Great Cakes’ Not-Great News

The Law of Unintended Consequences says that actions always have unanticipated effects.

One unintended consequence of last year’s ban on cupcakes at school birthday celebrations may be felt tomorrow.

Great Cakes — the 30-year-old bakery near Bertucci’s — may close.

Rick Dickinson, and his great goods.

Rick Dickinson, and his great goods.

Rick Dickinson — who for 22 years has generously donated his cookies, sheet cakes and, yes, cupcakes, to any organization that asks — says that school cupcakes were 15% of his business.

His landlord has been very understanding, but business — always slow in the months between the holidays and Easter — is just too tough this year.

Tomorrow, Rick says, may be his last day.

96 responses to “Great Cakes’ Not-Great News

  1. I just went in there and ordered 2 dozen cupcakes for my son’s birthday on sunday! Please don’t close… Great Cakes cupcakes ARE SO MUCH BETTER than that “place who will not be named” downtown… Everyone go in and grab a little treat for your family tonight!

  2. WestportForever'72

    This is very sad news. I hope not.
    Life is not always fair; even to those who give so generously of themselves.


  3. OK… I live overseas so I am a bit out of the loop.

    There are lots of things that should be banned; mosquitos, noisy neighbors, flame throwers, most golf clothing and crack but who was the brilliant know-it-all control freak that pursued a ban on CUPCAKES? What possible reason could there be?
    Kids fat? Take away their ipods, X-Boxes and become parents, throw a ball, swim a lap and maybe, just maybe try to tell ’em to eat just one.

    It appears that the Nanny State is alive and well in Westport.

    • The food Nazis badgered the schools until cupcakes were banned. The Nanny State is thriving in Westport.

    • More than cupcakes were banned.

    • My own children are healthy and engaged in far more than their Wii. There is nothing wrong with things in moderation and they get cake and ice cream on their birthdays. This decision had little to do with sugar and far more to do with instructional time. I find it wonderful that families are still invited to come to classrooms and share something meaningful (usually a story) rather than taking twenty minutes out of a day to eat yet another snack.

      I know it is easy to get up in arms about this, but maybe knowing that kids (especially not in Westport) are not being denied their childhoods just because they can’t celebrate with food at school will help.

      • Instruction time was never the issue. The parties were most often held during snack time for 15 minutes when the children would be eating other snacks.

        • Parties were held at a time convenient for the parent coming in as well as for the classroom teacher. Sometimes at snack time. Sometimes at the end of the day. Sometimes during choice time.
          The birthday child was then allowed to take a friend around the building and pass out cupcakes to two or three other teachers or administrators or support staff.
          Instructional time was certainly part of the issue.
          Personally, I never had a problem with cupcakes or sweets, but then I also enjoyed making the cupcakes with my children (so my business was not lost by Great Cakes). I do find, however, having read in the classroom for my children’s birthdays, that this time spent felt much more meaningful.
          I would never wish that a business, one obviously beloved and very local, should fail, but let’s all be careful before we cry foul in any circumstance.

          • The timing of the party was at the discretion of the teacher. Your original statement that a primary concern was instruction time is not supported by the facts.

            • You have obviously chosen to believe what you want. I watched BOE meetings, attended PTA discussions, and talked with teachers about this. I choose to believe that time in school is better spent on school subjects and socialization. My kids can have cupcakes and sweets at home and at the actual birthday parties. When they are grown, I hope they look back fondly on the new way of celebrating birthdays at school rather than with bitterness because they were not allowed to have cupcakes.

              • And you have chosen to beleive what you want, so there we have it. The fact remains ALL food was banned at birthday parties. It was a political statement on the part of a few.

  4. Time for a “Cash Mob”!

  5. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    So basically, he was generous to children, especially nice to them on their birthdays and they ate too much of his free cake, so their parents are running him out of business. Makes sense to me.

    • It was not a decision made by “parents” as a group. It was a caving in to a very vocal group of whiners and bleaters.

  6. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    No good deed goes unpunished, even in Westport!!!!!

  7. Long-time Westporter

    I hate to hear of any small business closing, and Great Cakes has been in town so long. We just had a delicious cake from them for a party. However, after waiting so as not to spoil the enjoyment. the family member who picked it up said that Rick had dirty fingernails ~ yech!

