New vegan bakery opening next to Cap Hill’s City O’ City

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Angie Wells stands in front of the unit where her business, The Cake Bar, will open next week. (Maia Luem/BusinessDen)

A new vegan bakery is going in next to Denver vegetarian restaurant City O’ City.

The Cake Bar, owned by Angie Wells, will open next week at 214 E. 13th Ave., where Make Believe Bakery previously operated.

“I wanted vegans and people with allergies to get the same fun, creative custom cakes that are traditionally sold in bakeries,” Wells said. “It’s not about tasting vegan, it’s about tasting delicious.”

Make Believe, which was also fully vegan, opened in 2016 and was owned by the owners of City O’ City, who sold its desserts there and at Uptown sister restaurant Watercourse Foods. But the bakery’s storefront has been closed for months.

City O’ City co-owner Lauren Roberts told BusinessDen that she and her partners originally planned to turn the Make Believe space into a commissary kitchen, before deciding instead to just sunset the brand and handle the baking in the kitchens of the two restaurants.

But that left Make Believe’s former real estate, which she and her partners own, vacant. And then she met Wells.

Up to this point, Wells sold baked goods at vendor markets and other bakeries, and took custom cake orders. But after seeing a for-rent sign outside the former Make Believe space, she couldn’t stop thinking about opening a brick-and-mortar location. 

“I couldn’t imagine anyone else in that bakery,” Wells said. “I felt like I had worked so hard … I wanted a real bakery.” 

Roberts, too, wanted a tenant that would fit in.

“We wanted to keep part of our identity, but what was really important was inviting new folks into the space,” Roberts said.  “We really stand behind her … I think (The Cake Bar) is going to really elevate the restaurant and the block.”

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Custom Cake made by The Cake Bar. (Courtesy Angie Wells)

The Cake Bar will in some ways fill the role of Make Believe, while being separately owned. Wells signed a wholesale deal to sell City O’ City 98 baked goods a day, which Roberts said will eventually expand to Watercourse Foods as well. (Customers can still find staple Make Believe items, made at the individual restaurants, at both locations.)

For the general public, the Cake Bar will sell custom cakes, pre-made cakes and other desserts like cupcakes, hand pies and cookies. Wells said the bakery will also have a to-go counter where customers pick a cake flavor, toppings and icing for instant cake in a cup. 

“We’re going to be like the Cold Stone Creamery of cake,” Wells said. 

So far, Wells said, she’s invested $25,000 to renovate the front of the space, which included expanding the customer area, new flooring, putting up a wall and redoing the electrical. Wells said she secured a $35,000 business loan from Colorado Enterprise Fund to help fund the opening.

This fall, she said, she’ll be looking for an investor that specializes in the restaurant industry to help her scale and get cake mixes into grocery stores. 

“What I’m doing isn’t in stores right now,” Wells said. “I saw the gap … for a vegan bakery and I saw the gap for a certified vegan cake mix in grocery stores.”

Wells, who’s been vegan since 2012, worked in the insurance industry before she started selling cakes. She said she was profitable from “day one” and made $7,000 her first year selling cakes out of her house, but that was largely because she didn’t have any overhead costs. She declined to disclose revenue from more recent years. 

“This could be the first year I’m not profitable … but it’s stepping out on faith and seeing the vision of where I want to take this,” Wells said. “I’m not going to scale and grow while still being at home and in a commissary kitchen.”

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