Customers like and appreciate the story and work ethic behind my brand. I started this as a joke from the trunk of my beat up ’89 Toyota Camry. A college drop out with a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle, I never wasted my time going out and partying but instead focused only on brainstorming and sketching up my wacky ideas. I turned down investors and took countless risks like keeping my shirts out of chain stores. – Johnny Earle, Founder
Earle says he initially started the Johnny Cupcakes brand “as a complete joke.” The clothing line has its origins back in 2000 when Earle worked at the Newbury Comics music shop in Braintree, Massachusetts. Each day, his co-workers would coin a new nickname for him: Johnny Appleseed, Johnny Pancakes, Johnny Cupcakes, Johnny Coffeecakes, etc.
In 2001, while ordering screen-printed shirts for the metalcore band he played in, (On Broken Wings) Earle ran off a few shirts designed with the “Johnny Cupcakes” nickname. Almost immediately, co-workers and store customers noticed the cupcakes-themed shirts whenever he wore them, and many inquired about how to purchase them. Sensing the demand, Earle started selling the shirts from the trunk of his car to local friends and acquaintances.
When On Broken Wings signed with a record label and began touring in 2002, Earle stuffed his suitcase full of Johnny Cupcakes shirts to sell at shows and give to other musicians on the bill. This helped expose his designs to new audiences across the country, and the brand began to develop a cult following. The following year, Earle quit the band to focus full-time on his fledgling business.
In 2005, Earle opened the first Johnny Cupcakes store in his hometown of Hull after working with his father to convert it from a boat garage into a retail space. By this time, he had decided to keep his merchandise out of chain stores and sell it exclusively through his own shops. After a year of growing sales and popularity, he opened another Johnny Cupcakes boutique on Boston’s chic Newbury Street. The grand opening of the second location drew several hundred fans and the store recorded five-figure sales revenues on the first day alone.
Wanting to deliver a unique customer experience, Earle designed his stores with a classic bakery motif. The interior decor at Johnny Cupcakes boutiques features antique refrigerators, baking racks, a 1930’s dough mixer, (Boston location) a cast-iron wood-burning oven from the 1890’s, (also at the Boston location) and even hidden vanilla-scented air fresheners; items are usually displayed on baking trays and inside glass pastry cases. The stores’ prominent baking theme often confuses unfamiliar patrons who walk in thinking that they sell baked goods, not clothing. Earle says this tends to disappoint and even anger some passersby, though the shops do give out free cupcakes with purchases on occasion.
In 2008, a third Johnny Cupcakes store opened on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. To build the L.A. shop, Earle says he enlisted the help of an engineering firm that designed structures for the Disneyland and Universal Studios theme parks to “bring my crazy ideas to life.” Similarly to the Boston location, the L.A. grand opening attracted hundreds of customers (including some who camped out for days beforehand) and saw the company’s most successful single-day sales figures.
In addition to the three retail locations, Johnny Cupcakes continues to sell items through its online store and a company “eBay Vault” which offers previously issued designs and exclusive items that were briefly or never available in its stores. –Wiki