    • Cupcake lovers

      Are you kidding? Did you really just post that comment ? Did it ever occur to you that Rick’s got the hands of someone who has been handling colored frosting and other sugary colored ingredients that would dye the cleanest hands. Please stick to the issue at hand–there’s a “dirty” practice in this town of biting the hand that feeds you. Please try to ignore those whiny parents who claim that one cupcake every so often will ruin their child’s health. The possibility of Great Cakes closing because of a small minority of parents whose children’s school officials cave easily to them is a terrible shame. Great Cakes will be a very big loss to Westport. My family is very sad.

    • LONG time west porter!! YOU are exactly what gives westport a bad name! Your ignorant , negative comment is disgraceful and shameful!!
      The goal of this post I believe is GENEROSITY of SPIRIT …
      Let’s help Rick out with cash donations to see if we can help him through!
      IT’s called PAYING IT FORWARD!!
      HumanKIND!!! BE both!

    • Long-time westporter, i agree with the issue of cleanliness. As a professional that runs my own corporate kitchen, we know that hygiene is at the top of the list. there are laws that require gloves and sanitation aspects be taken. Anyone that thinks that this is not important is incorrect. All professionals in the cooking field NEVER present themselves in front of the customer in such a manner- #beyond gross

  8. Maybe he could have cupcake decorating and eating parties, at his shop. I know LOTS of parents and kids would LOVE it and support it 🙂

  9. Is Michelle’s Pies still in Westport?

  10. No wonder the rest of the world thinks we are crazy. Automatic assault rifles are legal yet cupcakes are not?
    If I were BA I would also move out of a town that has a ban on cupcakes.

    • Automatic assault rifles are not “legal”; and yes the world must think we are crazy.

  11. A “long time Westporter” would know not to make a ridiculous comment that has nothing to do with the topic. Rick has supported this town for years and we should support him. His food and coffee are good at good prices. Where else can you get that in Westport? It’s time the reasonable people take the town back.

  12. Ann Bacharach

    I’m too far away but it sounds like its time for a “cash” mob….

  13. Will miss all of those delicious goodies!

  14. Westporter4ever

    seriously…the world is coming to and end!!! far to many people are struggling…Great Cakes is a westport institution…I connot even begin to count how many celebrations I have had over the years that have included something from great cakes…I mean just through my two pregnancy’s the amount of chocolate croissants I consumed was epic!! So sad to see you go Great Cakes…if you resurface somewhere please reach out to Dan at 06880..i will travel for cakes w/ cupcake frosting!!!!

    • I agree completely with Westporter4ever!!!
      I am relatively new to town– but already you have become my GO TO place — So, please don’t go! Show all of this support and column to your landlords– or maybe! There is someone else out there who can make it happen for you– like…………hmmmm–Church Street?????
      At any rate, thank you and the very best of luck to you!

  15. A westport parent

    On my way to buy cupcakes NOW!! I will bring them to my office, and serve them with delight to my kids and all their friends. Surely the same parents who think sugar should be banned, can organize and make sure bullets are also kept out of the class-room.

    • He also has many delicious treats that are Gluten-Free. Please don’t close Rick–Westport has been “mall-ed” enough already. The small shops and businesses that made Westport charming and more friendly are being replaced with generic franchises that greatly lack charm and the personal touch.

  16. The sad thing is the other unintended consequence for children with nut allergies. While i am lucky that my children do not have nut allergies, they have several friends who do. I gladly purchased great cakes products because are one of the few places who could guarantee a nut free product. This way their friends with alleregies could happily join in on children’s celebrations without worry.

  17. Cupcake Lovers

    Oh no!! It just occurred to us that without Great Cakes, there will be no more of the best Challah ever!! Now we’re really bummed…

    • Another Citizen

      A very sad day indeed. No cupcakes and no challah. No more Rick smiling at you so very early in the morning. The parties were out of control in the elementary schools but this is a very sad consequence, My NYC relatives will be crushed about the challah!

  18. Disaster! What can be done to help?

  19. My family will be so sad to lose Great Cakes. As the mother of a food allergic child, we have been coming here for years for the “nut free ” cupcakes and yummy challah bread. It is one of the few places left that is safe for her to buy prepared desserts or bread at.

  20. Cupcake Lovers

    I just received this email from a friend, please let’s all join in to help save Great Cakes!

