Dozen reopening

By Gwenn Barney

All cupcakes rise, but some rise twice.

Over the course of a worrying month for dessert… All cupcakes rise, but some rise twice.

Over the course of a worrying month for dessert lovers, Dozen Bakery announced the closing of both its Oakland and Lawrenceville locations in July, only to promise weeks later reopenings at the end of August under new ownership.

The bakeries, which specialize in gourmet cupcakes, closed due to a decline in sales. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Dozen took in 45 percent less profit this June than it had in the same month the year before.

Dozen locations also existed at one point in Squirrell Hill, Downtown, the South Side and the North Side before they closed. The company even tried to open a mobile cupcake truck before seemingly closing its doors for good this summer.

On July 9, the store, which also serves a variety of pastries, soups and sandwiches, hosted a farewell sale at its Lawrenceville location. Cupcake aficionados from across the city formed a line stretching out the door to purchase a final favorite treat. Little did the Dozen-lovers know that the store’s savior was among them — Doreen Valentine.

“I started talking to James [Gray, former owner] the day of the final closing,” Valentine, Dozen’s new owner, said.

Gray declined to comment for the story until all paperwork for the business transition is complete.

The venture is hardly Valentine’s first brush with the world of small business. In 2008, she opened a branch of Camp Bow Wow, an upscale doggie daycare near Pittsburgh in Castle Shannon, which employs 17 workers. She also opened Camp Bow Wows in Arizona and New Mexico, which she later sold.

Although Valentine doesn’t have past business experience in baking, she said Dozen’s strong customer following intrigued her.

“I read a couple books in the past on being an entrepreneur, and they said find something you love and do something with that,” Valentine said. “I love cupcakes and baking and the community feeling you find at Dozen with regulars visiting.”

And customers can’t wait until the reopening.

Jessalyn Abram, 29, of Shadyside said that she can’t wait until the reopening because it’s been too long since her last Elvis cupcake — a banana cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with peanut butter buttercream frosting.

Eric Bradley, 24, of Bloomfield said that he misses Dozen.

“Even though now with the reopening, I’ll be tempted to go in every time I walk by one,” Bradley said.

Although Valentine said that she has not set a reopening date yet because of cosmetic work at the Lawrenceville location, which include new floors, paint, furniture and lighting, the Dozen team aims for a tentative reopening Aug. 27.

“You never know with construction,” Valentine said.

Valentine said she hopes to have a grand reopening party two weeks after the bakery opens its doors again. Her current schedule would tentatively place the celebration for the weekend after Labor Day.

The Oakland location won’t see nearly as many changes to its appearance, with only a new paint job and a change in art decoration in the store.

Like the minor external changes made to the Oakland locations, Valentine said changes to the bakery’s recipes will be minor as well.

The new baking staff is currently taste-testing the different recipes to determine if any ingredients need to be tweaked.

Valentine said Lindsey Healy, new head pastry chef, has already begun playing with the batter recipe for the cupcakes. She’s heard from some customers that the cupcakes are sometimes dry.

One thing bakers won’t touch, Valentine said, is the recipe for the cupcakes’ famous icing.

Staying true to her business origins, Valentine said she might at some point add doggie biscuits to the Dozen menu.

An entirely new staff will be hired by Valentine for the Lawrenceville location, where Dozen’s baking is exclusively conducted. She said the Oakland location, which lacks a kitchen, will retain as floor staff most of the same employees who worked there before the ownership change.

Dozen’s former owner, Gray, will stay on board with the store until September to train new staff in Dozen’s baking techniques.

Valentine is also considering a reintroduction of Dozen’s Sunday brunches. The brunches would likely be held at the Lawrenceville location.

The return of daily soup and sandwhiches are also expected at the Lawrenceville location. In Oakland, Valentine said plans are in the works to provide boxed lunches, which might include a sandwich, cupcake and piece of fruit.

“James is talking to me about how to run a bakery,” Valentine said. “He’s teaching our staff the recipes and the proper way to bake them.”

One of Valentine’s interests as a small business owner is in contributing to charity through her stores. She said she is considering donating a portion of Dozen’s profits to a different animal charity each month.