By Brandi Cowen
The grand opening of CakeStar Inc. is a lifelong dream come true for Barbara Accogli and Monja Chiaravalloti.
|Barbara Accogli shows off a flower that will be incorporated into sister Monja Chiaravalloti’s stunning design.|
The grand opening of CakeStar Inc. is a lifelong dream come true for Barbara Accogli and Monja Chiaravalloti. The two sisters were raised in their parents’ Italian bakery, which opened in 1985 and quickly became a hub for the family. Growing up in the bakery sparked a passion for baking in both girls that’s stuck with them into adulthood.
Four years ago, the sisters staked out a corner of the family bakery. There, Chiaravalloti designed breathtaking edible art while Accogli managed their fledgling business. Their cake creations appeared on Toronto’s CP24 noon-hour broadcast and the talk show CityLine, as well as on the pages of magazines like Canadian Living, Today’s Bride, and the May 2009 issue of Bakers Journal.
Last year, with mom and dad looking forward to retirement, the sisters knew it was time to move into a space of their own. Their search did not go smoothly at first, but everything happens for a reason. Today, they’re thrilled to have a storefront at 3431 Lakeshore Blvd. in Etobicoke, Ont.
Bakers Journal was there for CakeStar Inc.’s media grand opening and chatted with Accogli and Chiaravalloti about finding their dream location, and the possibilities the new space brings.
Can you tell me about your hunt for a location?
Accogli / We actually had a location all planned out in the Dufferin and Wilson area. That went through some legal issues. We had been ready to move in there, but we weren’t able to…. We were ready to jump out of the bakery and my parents were about to retire, so we knew there was a timeline.
Chiaravalloti / We really searched for about a year for a location that we liked.
Accogli / We wanted the Junction, but then we were driving along Lakeshore and saw lots of little places for rent. I loved this place! I loved the display windows and I thought, “Cakes!” We called the real estate agent right away and she said it was still free.
There’s lots of walking traffic, which we wouldn’t have had at Dufferin and Wilson. We’re so excited to have that. It’s changed our perspective. We weren’t going to do retail with the little cupcakes, but then people kept walking in and saying, “Hi, so what are you selling?” And we had nothing! That’s how this came about. First and foremost we’re a custom cake shop, and then we expand because you can only do so much.
What are you most excited about, now that you’re here?
Chiaravalloti / For me, it’s that I can now put into play all of these ideas that I’ve had running around: having all these classes and workshops; having special needs children come in; getting involved with the school board. Besides that, I love to make cakes and can really have space to do that. I have my own table now that I can work on!
Accogli / The thing that we love here is that we can already feel the sense of community. We grew up with that, with our family being Italian and always around people. We love that we have that community. People have already welcomed us with open arms, so we’re so excited to show them what we can do.
Chiaravalloti / And to be part of it!
What’s your favourite thing about being in this space?
Accogli / The space – the actual size. And we love the way we turn it into a sort of open studio for people to see what we really do. We didn’t really get that chance before. It was closed off with the wall and people couldn’t see us work.
Chiaravalloti / People are curious. They’re always like, “Oh my God, so that’s what happens!” I take it for granted because I’ve been doing it so long, but for most people, they walk by a cupcake I’m decorating and it’s such an inviting experience.
Have you already started offering classes and workshops?
Chiaravalloti / And birthday parties. Birthday parties will be great. I love kids. We both have them, and I’m really excited to be able to do that with them too.
Accogli / The mom aspect of our business is really important because we are two women with children.
Chiaravalloti / We have almost 3,000 fans on Facebook, and a lot of them are little girls. They love cake decorating, and there’s not really all that much out there for the tween-aged group to do this kind of thing, so I want to really offer that platform for them so they can come and learn a little bit. Most of them already have a hand for it.
Did you decide to offer the classes because people were requesting them, or was that something you wanted to do all along?
Accogli / We did it at the old location too.
Chiaravalloti / I’ve always taught different things – martial arts, makeup – I’ve always sort of fallen into that role.
I’m really self-taught, so at first it was like, “How do I teach somebody?” I had to learn that the first few years I was doing it.
Now it comes naturally. I make them comfortable, show them a few things, they practise. I think it came more because there was a request to learn that put us into that position for teaching. I love it.