    Please come in TODAY and open a prepaid account so that Great Cakes can stay open. If we dont help this local business today, they have to close by tomorrow! Rick and Bonnie have helped us celebrate many special moments through the years so lets try and help them!

  21. Huge loss to our community, and Challah Lovers everywhere. How many hardworking small businesses are left? Rick, I hope you can find a home elsewhere in town, I hate to see you go.

  22. Rick is truly a Westport gem. Unfortunately, people don’t always support, on a regular basis, the independent gems that we have in town. It seems obvious that this is not about the School’s lack of support. If you can’t make rent because you lost 15% of your business, something else is going on. Either you haven’t moved with the times (not true in this case) or people are “voting” with their pocket books by patronizing less expensive providers. Or is it simply our lives are so busy we do not have time to patronize the small specialty store? Isn’t it just easier for us to go to Fresh Market, Balducci’s or Stop and Shop rather than going to five different local purveyors who try to serve our personal needs with a smile? Whatever the reasons, I think several readers have it right — the town is becoming [chain stored] to death. Over time, the charm will continue to be lost…is a store like Ed Mitchell’s next?

    I applaud the efforts of people like Sarah Green, Lynne Goldstein and Cindy Eigen and of course Dan Woog!

  23. I’m so sorry to hear this! As a formal small biz owner myself I know the struggles they encounter. I’m glad to hear his landlord has been kind to him, but even that isn’t enough at times.
    Rick instead of closing how about reinventing yourself? Make your own cupcake bday parties or cupcake bar- you provide the cupcake and people can decorate them with a ton of toppings and price it by weight ( like the yogart stores) Also guest bakers from nearby culinary schools to come in and bake crazy flavors on Saturdays. Also start a blog, get onto twitter. There are a lot of options, but with any of them a lot of time commitment. I wish you luck!

  24. conspiracy theorist.

    Is this all part of the Target Training master plan to take over the entire building? As the sole tenant, they can then leverage the building owner to sell the building at a favorable price under the threat of evacuating the entire facility and leaving it 100% vacant.. It seems to be working to perfection.

    • I would think that Targetraining loves having a bakery with coffee right next door for they clients to enjoy after a workout.

  25. Great Cakes is great because of Rick and Bonnie!
    We go there about 5 times a week for bagels & coffee. Bonnie knows exactly how my kids like them with just the right amount of cream cheese and my favorite, cranberry muffins.
    They were there this morning and didn’t know about this until the WoogBlog.
    They went back after school and loaded up on a few of their favorites.
    It seems the news media is there and hopefully with some publicity Rick will be there a bit longer.
    Good luck!

  26. Great Cakes is part of our community and I just opened an account with some cash for them to work with.

    • Another Citizen

      I did too as are so many others that we had to wait for a spot in the parking lot and then on a line to be helped, as always with a smile and a thank you

  27. Wake up Westport. Have you looked at the place. It’s a wonder it hasn’t been shut down years ago!!!!

  28. Boo! If you don’t have anything positive to contribute, don’t bother contributing. That’s not what this is about. If you don’t want to spend your money at Great Cakes don’t, but it is clear that it is a beloved locally owned bakery. It’s not a five star restaurant. If that’s what you want, go somewhere else, but don’t something down that just because it’s not your thing.

    • I WAS a long time customer, but the product and the lack of intelligence of the employees is embarassing. $4000. Then what. $4000 more, then $4000 more. Unless the quality changes, it’s a lost cause!

      • No.. You’re a lost cause. Pathetic coward.

        • Jim, Jim, Jim. You have such a way with words. Now it’s time for you to finish up and get your GED and leave these important conversations to the REAL adults. When, or if I should say, you have something intelligent to say, be sure to come back… If you can find the computer.

      • I think its interesting that people will say this kind of stuff, but remain anonymous. If you are too much of a coward to say your real name then I don’t think you should really be saying anything at all. And anonymous, if you don’t like the product, then you are free to go elsewhere… there is nothing stopping you. I also do not think that my father “lacks intellect”, as you so kindly put it, because if he did he would not have been able to keep this business running for the last 23 years. So thank you for your opinion, which you are very much entitled to, but insulting someone anonymously online is cowardly, unintelligent, and bullying. Please keep that in mind for the next time.

