Interesting in 2010: Betties Cakes' Lorraine Murphy

Lorraine Murphy on the cupcake bus

Lorraine on Dee Dee, the cupcake bus.

One of the best things about working on AOA is that we get the chance to meet a lot of interesting people. We'll be highlighting a handful of them between now and the start of 2011.

We first met Lorraine Murphy in 2009 when she was shooting cheesecake photos of Capital Region women dressed as classic pin-up models. In November of that year, she and her husband opened Bettie's Cakes. And one double-decker cake stand later, they've got the beginnings of a sweet little empire.

lorraine murphy as bettieIn the past year Lorraine and her husband John have expanded Bettie's Cakes from a spot in Saratoga's Downstreet Marketplace to a rolling double-decker cupcake cafe (Dee Dee), a second truck (Cee Cee), and now a second shop in Colonie Center.

All this has happened as the Capital Region has gone a little crazy about cupcakes. Other local bakeries such as Coccadots, Sweet Temptations, and Fluffalicious now have cupcake trucks that roll through the area.

But this "cucakery cafe" is selling more than cupcakes. One of the things we find interesting about Bettie's is how Lorraine and John have branded and packaged the Bettie's experience.

Lorraine took a little time away from the busy holiday cupcake schedule last week to talk about the success of the bus and her plans for the future of Bettie's.

Bettie's has grown to four outlets inside of a year. Did you expect all that to happen so quickly?

No, we didn't expect to grow this much in the first year. But the popularity grew and we wanted to be convenient for people.

More than 20 people work for us now. We hired a manager and that's helping a lot. Last year it was just John and less than ten people doing pretty much everything.

The cupcake bus started a trend in the Capital Region. There are now a few bakeries that have cupcake trucks. Does that bug you?

Oh noooo. We feel like it's flattery. I tell people that every Lowe's has a Home Depot across the street -- and it only helps business. It helps call attention to the whole cupcake trend in the Capital Region.

What was the light bulb moment like when you said "Oh yes, a double decker cupcake bus?"

That was my husband John's idea. He and I formed Bettie's together and we wanted it to be a fun business. We both had our separate businesses (he owns Core Physical Therapy), and I have the pin-up photos. We wanted it to be fun.

We'd seen cupcake trucks and Airstream campers in Texas and California and New York City, but we wanted to do something a little different -- and there was no place with a mobile cafe.

I was like, "Wow that's huge!" But immediately I loved it. He told me about the double-decker bus while we were at the Travers wine tasting. Then he said, "When you get home, pack a bag because we're flying out to LA to buy the bus tomorrow."

We tried to drive it back but it died in the Mojave Desert at 2:30 in the morning, but while it was being restored and repaired and ready to drive again we had a little time to plan things.

The bus has been wonderful. It was part of a national contest for the Great American Food Truck Race. That national exposure was great for us as a company.

Bettie's branding is such a big part of the business. The character of Bettie, the style, the logo. How did you come up with all that?

We thought a lot about branding. We threw around images logos and styles. Since I'm an artist, some were images I drew -- cartoonish figures of Dee Dee -- but they just didn't seem to work. They were too... childish.

We brought in the whole 1950s feel and I think it sets us aside from other bakeries. We worked with a graphic designer in Texas that I knew. I told him I had this idea that Bettie would be a 1950s housewife and he came up with the rest.

Why the 50s motif?

Because we wanted that home cooked, family, quality time image -- kind of Susie Homemaker in the big flowing dress. And because we don't use trans-fats or chemicals or preservatives, we wanted an image that kind of went with that home cooked feeling.

She's Susie Homemaker...but she's kind of glamorous.

She is very glamorous. And that's what I've always said about the 50s -- it was such a glamorous time and you could be different. It wasn't cookie cutter -- everyone had their own style.

It's why I love the pinup photos. I'm still doing those as well. This year I'm going to offer burlesque photos as well -- playing off all of that glamor.

What do you know now that you didn't know a year ago?

Oh my gosh, we're constantly learning everyday. That's the new mantra around here.

Just last week john caught on fire on Dee Dee trying to hook up frozen propane tanks. We learned not to do that again (laughs). He's OK, but he had to get a haircut.

Seriously though, learning about product ordering and pricing and development and managing employees -- learning how to use social media to our benefit -- there's always something new. We weren't professional bakers, we didn't go to culinary school -- so we even had to learn that.

But I'm that kind of person -- we both are. If you give me a challenge I'm going to do it. There was no one to do pin-up shoots in the Capital Region when I started that. I was an artist, but I had no photography background. I just said, "I think that's a good idea" -- and then I learned how to do it.

Sounds like it's been a lot of hard work. Would you do it again?

Oh my god, yeah! I wouldn't have given this up. I knew it would be hard. I didn't think it would be this hard, but I knew it would be hard.

What's next?

Well, we just signed a lease with Colonie Center, so we'll be there for at least another year. We're looking at expanding to some other cities. We're not sure if we want to franchise or have other locations. We're looking at Boston, and some places in Florida.

And we've got some other plans that we're not quite ready to talk about yet, but they're really cool ideas, and we're really excited about them.

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

photos via Lorraine Murphy

Comments

I have to say I uh, like that picture. I enjoy a little cleavage with my cupcakes!

I went to the Bettie's in Colonie Ctr recently. Delicious!!

Lorraine is awesme!!! love me some Betties Red Velvet cakes!! Congrats guys!

Wait, her real name's not Bettie?!?! I feel so deceived...

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Stuff to do this weekend

It's the holiday weekend and the unofficial kick off to summer. So, what's your plan? After the jump, not one, not two, but three days... (more)

New York State could be closer to allowing Uber and Lyft to operate here. Maybe. Sort of.

It's been more than two years since a local campaign started to get "ride sharing" services such as Uber and Lyft to come to the... (more)

They haven't gone bald yet

That pic above is a pair of bald eagle chicks that biologists from the state Department of Environmental Conservation recently banded in Albany County. From... (more)

The Remains Of The Day with James Ivory at The Madison

The Madison Theater will screening The Remains of the Day June 18 -- and the film's famous director, James Ivory, will be there for a... (more)

Fence 2016

The annual Fence show recently opened at the Arts Center of the Capital Region and we stopped in this week to browse for a few... (more)

Recent Comments

My son was born in November, and we love Harmony Mills Pediatrics in Cohoes. It's run by Mary Kathleen DiTursi who has a PhD in Engineering from RPI before getting her MD. She's basically a big (well qualified) nerd, and a kid at heart (she wears tee shirts with cartoon character's to work) She is so sweet to our baby, and very good at supporting our decisions. ...

Stuff to do this weekend

...has 2 comments, most recently from s

New York State could be closer to allowing Uber and Lyft to operate here. Maybe. Sort of.

...has 5 comments, most recently from S

They haven't gone bald yet

...has 1 comment, most recently from Rob

Thinking about Capital Region commuter rail

...has 11 comments, most recently from Herbert

A good pediatrician in Rensselaer County or nearby?

...has 6 comments, most recently from Brooke