investment to open a Nothing Bundt Cake franchise ranges from $318,700 to $419,700, which includes the initial franchise fee of $25,000, according to www.franchisechatter.com
Kempf said that simplicity is what led her to buying this specific franchise as opposed to a pizza place or a coffee shop.
“It’s one item, four sizes, 10 flavors,” Kempf said. “I call it the In-N-Out model of cakes.”
The cakes are quite moist and the velvety cream cheese frosting sweet and thick. It can be a bit much for those who don’t like a lot of sugar. If that’s the case, go with their drizzled frosting.
Some of the flavors of cake offered are chocolate chip, pecan praline, white chocolate raspberry, carrot, and, of course, the requisite red velvet.
Kempf believes that working with her sister rather than a new business partner makes for an easier professional relationship.
“You already know your siblings, so you know what to expect,” Kempf said. “We know each other’s personalities and behavior and so we’re very direct with each other.”
In an effort to give back to the community, Kempf started a four-week partnership with Heal the Bay in an event called Bubbles and Bundts. The bakery offers samples of their cakes and serves Barefoot Bubbly champagne from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays. The partnership ends May 10. Twenty percent of sales from Fridays will go to Heal the Bay.
“It’s a nice local partnership and it’s reflecting what needs to be done to maintain Santa Monica beaches,” Kempf said.
“I’m passionate about different charities that we can get involved in and that’s something we’re gonna continue to do going forward,” Kempf added. “It’s important to give back.”
While Kempf admitted that she would consider opening new cake shops in other cities if the opportunity arose, she said she would like to stay in Santa Monica until she retires.
“There’s such a great sense of neighborhood and community here,” Kempf said. “We’re so grateful to be a part of that. So yes, I can have my cake and eat it too.”
If you go
Nothing Bundt Cakes
927 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, Calif.