  29. There is a woman named Bonnie who works at Great Cakes 7 days a week. She works about 90 – 100 hours per week. She went on vacation to see her family and is not there right now. Do you know that Rick didn’t even mention any of this to her. She is away right now and has no idea that she might not have a job to come back to. She is the backbone of the bakery. Yeah… Rick’s a real stand up guy. The only real person who is keeping the place afloat and she gets stabbed in the back. I hope the shut down is quick.

    • Just think if Rick had told Bonnie, “I am going to have to close by February 1st.” Bonnie probably would have gone right out to look for another job, But as we have now seen, the community has rallied around Rick and kept Great Cakes open. I have a feeling that Bonnie probably realizes that it was a good thing that Rick didn’t tell her she would be losing her job shortly (so that she wouldn’t have quit to take another job), as he was scrambling to find a way to stay open. Hopefully, she is happy to work there, and will be thrilled that Great Cakes will stay open.

      The community response to Rick’s dilemma shows that Great Cakes is valued in our town. I hope Bonnie sticks with Great Cakes, and the business thrives for many years to come. I have a lot of cupcakes to purchase for my daughter’s soccer team come spring!

      • Really. For how long. You don’t think communication with someone as important is critical. How would you feel? It’s great that the community rallied, but what if they didn’t? What happens in a couple of weeks? He should have shown some human class and communicated with those that put bread on his table.

        • Without knowing Rick – or anyone who works at Great Cakes for that matter – to the extent that I would know any inside scoop on how things are run there, I can only surmise that, as a small business owner, he faced a dilemma. Should he tell his employees that he was LIKELY going to have to close, and lose all of his employees (i.e. which would guarantee that he would lose his business) or not tell the employees as he scrambled to find a solution. I can understand how he wouldn’t want to say anything, just in case the best result occurred. And it did! The employees at Great Cakes get to keep their jobs, and Great Cakes stays in business.

          Please try to see that there is another point of view, and stay positive, as so many people have turned out to support Great Cakes I hope that the negative vibes in some of the posts I’m reading won’t squelch the good vibes I get when I go into Great Cakes.

  30. I know Bonnie and she works so hard there. The work she does is amazing. If this is true, shame on Rick. This is her livelihood and he could have just ruined it. Terrible!!!!!

    • I agree, that is more Bonnie’s place than his… The quality of work is superior to more than most. Excuse my language, but anyone that does that to their most loyal and diligent employee is such a dick.

      • Just like you. D-bag.

        • Wow! Jim. So elequent. There are intelligent conversations going on here with good points. Retards stay out!!!!

          • I think Jims response was spot on… much more than your retard comment.

            • Thanks Bruce. It’s nice to know that people like you and Jim stick together. We always need people to wash the toilets!

              • Wow, a few anger issues Sandra?

                Your response was on a lower level than Jims, I wasn’t standing up for him as I am sure he can do that himself but your insensitive remark shows that you might need some enlightenment.

                Read your comment again:

                “Wow! Jim. So elequent. There are intelligent conversations going on here with good points. Retards stay out!!!!”

                If you think that it is appropriate I suggest you find someone to tell you why it’s not. As far as your obvious anger issues they something you can take for that.

              • I have a special needs son. I’m sure he would feel great, knowing there are grown adults out there using the word “retard.”

                That’s real nice of you.

        • Jim, you are just as ignorant as the person responsible for this situation even happening. if you had ANY clue to what is even going on you would shut your mouth and go about your way. I just love how a supposedly smart “adult” can just respond in such an childish behavior, before you reply to this,i suggest you get a clue and quick idiot.

          • So, you’re condoning use of the word “retard?”

            Okay. That’s nice. Thanks.

            • Calling someone a D-Bag is ok though? You are an idiot with no real pertinent information to the subject. You are a parasite adding on stupid comments to cause a problem. What’s the real issue here? You probably forgot. Look up retard in the dictionary. It is in fact a real word with a real definition. Oh that’s right… It’s not PC to use that term. We should all use D-Bag from now on. It’s in the dictionary right? Good luck to the bakery with dim witted supporters like you.

              • …Were you abused as a child or something? I do not understand. RELAX.

                • Of course you don’tunderstand. You obviously lack the intelligence to comprehend the big picture. Goodluck with that.

  31. Bart Shuldman

    Way to go Westport. Coming out to help
    Bonny and Rick. They are wonderful people and a great establishment for Westport.

    Rick-when I get back I will stop in and get those apple and blueberry turnovers my office loves. And taste great.

