After $15 minimum wage fight, Broadway cheesecake shop The Confectional pares back

Seattle sweet shop The Confectional has closed retail operations at its Broadway store citing a “restructuring.”

A sign in the window at 618 Broadway E spelled it out:

Thanks to Jackson for the picture

Thanks to Jackson for the picture

The move comes after the mini-cheesecake mini-chain caused a stir in the minimum wage debate earlier this year when its ownership said an immediate $15 an hour wage increase would force the Broadway dessert shop to close and the company would need to lay off of half of its staff.

In March, as CHS readers brainstormed ways to help The Confectional stay in business on Broadway, owner Destiny Sund said the company employed 11 people at its three locations with six employees working at the Broadway shop and kitchen. Sund said her Broadway location had been “struggling” and foot traffic had been less than expected when The Confectional brought its mini-cheesecake concept to Capitol Hill in 2011.

In June, Mayor Ed Murray came to Capitol Hill to sign Seattle’s new minimum wage into law. The long march to $15 per hour begins in 2015.

While the closure leaves the business still operating its kitchen in the neighborhood, the loss of the retail component on high-rent Broadway seems a significant blow to The Confectional’s Capitol Hill presence. We’ll see if we can learn more about the company’s long-term plans for the space.

UPDATE: Co-owner Sund declined to comment on the situation citing ongoing lease negotiations.

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46 thoughts on “After $15 minimum wage fight, Broadway cheesecake shop The Confectional pares back

  1. As I understand it the $15/hr law does *not* happen all at once and is in fact phased in over a period of years. Sounds to me like grandstanding of a business that just does not want to pay fair wages to me.

  2. Mini cheesecake blobs are very impulsey, touristy, catery. I don’t think this location ever had a chance at foot traffic retail success. Conflating it with 15 is irrelevant. And if it can’t afford the hike and 15 was the straw, then good riddance to an experience business with luxe product during recession. Grocery store has more options.

  3. This shop is up the street from another chocolate place. It’s on a rarely visited stretch of Broadway and they do a limited number of offerings each day. Seems to me it’s their business plan, not the increase in minimum wage.

  4. Everyone knows there are numerous ways of structuring any business. One is worker owned and managed coops. None of these so called small business owners is willing to consider this option. If just ten or so small restaurants and bars got together and converted to worker owned and managed coops, I know lots of people would make a concerted effort to support them.

  5. Most of us gay men eat cheesecake shamefully in the dark corners of our apartments, and not right out in the street where everyone can see us.

  6. I mean, this would probably mean something if Molly Moons and Cupcake Royale weren’t wild successes who supported the wage hike.

    But nice try, Confectional, for blaming a general lack of interest on helping the poor out of poverty.

    • Not everyone indulges in the rarefied air of $3.50 cupcakes and $7 chipwiches. Just because a couple established luxury retailers have more margin to play with doesn’t mean we should gleefully rejoice in the demise of a struggling independent business.

      Interesting that you are for govt mandating wages, but are a totally freemarketer when it come to the success or failure of a small business. I’m sure the owner has put all their money and time into their business and has been trying like hell to make it work.

      There are endless reasons for the lack of success in business. Crazy high rent and having your labor cost increased by 50% in the course of a few years surely don’t help.

      Maybe you should be out marching for rent control for small business.

      Anyhow, I don’t know anything. Just an observation.

      • Why is it that people are talking about the $15/hour like it’s going to happen next year when the $15/hour is going to be phased in over multiple years.

      • ….Because long term business leases need to be renewed NOW – and they extend into the phase in period. Successful businesses plan for the future, they cannot afford to live in the moment.

      • And yet the Cap Hill location of a Cupcake Royale proudly displayed a 15 Now sign all the way through the summer… Odd that.

        I walk passed this location all the time and never found it inviting to go in, I suspect they really couldn’t compete in that location with Roy St Coffee over the road.

  7. “Why is it that people are talking about the $15/hour like it’s going to happen next year when the $15/hour is going to be phased in over multiple years.”

    ….Because long term business leases need to be renewed NOW – and they extend into the phase in period. Successful businesses plan for the future, they cannot afford to live in the moment.

