A Sarasota couple is bringing their gourmet cupcakes home after offering the sweets in St. Petersburg.
Sarasota residents Jeanette and Jose Cando turned over their Sweet! St. Petersburg shop to son Daniel Cando, 30, allowing for a hometown expansion. Sweet! In The City opened this week in the Parkway Collection shopping center, 6350 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, University Park.
"We have the rest of the family here, we know people here," said Jose Cando, who also works at Mediterraneo Restaurant in downtown Sarasota. "We enjoy living in Sarasota."
Their foray into cakes started with a cake factory in Orlando 10 years ago when Jose Cando was involved in real estate and Jeanette wanted to start a cake business. The market slowed and they moved their shop to St. Petersburg in 2012 while maintaining a home in Sarasota for the last 18 years.
Cando wanted to open in downtown Sarasota, but the high rent pushed him along University Parkway where he found a space adjacent to the Parkway Cinema.
"Just from people walking out of the movie theater, every time they walk out, we have a rush here," he said.
The gourmet cupcakes are $3 each, featuring icing piled high with flavors such as orange creamsicle, red velvet, dulce de leche, Boston cream pie and pina colada. The shop also offers vegan and gluten free options.
Jeanette Cando, who has long made wedding cakes, was inspired to make gourmet cupcakes after watching the bakers on the Food Network.
"She came up with the recipes, how to create them, how to mix the flavors with the cake mix, fillings and toppings," said her husband, as Jeanette was shy about speaking in English. "Everything comes from her mind."
Furthering the family atmosphere, Jose Cando's brother and sister, Rey and Diana Cando, helped with construction of the Sarasota shop.
"It makes us feel proud -- not only the product that she creates, but the environment we create here," Cando said.
The Candos' shop is more than a place to pick up a cupcake after catching a flick at the Parkway Cinema.
The shop hosts birthday parties, girls' nights out and bachelorette parties that turn the place into a cupcake bar.
Classes are also offered for $38 per student, while birthday parties are $25 per child. The birthday child gets a hat and apron as they play pastry chef for the night. They'll decorate the place and order soda and pizza if the parents wish.
"We give them a hat and an apron, and they have the opportunity to play with the cupcakes, with the pastry bags to decorate the cakes and put on the toppings," Cando said. "We give them a small session to teach them how to make the cupcakes."
The bachelorette parties become an adult affair as partygoers are allowed to bring in champagne or wine, he added.
The cupcakes are also used to market wedding and birthday cakes. Wedding cakes can go for $700 while a take-home birthday cake can range from $25 to about $100. The cupcakes keep the shop busy, Cando said, and they also offer coffee, espresso and gelato made from a St. Armands Italian restaurant, Settimi's, which supplies other area restaurants with gelato.
The shop is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 941-487-8428.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.