INWOOD — How sweet it is.
Tonnie’s Minis cupcake shop is once again open for business after being forced to shutter in May due to bad business decisions and issues with the Health Department, the owner explained.
The store at 4738 Broadway reopened October 24 with a redesigned interior and new business model — and a plan to get back to basics after a bumpy past year.
“I once thought I had lost anyone who came into this store because of the closures,” explained Tonnie Rozier, who originally opened the shop in August 2013 but was forced to temporarily shutter twice over a six-month period. “But people have said that the product was so good that they were hoping we would come back. When they see the changes, I think they understand.”
After initially using the shop as a base for custom cake orders, with some cupcake sales on the side, Rozier decided this time around to focus on the concept that made his Harlem location so popular: a create-your-own cupcake bar.
The Inwood location once offered only limited choices of pre-made cupcakes, but customers can now choose from nine cake flavors for the medium and large cupcakes, including red velvet, strawberry twist and Rozier’s signature carrot cake. Patrons can also pick their own icing flavor and toppings.
The store also got a facelift, with a long counter at the front of the shop showing off a wider variety of sweets and a new white and orange color scheme.
Rozier, who built a following by opening a store in the West Village and later expanding to Harlem and The Bronx, admitted to making some missteps over the past year that came at a serious cost.
Shortly after launching the Inwood store, Rozier struck a deal with Dallas BBQ to bake 60,000 cupcakes each week for the restaurants 11 New York City locations. The demand quickly overwhelmed Rozier and his staff, he said.
“It was like running a marathon, but with no preparation,” he said. “The Harlem and Inwood stores both took a backseat while I was working with Dallas BBQ, and that was a big mistake.”
Rozier decided to shut the Inwood location for a few months to regroup beginning in November 2013. He closed his Harlem location permanently a month later.
When he reopened the Inwood shop in April 2014, Rozier said he ran into trouble with the Department of Health regarding a special sink he failed to install. That violation led the business to recieve a "C" grade on its May inspection, records show.
“I was one step from just walking away,” he said of the shop, which reduced the number of violation points on a recent inspection from 32 in May to 2 in October, records show. “I was paying rent on a space I couldn’t make money from. But I love this area and I thought, I just have to make it over this one last hurdle.”
Rozier is now focused on rebuilding his business — one cupcake at a time.
He rents kitchen space at a business incubator on 168th Street in The Bronx and is doing most of the baking himself, a habit he’d gotten away from as the business grew.
“At one point last year, we were doing 75,000 cupcakes a week,” he said. “I lost sight of what this was, which was me making a product that I love. I’m back to baking and I love it.”
Locals praised the cupcakes but were frustrated by the inconsistentcy of the business.
"[They have] great cupcakes, but I never know if they’re closed for good or just temporarily," said Erica Santiago, who lives around the corner from the shop. "It’s made it hard for me to make this a regular spot."
Rozier understood customers' hesitation but said he plans to stay put this time.
“My hope is to regain the trust of the community," he said, "and to share the Tonnie’s experience with Inwood the way I did in Harlem."
Tonnie's medium-sized or "California" cupcakes sell for $2.50 each, while the large or "Hollywood" size cupcakes sell for $3.50 each. Minis can be purchased by the half-dozen only.