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Mason City couple pursues cupcake dreams

Hillary Bartell, owner of Grandma Sugar's Cupcakery, is shown in Market 124, where the business is located

MASON CITY | Every morning, Matt Bartell heads down to Market 124 in Mason City between 3 and 5 a.m. to make, bake and decorate cupcakes from scratch for Grandma Sugar's Cupcakery.

"I never in my life thought I'd be a baker," Bartell said.

It's a far cry from the work he was doing at Woodharbor, but Bartell is part of his wife Hillary's dream of owning a cupcake store.

"A few years back I was in a cupcake store in Cedar Falls and became hooked on it and obsessed with making cupcakes," Hillary said. "My grandma and I always loved to bake.

"I decided I can do this."

So Hillary and her husband began baking cupcakes under the business name of Grandma Sugar's Cupcakery.

"Everyone called her Grandma Sugar," Hillary said about the grandmother she used to bake with. She earned the nickname because she would tickle people under the neck and say she's getting their sugar.

The cupcakes started with family recipes but now the Mason City couple experiments with different flavors, including the frosting.

"I get inspiration from all sorts of places -- magazines, TV, candies, desserts," Hillary said.

All of it appears to be paying off. As soon as Market 124 opened two years ago the couple began selling cupcakes in the building, which is home to other local artisans and businesses.

About four months ago they went a step further and installed a kitchen and seating in Market 124 -- located at 124 N. Delaware Ave.

"We just got too big for our house," said Hillary, who has a full-time job in customer service for CLTel.

Calling it the "scariest part," Matt also quit his job so he could pursue the baking and business full-time.

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"When it started up I didn't think anything was going to happen," Matt said. "I was just trying to humor her."

Now all of the cupcakes are baked fresh there every day and some are sold on a limited basis in Lyla's Boutique and Breadeaux Pizza, both of Clear Lake, and Thymeless Treasures, St. Ansgar.

Grandma Sugar's Cupcakery also makes cake pops and cookies, and still fills special orders for weddings, birthdays and other special occasions.

"It's really rewarding to know that people enjoy what we do," Hillary said. "We put so much thought and love into what we do. It still seems surreal that we're doing this."

While Matt admitted that he never intended to become a baker and that it's taken some practice -- especially on the frosting -- he enjoys it.

"I'm happy," he said.

"He's a better baker than I am now," Hillary said. "I won't ever admit it to him, but he is."

Besides the baking, Matt also runs errands throughout the day, such as picking up ingredients and making deliveries.

As for the future of the business, the couple hopes it continues to grow. Hillary would even be open to making it her full-time job, too.

"I would love it if it was," she said. "But I love my current job, too."

Grandma Sugar's Cupcakery cupcakes are available at Market 124 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday; on Saturdays at Lyla's Boutique; Tuesday-Saturday at Breadeaux Pizza and Friday and Saturday at Thymeless Treasures.

For more information, call 641-430-6534, visit www.grandmasugars.com, email gmasugars@gmail.com or search for Grandma Sugar's Cupcakery on Facebook.

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