Legendary Ms Cupcake bakery to close
This one hurts.
It has been just over 24 hours since the announcement was made, so the feelings are still fresh.
Legendary (I mean, really REALLY legendary) vegan bakery business Ms. Cupcake announced it is set to close in March 2020.
This is sad news but of course it is not completely surprising.
I talk with vegan business owners often and they are struggling. People want convenience and are willing to sacrifice independently owned vegan businesses to get it. It feels like our community is increasingly becoming a block of faceless consumers unable (or unwilling) to support small business.
This phenomenon already happened to non-vegan businesses, with many independent stores shuttering their doors over the past few decades.
Now it feels like it is veganism’s turn to lose our pioneering retailers and business owners to big ticket capitalism.
The Ms. Cupcake bakery in Brixton stayed open a lot longer than it should have thanks to owner and founder Mellissa Morgan and her ingenuity, talent, and compassion. The vegan retail scene changed drastically and radically, but Mellissa kept her head above water with savvy choices. Her cupcake distribution deal with Whole Foods Market stores was one of the first major deals of its kind for a vegan business in the UK.
If you want to know what hard work looks like, study the output of Ms. Cupcake.
Mellissa started her business with all-night baking marathons followed by all-day selling stints at outdoor markets. She turned the London vegan scene upside down with her delicious and inventive creations, giving us hope that a better future for animals was around the corner and it included cake.
The Ms. Cupcake business was born at a time when London was still a struggle for vegans. Seriously, if you were vegan ten years ago you will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Mellissa showed us that we could expect more as vegan consumers while she also inspired dozens and dozens of others to take a risk with vegan business.
Ms. Cupcake didn’t just open the door through which other superstar vegans businesses strolled. Mellissa’s bakery smashed the door off its hinges.
We suddenly had a world class vegan food business and is not dramatic to say it felt like a hopeful new dawn for London.
The opening of the physical bakery location in Brixton took things to another level.
People would come from all over the UK to visit the bakery. Remember, this was long before vegan cake options were even a thought for Costa or Tesco. Ms. Cupcake gave us a peek into a strange new world and we lost our collective shit over it.
People would even come straight from the airport with their luggage because of all the hype. They couldn’t wait.
Mellissa wasn’t just a clever and talented cake maker. She showed us you could do all of this and also do what was right for your community.
Because of her kindness, the Ms. Cupcake and Fat Gay Vegan stories are inextricably connected. Mellissa went above and beyond what most would do by allowing me to start my monthly London Vegan Potluck social event (and then host it for six months) in the space outside her shop.
Four years later, when London Vegan Potluck was coming to and end, Mellissa and her team showed up to our final event with a personalised cake to thank me for my contributions to the London vegan community.
When London was absolutely bereft of exciting vegan social events, Mellissa allowed me to host a vegan pizza party in her shop on two occasions. I was desperate to create social capital for vegans and Mellissa and her bakery team were on the frontline with me.
I was once in the pub a few doors down from the Ms. Cupcake bakery, indulging in a few afternoon beers, when a random local pub goer noticed I had a box of Ms. Cupcake goodies on my table. He told me that when violent protests erupted around London (including Brixton) during August 2011 following the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of police, Mellissa went into the streets and gave away cakes to protestors.
This local pub goer had tears in his eyes as he told me that nobody touched or went near Mellissa’s bakery during the violence because of her act of support, solidarity, and community strengthening. He said everyone around those parts saw her as a good person and a treasured member of their community.
Through the bakery, Mellissa gave many people their first ever vegan job. Her team evolved over the years, however Mellissa always kept a strong, dedicated, and well trained group of people by her side.
I’m even friends with some of her team members to this day!
Mellissa gave her time and expertise with grace and humility.
Following on from her groundbreaking and highly-influential recipe book (which you need to order online here), many people started copycat baking businesses around the UK.
When I would ask her about this, Mellissa would shrug and wish them well. She really just wanted vegan cake to be everywhere and understood that she had created a sugary monster that she couldn’t control, so instead she hoped for the best for all the people following in her footsteps.
If you attended community events and vegan fairs in the early days, Mellissa could be found giving up her precious time and expertise for cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, and personal appearances. She worked as hard on building our vegan scene as she did on her own business.
At a time when we were all scrambling to build a vegan movement that would put compassion into the mainstream, Mellissa was ahead of the game with a world class product and an unwavering smile on her face.
I would never be able to overstate how important her role was in making veganism the unstoppable social and commercial concern it is now.
Mellissa might very well be the most important vegan business person that London has ever known. She is the original. Vegan Nights. Temple of Seitan. Hackney Downs Vegan Market. We all followed.
We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ms. Cupcake.
Extra note: I think you should all follow Ms. Cupcake on Instagram. Something tells me that she will be back with vegan goodness in some form before we know it.
Extra extra note: for goodness sake, buy her cookbook online NOW. Let’s send Mellissa out with a bang.