I sat down with Tammi Mattson-Bailey, proprietor of Polkadot Cupcakery and member of Ohio Creative Collective, to talk about her business, why cupcakes are better than cakes (smaller, cuter) and that time she made Rob Lowe eat his own face.
So do you kind of hate cupcakes now?
Certain days. I don’t really eat them. If I do a new recipe I’ll try it just to make sure everything is right. But I would prefer any other dessert. I can have cake whenever I want. Now if you have a cheesecake or brownies or cookies, then yay! I’m in.
How long have you been in business?
It’s almost six years. I’ve been at this spot [at Hayden Run Plaza] for two and a half years. I used to work in auto finance. But then I got laid off from that job while I was five months pregnant with our youngest. And I was the lady that always baked and brought stuff into work. So I was talking to my husband one day and I said, “The kids are getting older, we have this new baby. I don’t really want to go and sit in an office all day.” And he said, “You should sell your cupcakes,” because this was when the big cupcake craze was going on. And I thought, that’s just dumb. Who’s going to buy my cupcakes?
Well Rob Lowe, for one.
Yes! That was good. A friend of his was in charge of his after party desserts for his birthday party that year. So I got an email from her, and I thought it was a joke at first. She contacted me on a Thursday and needed them shipped to Malibu by Saturday. And I thought, oh no. You have to make them, freeze them, pack them in dry ice. It’s a process. I don’t even ship cupcakes normally, but since it was Rob Lowe I said okay. The day after I was upstairs looking on my phone and Twitter. And I start screaming and said “Rob Lowe tweeted my cupcakes!” And my kids were like, “Who’s Rob Lowe?”
So where did the name Polkadot Cupcakery come from?
When we were pregnant with our youngest she got all this polka dotted stuff. And my husband said, “If I see one more polka dot I’m going to lose my mind.” So it was really just to razz him. And then everyone was like it’s actually a really cute name!
I did peruse, a little too long, your photos of cupcakes. You do a lot of inventive flavors. Just a few that I saw: Strawberry Lemonade, Bailey’s Bomb, Fruity Pebbles, Hostess, Cookie Butter, Chocolate Jalapeno, and then of course Maple Bacon. How do you come up with these ideas? Do you experiment with flavors?
Family input is big. But customers come in all the time and ask for it too. We do experiment. We wanted to do an avocado flavored frosting, but it was too wet. The wetter it is the more powdered sugar you need to add but then it just starts tasting too sweet and you lose a lot of the other flavor. And that’s why a lot of places use flavorings to help with that. We try to stay away from any artificial flavorings if we can. All of our fruit cupcakes have fresh fruit in it. We puree the fruit into the buttercream too, so everything is fresh.
What is your best seller?
It varies, it really does. The fruit ones are always really good sellers. The Buckeye, of course. Maple bacon. The Cookies & Cream is a good on. Salted Caramel Pretzel is another big seller.
Which one is your favorite?
Blueberry Lemon and Cookie Butter are probably two of my favorites. I like any of the fruit ones really. But I love my frosting. It’s really light and not overly sweet. But I will eat the blueberry ones without the frosting and pretend it’s a muffin and it’s good for me.
You do a lot of themed cupcakes too. I saw whales, Minecraft and one with little Maker’s Mark bottles. What would be your ideal theme?
One of my favorites was Wizard of Oz. Alice in Wonderland was good too. We did Alice’s legs on the cupcake with her dress ruffled around it. We did the hat, the rabbit, the cheshire cat. The Wizard of Oz was fun because we took pieces of things. We did the lion’s courage, we did a gingham print with a red shoe on it, the emerald city. It’s fun getting a new theme. For a while I was making a lot of Super Mario Bros or sock monkeys.
I noticed on the day of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage you celebrated with rainbow cupcakes. For Ohio, that was a big deal. Do you think food is a good way for you to connect with the community on things like that?
It can be good or bad. I support gay marriage and all that. It’s hard when you have a business because you don’t want to alienate anybody. But there are certain things that I feel passionate about and I’ve got great gay and lesbian couples that come in here and I’ve done their wedding cupcakes. It was a good experience and they’re repeat customers. I haven’t had any backlash from anybody that I’m aware of, but you never know. I think in Columbus we’re so much more open-minded so that makes a difference.
Why did you join the Ohio Creative Collective?
Well I’ve done the Made Local Marketplace and that’s been good for us. We really enjoy doing it and we’ve met a lot of nice people. So I thought why not? And it supports Andrea and her business too. We’re all just supporting each other.
The Columbus community does seem more supportive of local businesses and their success than most places.
I think so. I guess I’ve never had a business anywhere else, but I do appreciate that fact here. I know there’s another competitor who is a franchise nearby but they just don’t get the same kind of love for that reason. I think people don’t really like supporting franchises. I know I like going to mom and pop places because I am one. And I want to support others. Columbus has always been good to us.
Find, follow, friend and like Polkadot Cupcakery:
Polkadot Cupcakery makes a limited amount of cupcakes fresh every day for walk-ins. Make sure to call ahead for large orders.
(614) 304-1DOT (1368)
2926 Hayden Run Plaza
Columbus, OH 43235
Written by Rebecca Ritchey
Ohio Creative Collective Leadership Committee Member