Collin County is about to get a little bit sweeter, as Sweet Arleen’s, the three-peat winning bakery from Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” is expanding its franchise to west Plano.
Based in Westlake Village, Calif., Sweet Arleen’s bakes boutique-style gourmet cupcakes and flavored bread puddings. The company was founded in 2009 by banker-turned-baker Arleen Scavone.
“Rather than a baker opening a business, I became a business opening a bakery,” Scavone said. “It ties back to the 2008 crisis with the financial industry. I saw that many jobs were impacted, and luxuries that many families were accustomed to were no longer available to them. I could take this cupcake and make it a gourmet treat and experience.”
Shortly after opening its doors, Sweet Arleen’s was approached by the Food Network and asked to audition for its first season of “Cupcake Wars.”
“It’s not just about the product, it’s about the quality of execution and the speed,” Scavone said. “There’s a clock that ticks down, but we’re known for really incorporating the key ingredients that they unfold to us in a very planned precise, urgent, focused manner on the show.”
While Scavone said her bakers are veterans when it comes to competing and have been asked to return to the show many times, right now her focus is elsewhere.
“We get calls, but at this point I’m looking at competing in the real cupcake wars, which is in the marketplace,” she said. “One thousand percent of my energy is in that marketplace and with my franchisees of Sweet Arleen’s so we can win cupcake wars in the real world.”
One local franchisee, Tiffany Jordan, of Murphy, first heard about Sweet Arleen’s while watching the Cooking Channel’s “Unique Sweets.”
“It was the bread pudding that sold me,” Jordan said. “I had been looking for a franchise, and so I knew that owning a business was what I wanted to do next. I started looking at all the possibilities, and I kept coming back to that it had to be a bakery – it had to be something I’m passionate about.”
After signing with Sweet Arleen’s last May, Jordan spent 10 months hunting for the perfect location. The new store, slated to open in August, will be at Preston Park Center in front of Market Street.
“Demographically, it’s a good fit,” she said. “It’s a higher-end product, not a grocery store bakery product. The market in Plano is right for that. I think there are multiple markets in Dallas that would have worked as well, but I live in Murphy and wanted to be more connected by a community standpoint.”
Scavone agreed that the Dallas-Fort Worth area is a great area for her business.
“I am very familiar with the Texas market and consider my second home around the DFW area,” she said. “I love the market. I love Texas. You see trends of the finest chefs gravitating to Texas, not only the Dallas area, but Houston and Austin as well. You also have the food truck industry becoming a phenomenon here, which is part of our operation. Whenever I bring cupcakes and bread puddings out to my Dallas business associates, they can’t wait to open stores there.”
Scavone said she plans on opening between five and seven stores in the Metroplex, including Sweet Arleen’s Mobile Cupcake Suite food trucks.
“One of the things the Sweet Arleen’s franchise offers is a mobile unit, like a cupcake truck,” Jordan said. “That is where I want to expand most immediately, so I could reach out around Plano and into surrounding areas to expand the reach of the product.”
Sweet Arleen’s sells both traditional – chocolate, vanilla, red velvet – and specialty cupcakes that range between $3.25 and $3.75. The bakery also has numerous gluten-free and sugar-free options, including mocha truffle and chocolate marshmallow.
“Our flavor profiles are just amazing, and I think people are going to just love this frosting,” Jordan said. “It’s something unique to the market. Everything is made fresh daily, and all cupcakes at the end of the day that aren’t purchased are donated, and I think that’s an important thing.”
While Jordan’s favorite products are the bread pudding, which comes in both sweet and savory varieties, and strawberry cupcakes, she said it’s the icing that makes all the difference.
“I’ve never been a fan of traditional buttercream frosting that’s on most cupcakes that you’ll find in the store,” she said. “Sweet Arleen’s uses French and Swiss buttercream, which is a more sophisticated frosting. It kind of melts in your mouth and is to die for. You’re not going to find Swiss meringue buttercream on very many products.”
As Scavone expands her brand nationwide, she said her three- to five-year plan is narrowly focused on 25 national markets.
“From a business perspective, I’m used to running national operations,” she said. “I’m a process expert. I knew that in order to grow my business I had to make a decision about local versus national, and I know national players have trouble replicating consistency, which happens to be my core strength. From being the three-peat winner on ‘Cupcake Wars,’ the national publicity created the foundation to make that [possible] sooner than I ever expected.”
In addition to the bakery, which features culinary-trained pastry chefs, Sweet Arleen’s also does special events and hosts parties in-house.
“While we’re no Disneyland, we have a lot of people who come in because they love coming in,” Scavone said. “Our brand promise is creating a consistently happy experience for our customers.”
And from the first conversation Scavone had with her new Plano franchisee, she knew Jordan was the right fit to expand her brand and her vision.
“What I liked about Tiffany is she understood the value of a process,” Scavone said. “I looked at her as someone very similar to my profile. [She has a] culinary passion and wants to be an entrepreneur. Tiffany is going to be actively involved every day in this business, and I trust her to open the doors to Sweet Arleen’s in Plano and be successful.”
For information, visit sweetarleens.com.