  32. Shop local!

  33. I whole-heartedly agree with “A Citizen” – it is not just about the school cupcakes – there is now more competition in town than ever: besides other baked goods and coffee shops, kids are attracted to frozen yogurt and other new options. No one wants to see Great Cakes go out of business, including parents who prefer their children celebrate birthdays at school without it centering on food for MANY reasons – it is not a “cupcake ban”! Had Rick let people know that he was in dire straights they would have helped out sooner. It is great that the community came out to help – as it should be! But Rick will have to get creative to maintain his competitiveness.

  34. 20YearCustomer

    Many of you are way over assuming. Lets leave the Rick and Bonnie drama aside. We do not know the facts or anyone intent. And some yahoo on this board thinks they are a health inspector. Go get your ServSafe certification and apply at town hall.

    The net is that if Great Cakes closes it is a loss for Bonnie and Rick and all of Westport/Weston. Bonnie and Rick are talented and very hard working – they should be snapped up by a larger establishment. But we will not get another Great Cakes. I want the small shop. I don’t want a lazer printed picture on my kids cake. I want to tell them the theme and give them a napkin and they put the time in to exactly match the colors and create some original art we can eat. At a really good price.

    Yes, all businesses have to evolve to stay competitive. Seems Rick did not evolve fast enough in the last 4 months to make up for the cupcake ban. Hopefully the short term infusion of cash will give him the time to evolve more before next winters slow season. Maybe the patrons in town can go back to getting their Thanksgiving pies from him?

    Rick, I do not pretend to know what products make up your revenue stream and profit sources. I do know that if my morning bagel and coffee cost an extra buck, i would still come by just as often. And I am not going to drive to Fairfield to get a box of cupcakes $5 cheaper.

  35. Long-time Westporter

    To answer those who are upset that I commented on Rick’s dirty fingernails – dirty fingernails are incompatible with food production and service. Whether they were actually dirty or only looked dirty, it’s still not acceptable. A good scrub with a nail brush would solve the problem. As I stated, I hate to see any small business fail, but I am not rushing back there to buy something and risk illness. Maybe others felt as I do, and Great Cakes’ repeat business is not what it would be if Rick and his shop were cleaner. His generousity is laudable, but his fingernails were dirty! FACT.

    • Wrong time, wrong place. Generally inappropriate. Leave it be.

    • Amen!!!! Clean it up or all of this HELP will be for nothing.

      • Clean up your own fingers, first….

        There is so much I could say right now. But I won’t.

        • That’s because your brain can’t function fast enough. Go slow. You don’t want to hurt yourself. D-Bag. We are using that term now right?!!!

          • You need to chill out. And yes, I’d take “d-bag” over “retard” any day. Especially when you consider the fact that my son is special needs and was tormented, for years, with this phrase.

            But sure. Go ahead. Keep it up. You’re really making our town look nice and friendly. Good job.

          • Sandra you are being very immature stalking Jim’s comments and responding with stupid remarks. Please just stop.

  36. I have the biggest sweet tooth around, but I won’t waste my calories on a supermarket cake. Give me cakes made from scratch in a bakery or at home and I am yours forever.

  37. Long-time Westporter

    No, anonymous92 – cleanliness is an important part of a business like a bakery. And if customers don’t think it’s clean, they don’t come back, and maybe that’s at least a part of the problem, a part that can be fixed.

  38. Since you are the only one to mention such a thing, I am going to guess it’s not an issue of concern to most people. You have the right to your opinion. The point is, if you have a problem with the place, confront them directly or don’t go there. Don’t embarrass someone in a public forum.

    • That’s all people in Westport know how to do these days, anon. It’s sad.

      • It does not matter what Dan chooses as a topic, the latent ugliness that is at the core of Westport will soon surface.

  39. it doesn’t matter who you are cleanliness is very important as well as the place of business,lontime-time Westporter I am in your corner I work in a Doctors office,and we don’t touch our patiences with dirty hands,it nice that when i come in to buy the pastry i have to squint to see beyond the sneeze guard,not to mention the coffe skirt,that i am so afraid to touch,little touch-ups make a big difference,any improvement at this point would help,not just for one day but everyday

  40. Cupcake Lovers

    Dan, please put an end to this–these comments are no longer related to this issue and they are getting very abusive and mean.

  41. Today’s commenters have overstepped the bounds of decency. This thread is now closed.