  8. I just love how people who have never had the balls to start a small business of their own chime in with contempt and sarcasm on this matter. All this crap about they ought to have a better business model or this and that. Most of you won’t have enough guts in your entire lives to take the risk of signing a commercial lease and putting your own financial welfare where your mouth is and trying to build something out of nothing. Creating a small business out of nothing and making it successful is not an easy process and scores go out of business all the time, which any honest person with two eyeballs can confirm from their own observations.

    Now throw in a mob of looters to change the rules of the game right in the middle of the game and you’ve totally screwed a bunch of honest business people over who might have been able to make it through to success. Good for the Molly Moons of the world that have reached a certain level of success that this is palatable to them. Maybe I’ll get myself and 8 friends elected to the council and decide out of the blue that $25 is in fact the magic number and impose that on everyone by fiat. We’ll see if Molly Moons takes kindly to that.

    You all are nothing but a pathetic mob and I hold you all in contempt. You are thieves, nothing more. Using political influence to steal money from others is shameful, and make no mistake, that’s all this charade from the mayor and city council is – political cronyism with the goal of stealing money from one person and handing it to another.

    • Hear, hear! I say we get rid of this democracy BS and appoint Eric as our Overlord Fuhrer! No more representative democracy, er I mean, “rule by fiat”. Let us bow down to the Lord Eric so he can us save from voters, er I mean “mob of looters”.
      Speaking of balls, Sir Eric, perhaps since you’re so above us rabble, would you have the cajones to, and I quote, “get myself and 8 friends elected to the council”? Oh wait, that would take the same hard work and sacrifice as opening and running a small business. Look in the mirror, citizen, before you start holding us hoi polloi in such contempt.

    • Well put, Eric.

      The Confectional retail space was a great addition to the Broadway neighborhood, and I am sad to see that portion go. With that said, Destiny is an amazing business owner and cares deeply for her staff – so I hope that there is a good outcome of the restructuring process for her small business.

      Even if the $15 wage hike isn’t implemented right away, that doesn’t mean that the Confectional doesn’t have to be mindful of the implications that will be put on the business when that does happen. It’s really awful to see the Confectional being put in a bad light over all of this.

  9. Yep, the MW hike had NOTHING TO DO WITH this store restructuring…and it had NOTHING to do with fast food stores in military bases closing after Obama ordered the federal MW to increase: http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140317/NEWS/303170027/Some-fast-food-outlets-closing-military-bases

    And it had nothing to do with huge job loses in American Samoa, despite what its Democratic governor of says: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/6/seattle-socialist-council-member-calls-obama-/

    And that Congressional Budget office report that showed large job loses from an MW increase was just made up by Fox News: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/02/18/cbo-minimum-wage-jobs/5582779/

    This is why 15Now and other far-left, fringe groups like Working Washington did everything they could to stop a public vote: they know the people of Seattle, when confronted with reality, will make the right decision.

    And as for “poverty reduction”, King County did a study that showed a living wage in Seattle is (when adjusted for inflation to today’s money) is about $11 an hour. But who are we gonna believe: An impartial study, or Sawant? (see page 8 of this PDF) http://www.selfsufficiencystandard.org/docs/Washington2011.pdf

  10. I lived a block away from this place for years and never went to it. I never saw anyone in it, outside of a couple rare occasions. I’d walk by it multiple times per day, different times of the day each time, day, night, morning, weekends, and it was always dead.

    It seemed like it was doomed to close years ago, pretty shitty for them to blame it on giving their employees a living wage. There are way too many (usually better) options in the area.

    • From my understanding even though the lobby underperformed (and BTW saying there was never anyone who went in, just because YOU didn’t see anyone is a bit judgmental), doesn’t mean that their wholesale business isn’t thriving! Also, EVERYONE who works there makes more than minimum wages, some even higher than $15.

      I also haven’t heard them make any statement yet, let alone blaming it on not paying a “living wage”.

      So… maybe it’s pretty shitty of you to leave such a damming comment.

