Carrie Rengers

'Cupcake Wars' veteran eyes Wichita

A veteran of the first season of the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars "is looking to bring his own cupcake battle to Wichita.

Jeff Martin and his wife, Brandy , want to open their third Smallcakes, A Cupcakery , here.

They opened their first in Overland Park a little more than a year ago and their second in Olathe five months ago.

"It's the big thing right now," Martin says.

Or maybe we should say he's the big thing right now.

Martin was hand-picked by Whoopi Goldberg to be on "The View "Friday.

Here's how he thinks it came about.

Martin was doing well on "Cupcake Wars" last year until a big challenge where he had to create a pumpkin cupcake.

He forgot the pumpkin.

The judges loved the cupcake, but Martin confessed to the missing ingredient.

He's happy he did.

He says customers have told him, "If you would have lied, we would have never trusted you."

Goldberg appreciated it, too.

"Whoopi thought it was admirable that I told the truth."

Martin didn't fully understand his "View" invitation until he got there and saw "the big dogs of cupcakes."

They were businesses from both coasts that sell 5,000 to 10,000 cupcakes a day compared with his 1,500.

"So I'm sitting there with these people who are like the Starbucks of cupcakes," Martin says. "It was really cool to represent the Midwest."

He's come a long way in a short period of time.

Friends questioned his $3 cupcakes when he started Smallcakes.

"When we opened, people were like, dude ... this is totally going to fail."

Instead, it caught on — big time.

"It's just ridiculous now."

It's even big with Wichitans, Martin says.

"We're really excited about Wichita. I cannot tell you how many people ... come in from Wichita that already know about us, which is crazy."

That's when he said, "Wichita's got something going on. Maybe we need to get down there and take a look at it."

Martin says he's "very, very serious" about locating here and will spend Monday looking for space. Wichita friends have advised him to locate on North Rock Road, so that's what he wants.

Martin would like 1,000 square feet for his store, which also will have birthday parties.

He says he's "really looking to do this pretty fast." Most likely, that means within two months.

"It doesn't take us long to get going," Martin says.

"It's nice and simple. We don't build rockets. We just sell cupcakes."

'Timing's right'

Dave Dunn has sold his 10-year-old Emerson Biggin's in Old Town .

"Well, I have come up with another venture I want to pursue that I'm real passionate about," he says. "The timing's right."

Any hints as to what it will be?

"Something that's getting very popular in an industry that's starting to boom."

Within the restaurant realm?

"I will no longer be part of the restaurant business."

Dunn says it's a bittersweet departure.

"It's been fun. It's been trying at the same time."

Dunn says he likes to try new things.

Look for news about a change at his west-side Emerson Biggin's in the next week or so.

Chuck Miller, Dunn's longtime operations director, has purchased his downtown Emerson Biggin's, which includes the Rock Island Live venue.

"I've been with Dave since Day 1, so it's not like somebody new has come along," Miller says. "I've been running it since it opened."

Miller plans to keep things the same except for one addition.

He's adding Rock Island BBQ to the Rock Island space.

Miller will start with weekday lunches from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. "and see how it goes from there."

He might add nighttime meals and catering eventually.

The restaurant will have a buffet with a wide variety of meat, including mutton on occasion and burnt ends, the crispy little bits of brisket that Miller says other restaurants here don't seem to serve.

"That's barbecue."

Miller is from the Kansas City area and worked at quite a few barbecue joints there.

"I've been wanting to get back to doing some barbecuing for some time."

Look for the restaurant to open in early September.

You don't say

"Once I know I won't get fired, I'll let you know."

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