INSPIRE: Rebecca Riley, Peace, Love, and Cupcakes

By Megan Sheehan

 

None of the great stories out there have been written without conflict or struggle. What’s a protagonist without some fantastic battle of sorts? Your favorite character is situated in front of the ultimate of circumstances. They fight and fight and fight until they want to give up! And then? They come out on top.

This may ring true all too well for self-taught baker Rebecca Riley. Here we have a series of very specific and defining points which made this story possible. Most stories end up with a sweet ending. Rebecca’s story does not disappoint — in the end, we all get a touch of Peace, Love, and Cupcakes.

It all started back in 2007. Rebecca and her husband both began working for Insomnia Cookies, where she really got her first taste of baking and decorating. It was a skill she may not have even known she possessed. It didn’t take long for her to realize how much she enjoyed this seemingly minor trade. Rebecca would spend her downtime baking at home and practicing for fun.

The next few gigantic pushes came in 2011 from two separate customers while Rebecca was working at Denny’s. The first came from a regular customer who heard all about Rebecca’s joy of baking. He surprised her one day with a trunk full of cake pans, a Wilton decorating kit, piping bags, frosting tips, and other various baking tools. The next came from a woman who simply said “Just do it!” in regards to starting her own business.

“I’ll give you an extra $10 on top of your tip,” she told Rebecca. “Go home tonight and print 500 business cards from Vista Print. Make up a name — something cute that represents you. Create a Facebook page, invite all of your friends and family, start your prices really low. You don’t even have to make a profit yet; just get your money back. Get your name out there. Practice, and see what happens.”

So, being the wise woman she is, Rebecca did just that, forming Peace, Love and Cupcakes. Her first big order came a few months later in 2012: 200 cupcakes for a wedding reception.

“It was really exciting!” she said.

Rebecca worked at several other bakeries, including Corso’s Cookies, WalMart, Modern Malt and the Half Moon Bakery. There has been no other formal training for Riley who is otherwise self-taught. She recalls practicing at home

“I’d sit there on my couch with a piping bag and a flower nail, trying to make butter cream roses and just getting these little blobs every time,” she said. “I must have made 1,000 little blobs before I got a rose!”

Riley was baking out of her home kitchen for friends and family and taking online custom orders. She began offering weekly specials. Wedding orders were coming in. She was pulling all nighters trying to juggle her dream but also continue working and drawing income for her family of five. Her business was growing and her kitchen was shrinking. She decided she really did want a bakery of her own.

This is where things got difficult. The Rileys found a storefront to rent. They were hours from keys in hand when Rebecca received a terrible bit of business advice. The Rileys pulled out and, feeling deflated and defeated, gave up for a time. Rebecca shut down their page, and in that, her business.

But she didn’t give up baking. Rebecca continued to work, and dream. She got her DBA and began baking through the Syracuse Co-Op. As wonderful as that was, she missed doing her stuff. She opened the page back up and like a shot, they were back in business again. With new confidence, the Rileys found another store to rent, a café this time. Once again, however, it was just not meant to be. The lease fell through.

“I was crushed. I couldn’t even talk,” Rebecca said.

Again, she reached out to her following and explained her heartache and struggle. But this time, someone had a great piece of information. The old Liberty Bakery was looking for a renter. With a much-needed nudge from her husband, Rebecca reluctantly reached out. This, friends, is where Rebecca’s luck turned.

On Aug. 14, Rebecca Riley opened the doors to her own bakery at 1428 Burnet Ave., Syracuse. The old Liberty Bakery is once again filled with delicious smells, and Rebecca is doing her part to keep the historic atmosphere. She cherishes the 100-year-old prep table, and the marble table from Woolworth’s closing. Old pictures of the original owners and a Liberty bakery calendar dated 1946 adorn the walls. Rebecca is working on perfecting the classic Liberty Bakery custard to pay homage to the original bakery as a nod to her historic new home.

“I love to stress my appreciation for the support behind me,” she said. “That’s the biggest part of my story. I would have never had the confidence or the guts to go for this if I didn’t have so many people believe in me.”

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes is located at 1428 Burnet Ave in Syracuse and set to celebrate their Grand Opening on Sunday, Sept. 8. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday and closed Monday.

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