Simply Sweet Cupcakes, a boutique bakery on Philadelphia Avenue in Egg Harbor City, may have been in business only nine months of 2012, but its impact on the city's downtown district has been big.
Owners and sisters-in-law Gina and Jacquelin Ciaburri have energized a rebuilding strip of Egg Harbor City as much through their enthusiasm as through their tempting treats, bringing increased foot traffic to Philadelphia Avenue and motivating neighboring businesses in the process, leading to their being named the 2012 Business of the Year by Egg Harbor City's Chamber of Commerce.
"These are two high-energy women," said Chamber media coordinator Nanette LoBiondo Galloway. "They are real fireballs, and it's kind of rubbed off on some of their neighboring businesses. They're spurring a little competition, and we feel that's a helpful thing. "
The Ciaburris co-founded Simply Sweet in 2011 after participation in their kids' bake sale led to rave reviews, and the pair opened their brick-and-mortar storefront at 130 Philadelphia Ave. on March 31.
When the pair first looked to expand their business outside their home, their initial thought was to simply rent a kitchen space, but when they heard Egg Harbor City was looking to boost its ailing downtown, they knew what they had to do.
"We were looking for a kitchen to rent out," Gina said. "We didn't want to open up a storefront, all this other stuff. Once we found out that Egg Harbor City is trying to rebuild, I think we kind of looked at it as, that's our big challenge."
Simply Sweet was an instant hit with its wide array of cupcakes and other confections. Their suite of sweets includes popular staples such as Death by Chocolate and tiramisu as well as more out-there varieties such as the sweet-and-salty French toast and bacon or the pepper-infused Mexican cupcake.
The Ciaburris have been highly supportive of the Egg Harbor City community, donating their goods for ribbon-cuttings and for Chamber events such as the annual Christmas Tree Lighting.
They've also become close with other businesses in the city, developing a friendly rivalry with homebrew supplier Tap It, opposite them on Philadelphia Avenue, and with Mario's Uptown Grill, next door.
The Ciaburris have likewise developed close relationships with many of their customers, which they believe is an important part of a successful business.
"We always want people to come in and give us opinions, whether it's 'Your stuff sucked yesterday,' or 'Hey, this is awesome,'" Jacquelin said.
Joanne Yost, a frequent patron at Simply Sweet, grew up down the road from the shop in the South Egg Harbor section of Galloway Township.
After a brief stretch away from the area when her husband was in the service, she returned, and has lived there for 30 years. As such, she's seen the ups and downs of Egg Harbor City. And with new blood like Simply Sweet in town and Miss America contestant Lindsey Petrosh putting Egg Harbor City on the map in Las Vegas, things are looking up.
"We have them, we have Lindsey (Petrosh), we have all these good things coming," Yost said. "Hopefully, our town will flourish with more great businesses like that."
For more information about Simply Sweet Cupcakes, visit the shop at 130 Philadelphia Ave. or call 609-489-3611.
The Chamber of Commerce is holding a Denim, Diamonds and Dancing-themed gala in Simply Sweet's honor Feb. 2 at the Tuscany House, 72 N. Bremen Ave. Tickets are $40 and include Caesar salad, antipasto, penne pasta, herb-crusted chicken and more. Tickets are available at greatereggcham
ber.com or by calling 609-965-5681.
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