Trophy Cupcakes is at 223 W. Galer St.
Trophy Cupcakes is at 223 W. Galer St.

Trophy Cupcakes founder Jennifer Shea said expanding her business is a delicate dance. While she’s been courted about growing outside the Seattle area, she said staying local allows her to maintain quality while not putting a strain on her team.

She found her new Queen Anne shop space while browsing commercial real estate sites.

“It’s almost like people who are always looking on Zillow for new houses,” Shea said.

Unlike her other five Trophy Cupcakes locations, the Queen Anne shop is smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood, where Aegis Living once ran a Queen Bee Café at 223 W. Galer St.

“The space, when it presented itself, it just felt like a slam dunk,” Shea said.

Having mostly been built out, it only took three weeks to change the space to Trophy Cupcakes colors, put in a cupcake case and make a few other slight modifications. Opening the new location just before Christmas had its own challenges, she said.

The first Trophy Cupcakes opened in Wallingford in 2007, and had been years in the making.

While Shea has had a passion for baking since she was a child, she said it wasn’t something that was nurtured.

“It was, ‘You should be a doctor. You should be a scientist.’ It wasn’t, ‘What’s your passion?’” she said.

Shea was inspired to start her cupcake business after seeing a shop in New York while hanging out with her girlfriends. She’d gone to Bastyr University to study nutrition and dietetics, and had just passed her board exam, she said, but was feeling unfulfilled creatively.

Rather than jumping into a cupcake venture right away, Shea joined her then-boyfriend and his rock band on a tour that allowed her to bank ideas while traveling Europe and acting as merchandise manager.

Years later, one of those band members told her he was interested in making some investments and to write up a business plan. It wasn’t until four years later, when she met her husband, Mike Williamson, that everything started coming together.

“He really is the one who kicked it into gear and said, ‘Move in with me and write your business plan,’” Shea said.

Williamson ended up quitting his job as director of technology at a small ad firm to partner with Shea on opening Trophy Cupcakes, developing its website and graphic designs.

“He’s a behind-the-scenes guy,” Shea said, “and people don’t realize that we did this 100 percent together.”

Trophy Cupcakes locations are stocked with baked goods that come from a commercial kitchen in Rainier, but the first location in Wallingford produced cupcakes on site.

Shea said they quickly outgrew that 200-square-foot kitchen, boosted by an insatiable demand for Trophy Cupcakes after she was invited to bake for Martha Stewart on her show in 2008.

“That was a sweet spot — not to make a pun — that was a sweet spot for cupcakes,” Shea said of the timing of her business.

After appearing on Martha Stewart, Shea said Trophy Cupcakes was getting calls from around the country, but they weren’t offering shipping. People can now order cupcakes or macaron for pickup at any location a day in advance or 48 hours for cakes and tarts. Trophy also delivers to most zip codes in the Seattle/Bellevue area.

Whatever doesn't sell in her shops gets donated to area food banks, Shea said, and she's already been connected with a neighbor who is taking cupcakes down to the Queen Anne Food Bank.

Trophy Cupcakes joins Top Pot Doughnuts and Molly Moon’s on West Galer Street, each a stone’s throw from each other. Shea said she’s toying with the idea of coining the stretch as “Dessert Row.”

“This neighborhood is so fun and family-oriented that I think there’s a lot of opportunity to do some fun stuff,” she said.

Shea met and befriended Molly Moon's founder Molly Moon Nietzel when she opened her first ice cream shop down the street from Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford in 2008. She said she's happy to be part of a community of businesswomen in Seattle who help each other.

When asked her philosophy for running a successful business, Shea said it's about having passion for what you're doing and, when it comes to cupcakes, good timing.

“There's only a one-minute difference from a really good cupcake and a really bad cupcake.”