  11. Hey everyone- you are absolutely entitled to your opinion about the $15 minimum wage, but I’m not sure I understand how any of us who aren’t small business owners are qualified to say whether or not this was a good business move on their part. Not sure if you know this, but Cupcake Royale and Molly Moons (which are wonderful local businesses that I also love) are much, much bigger than the Confectional. To arbitrarily decide that all small businesses are the same, and therefore can handle the $15 minimum wage legislation in the same way, is not a fair assumption to make. And by the way, making negative comments about the way you assume a small business “failed” is pretty judgmental and not at all supportive of small business. Have they released a statement yet? No- but let’s all pile on them and say it’s because “they aren’t willing to pay their employees a living wage.” That is terribly inaccurate, as from what I read the owners were very vocal about wanting to find a way to support their employees- they just had different ideas on how to do that from the specific legislation that was passed. I know the owners of the confectional AND of the other shops mentioned here, and I can say with absolute certainty that while they may have had different views of how to support their employees and what would work best, they ALL shared the same qualities of being savvy business owners who geniunely care about the community and the people who work for them. Piling on without knowing the whole story is incredibly short-minded. And before anyone gets angry with me for this opinion, I can say with all honesty that I see both sides of the issue, and still think supporting local business means taking the time to read up on all sides and perhaps recognizing that unless we, too are small business owners, maybe we don’t truly understand the ins and outs of each unique business situation. Please remember: issues are not black and white, as much as we want them to be- people seem to want to classify businesses as either “anti employee” or “pro employee”, simply based on the passage of this. Is it impossible that they were pro-employee but anti this specific WAY of getting to a living wage? Kindness, please.

  12. First of all, has anyone here tried their cheesecake, or is everyone basing their comments on the speculation of this article? I’m sorry but this is shoddy reporting due to speculation and I’m saddened by it. Not the best cheesecake in town, the best cheesecake ever and I’m an expert. The key lime cheesecake has been the only thing I’ve requested for my birthday for the last two years and I’m glad that even though they no longer have this storefront, I can still get my fix from them.

    While I agree that the wage hike over a period of time is a good thing, you’d think that San Francisco would have pioneered this and would have a higher minimum wage (due to cost of living and parking) in terms of the increase that they voted for in June (I mean, if we’re all being fair here). Also, comparing cupcake royale (stale cupcakes anyone?) is pretty silly. If we are on the subject of cupcakes, New York Cupcakes are far superior (fresh) to hipster favorite (and I’m a hipster:/) cupcake royale.

    Also, lease agreements are a major issue anywhere DT, Ballard, or Cap Hill right now. Maybe try a factual article on that subject…

      • ps- My comment inquiring about who has actually tried their cheesecake was obviously directed at the commenters and not your shoddy “journalism”.
        Looks like you missed this article when you were kissing cupcake royale’s asses for being such responsible and “employee driven” business owners (which they may very well be but certainly not in support of the points of your “article” as they rescinded their stance in support of the $15 MW). Also, while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the size of cupcake royale’s business and visibility to The Confectional in terms of employees and an impact on Seattle and surrounding areas. PS. Have you tried cupcake royale lately?
        http://kuow.org/post/minimum-wage-limbo-keeps-small-business-owners-night

      • Be careful when talking to J like that if you value your right to comment on this here site. He is known to ban people without notice from ever commenting again, especially if you are going in on him. Your levels of hostility or logical reasoning are not important in his decision to ban you. All that is important here is how J feels when he reads your comment. You have been warned.

      • I have to wonder if ANYONE has ever been banned from this great blog. If this has happened, the person probably deserves it.

        Justin, care to comment? How many have been banned, if any?

      • A site that has grown to this size faces a constant barrage of spam so thousands of accounts of that ilk have been banned. It also attracts coordinated and non-coordinated trolling. We’ve banned accounts exhibiting that kind of behavior (especially sock puppets). Finally, the rarest ban is for *repeated* personal attacks and aggressive comments. In our experience, much of this behavior is designed to inflame — but not all. Sometimes people just don’t know how to get along or make their points without starting a war. They can learn on other sites and in other forums.

  13. It’s a shame. There was a great thread on this blog, in which many of us gave our feedback on why we didn’t visit their store — the seating was awful and uncomfortable. It wasn’t a place you could go and get some work done or hang out and enjoy a treat.

