In 2007, Nicole Longo capitalized on the national demand for gourmet cupcakes by opening The Cupcake Spot on South Dale Mabry Highway across from Plant High School.
In 2009, she opened a second store on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg and relocated the Tampa store to South MacDill Avenue to take advantage of larger baking facilities left behind by Mike's Pies.
On Dec. 31, Longo posted a note on the outside of the Tampa bakery announcing she is consolidating her baking at the St. Petersburg retail store, closing the MacDill Avenue shop and focusing on expanding her catering operation in Tampa.
Longo this week said the dynamics of the two stores changed dramatically over the years, with almost 80 percent of the Tampa shop's revenue coming from catering. On Dec. 31, she delivered 1,000 cupcakes for the Outback Bowl's annual pregame party.
"Following in the likes of Kim Bailey and Mike's Pies, who are now focused solely on wholesaling or catering, we saw closing our retail store in Tampa as a way to better service our catering customers," Longo said Thursday.
In October, restaurateur Kim Bailey closed Bailey's restaurant on Davis Islands to concentrate on catering. Revenue he made from serving the Republican National Convention convinced him that the effort to turn the patio outside Bailey's into an outdoor bar was more work than he wanted.
From the beginning, The Cupcake Spot in Tampa faced many economic challenges.
Although business exploded in 2007, the recession in 2008 and 2009 made operations difficult for all sellers of boutique and gourmet food. Wholesale prices of baking commodities such as flour and butter also were volatile during that time.
In recent years, competitors such Frostings etc... on South Howard Avenue crowded the market as the popularity of using cupcakes as a wedding accessory skyrocketed.
Longo said rent for the South Tampa retail space, located a few doors down from the popular restaurant and bar Pane Rustica, also contributed to the consolidation. At the end, The Cupcake Spot paid almost $40,000 a year in rent
"I really think this is a great opportunity to reduce overhead but still provide our sweet gourmet treats to the South Tampa area with an almost seamless transition," Longo said.
She plans to sell the cupcakes at other retail locations in Tampa. The upscale convenience store Rainbow Mart on South Howard Avenue across from Samba Room has agreed to sell her "cuppies" on a preorder basis.
The irony: Longo locked the front door in Tampa for the last time as her mail carrier delivered a letter from Florida Gov. Rick Scott congratulating her on being in business for five years.
"I couldn't have dreamt up that scenario," she said. "And we were left with one cupcake at the end of the day: The Cuppy!"