Iowa native to open third branch of Molly's Cupcakes this summer

BY KRISTEN EAST | APRIL 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Jamie Smith loves cake and hopes the downtown night scene will as well.

Smith plans on opening a Molly's Cupcakes branch at 14 S. Clinton St. in mid-July. The business, she said, would serve as an alternative to Iowa City's bar scene.

"I think it's a great alternative for younger adults," said Smith, 29, a Manchester, Iowa, native. "It'd be a good way for them to socialize but not necessarily go to the bar. When the 21-ordinance [went into effect], the city was really looking for alternatives."

Molly's Cupcakes would be open late during the week and close at midnight on the weekends, she said.

Veronica Tessler, the owner of Yotopia, 132 S. Clinton St., said her business sees relatively large crowds on the weekend and expects Smith's business to have similar business.

"I think it's great and that it can only add to downtown business," she said. "It's a nice break from the bar culture, and I'm looking forward to it."

Several Iowa City city councilors agreed the downtown could benefit from more balanced late-night options.

"A more diversified microeconomy would be a good thing for our downtown," City Councilor Jim Throgmorton said.

Mayor Matt Hayek said the city's Economic-Development Committee will meet today to discuss Smith's request for $35,000 worth of city assistance.

The city's economic-development fund helps provide financial assistance to approved businesses, Hayek said. If the panel approves the request, the application would go before city councilors in the coming weeks.

Though he couldn't speak about the Molly's Cupcakes itself, Hayek agreed with Throgmorton about bringing variety to downtown Iowa City.

"The more diversity we have in respect to the business landscape, the better off we are," he said.

Construction will start in a couple weeks, and Smith said she'll start hiring a staff of around 15 toward the end of May.

Some Iowa City residents are buzzing about the new business, she said, noting that children and women being especially excited.

"I don't know if they're being nice, but I've heard a lot of good feedback," she said. "I've heard it from all different varieties of people — college students and older residents in town. I think it will hit a lot of different people."

Smith said she also plans to rent the second floor of the space and possibly launch a second business there.

Molly's Cupcakes operates two branches in Chicago and New York City. John Nicolaides, the company's founder, started the business to honor his third-grade teacher, Miss Molly.

Smith moved to Chicago after graduating from college and worked at the Molly's Cupcakes location in Chicago. She returned to Iowa City last October with her husband after asking Nicolaides if she could open a branch in Iowa.

"There's nothing currently like it in Iowa City," she said. "Knowing the people in Iowa fairly well, I knew it would be a good start for the business."

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