Kyra Bussanich to put Crave Bake Shop mixes on store shelves

by: CLIFF NEWELL - Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop is ready to conquer new worlds after twice winning the Cupcake Wars on national TV. Her mixes will hit stores in January.Kyra Bussanich struck a giant blow for gluten-free pastry when she won the Cupcake Wars on the Food Network — not just once but twice.

Now she believes that what is good for her Crave Bake Shop on Fifth Street in Lake Oswego will be good for retail, because she has made gluten-free cupcakes not just delicious but glamorous. Early next year she will be putting out three mixes — chocolate, vanilla and snickerdoodle —— on the shelves of markets and specialty stores. It’s bye-bye gluten, hello great taste.

“I was definitely at the beginning of the gluten-free wave,” said Bussanich, who started Crave Bake Shop three and a half years ago. She opened her downtown storefront in 2011.

“When I first opened my doors I didn’t know if I would get only two people or a long line. What happened was that people were lined up outside the door, down the street and around the corner. Our reception was overwhelmingly good.”

In fact, Bussanich’s reception was so good that the idea of going retail quickly occurred to her.

“I started thinking about it the second day I was open,” she said.

But she took painstaking preparation before taking this giant step.

“I wanted my mixes to be excellent, just like the products I was preparing at Crave,” Bussanich said. “Now I have very well-trained employees that will allow me to do much more. It’s time to think about expansion.”

Bussanich looks much more like an exercise queen than a cupcake queen. The only reason she started making gluten-free bake goods eight years ago was that there was so little out there, and, frankly, nothing worthy of winning a cupcake contest.

“There wasn’t a lot on the market,” Bussanich said. “There was that need.”

The slogan “If you build it they will come” certainly applied to Crave Bake Shop. People started flocking there for the delicious cinnamon rolls, the dairy-free hot chocolate cupcakes, gingerbread cookies and toasted marshmallow meringue. In fact, Bussanich’s products tasted so good that even people not on gluten-free diets showed up to sample and swoon.

Bussanich received confirmation on her new venture when she recently held a taste test of her new mixes at Tucci Restaurant.

“It was one part focus group, one part baking contest,” she said. “They thought it was fantastic. They thought this was something that consumers are looking for, and they also gave me suggestions on what my packages should look like.”

Bussanich has been having plenty of happy experiences like this ever since she decided to start a career as a baker.

“I’m so excited about what I’m doing,” she said. “I get to play with sugar every day, which is every girl’s dream. I feel very lucky. Before I started this everything I tried met with resistance. I felt like I was banging my head against the wall. But as soon as I went to pastry school all of the doors started opening.”

More doors should start opening for Kyra Bussanich on Jan. 5, when her mixes will become available at stores for the first time.

“Hopefully they’ll be available everywhere,” she said. “Costco, Whole Foods and other health-conscious markets. Also national and international shipping.”

Today cupcakes. Tomorrow the world.

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