A Visit to Magnolia Bakery


Andrew and I were in New York on the weekend and as we always do, we stopped into Magnolia Bakery.

This business first opened in the 1990s and is still going strong. I have such admiration for the owners’ business acumen over so many years.

I also really like some of their products: their icebox pies and cheesecakes are very good, in my view, and those products I don’t like as much, well, so much of food preferences is individual taste.

But what I want to mention here is that Magnolia has carefully and systematically completely changed their offerings from almost entirely cupcakes – trays and trays of different flavours of cupcakes – to cupcakes being a very small sideshow.

Now when you go into Magnolia Bakery, you see a self serve fridge of banana puddings, big display cases of whole cakes, cake slices, individual cheesecakes, icebox pie squares, and various bar cookies – and a single display 6-pack of cupcakes!

If you want cupcakes, from what I observed, you ask the staff to grab you a prepacked 6-pack.

And the place is lined up, with people sitting outside eating puddings, cake, and cheesecake just as 10 years ago they would be sitting outside, a la the infamous Sex and the City episode, eating cupcakes.

Like I say, I admire their acumen in shifting their menu with people’s tastes, or maybe it was a combination of them offering new items, seeing a demand for them, and then continuing to increase those non-cupcake options.

If I hadn’t closed PGB in the pandemic I think we’d still be focusing on cupcakes and cakes.  With less competition in all food categories here in Toronto as compared to New York, and Prairie Girl’s focus on a wide variety of cupcake flavours, I believe that our business would have continued to grow as it was.

But when I reflect on the transition that Magnolia has made, I’m happy to have opened a bakery with a broader menu from the start. Although our main product is sticky buns, having four other distinct and popular menu items gives us greater ability to  add, adjust and remove items as tastes and trends change.

The fact that Magnolia Bakery has been able to make such a wholesale change to its product mix without changing its name, locations, or branding is remarkable.

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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