    They sounded really responsive and that they would do SOMETHING – it’s not like it’s that expensive to just get some old couches or comfy chairs from Goodwill. But they didn’t.

    Over the months after, I came by a few times to if anything changed, but nothing did. So I always moved on to spend my money in coffee shops where I could actually sit and work.

    I feel sorry for them, but it sounds like they basically chose to fail.

  14. I live a block away and never see anyone in there. And personally i attribute it a neche product that infact i find not that good – to sweet. Having said that i am conerned about small businesss. Will see..

  15. Nobody thinks all these so called small business owners are duplicitous? They claim to care about employees but would rather go out of business than convert to a worker owned and managed coop. They only care about employees to a very limited self serving degree.

    • Just out of curiosity, how would a failing business become viable by switching to a worker-owned co-op? Presumably, they’re not doing enough revenue to pay the rent, or at least to offset the costs of operating a store front. That cost is the workers, so if the workers owned the business, would they no longer be a cost?

      (Seriously, I don’t really understand the economics of a co-op enough, if at all, to see how it would turn an unprofitable business into a profitable or at least break-even one.)

      • One typical expense for a so called small business is a salary for the owner. This is usually substantial. Also, the owner usually has invested in the beginning for equipment and whatever and expects to get a substantial return on that. Most businesses have enough income to cover operating expenses. The most common reason for going out of business is that the owner does not think he or she is getting a good enough return on his or her investment. This is why they will not open their books for everyone, including the employees, to see. Now some people will say that is reasonable. However, in my opinion, they should not get away with claiming they are more concerned about the employees than they are about themselves when they keep the financial records to themselves. A worker owned coop is not subject to minimum wage laws. The owners are almost never willing to convert to a coop to save a business.

      • “We can do better” – this one needs a personal reply. The Confectional was founded by Paul – Paul and I run it together. During the $15 debate we DID open our books for the Mayor AND City Council many times. Paul has not made one dime from this venture, however his name is on a large business SBA loan. How can this be? His partner pays their home bills. We have worked very hard for the last several years, not for the money, but to be a part of Seattle’s community and to do what we love. We have donated countless cheesecakes and time to many charitable organizations and ALWAYS paid our employees first. I would also like to point out that The Confectional has NEVER started anyone at the current minimum wage. Many of these uninformed assumptions being made about The Confectional in these comments are simply heartbreaking.

      • Of course, every business is not viable. However, did you open your books for the employees and everyone else to see? I think not. Did you ask the employees for input? I think not. Maybe the employees would suggest becoming a coop. Maybe not. One thing is pretty close to a sure bet, you would not agree to become a coop even to save the business.

  16. It may well be that the Confectional’s business plan was faulty, but I’ll bet they would be staying in business if it weren’t for the $15/hr wage. That is the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” and I think it’s likely that many more small businesses will follow.

    • We will never know whether or not converting to coops could save these businesses. Most, very close to all, owners will not try this option. What they are very good at is saying they have to pay poverty wages to stay in business. Ugly.

  17. “we can do better
    on Saturday, September 13, 2014 – 3:09 pm said:
    Of course, every business is not viable. However, did you open your books for the employees and everyone else to see? I think not. Did you ask the employees for input? I think not. Maybe the employees would suggest becoming a coop. Maybe not. One thing is pretty close to a sure bet, you would not agree to become a coop even to save the business.”

    Um.

    They did.

    They always have, there are a handful of employees and we have always been asked, been involved and respected as a part of the Confectional family.

    You are generalizing and making assumptions without checking your facts, as this entire article did in the first place.

    • family?
      Come on, that sort of paternalistic rhetoric is unbecoming, at best.
      Maybe owners who can not make a business work unless they pay poverty wages need to say that out loud instead of talking about how they are working so hard. Duplicity is also unbecoming, at best.

  18. Ah, you trolls with your bitching and finger pointing. This was a great business, run by great people delivering an outstanding product. And while they spoke out against the minimum wage increase as is their right, I do not see where they are blaming closing the broadway location on it. If you don’t like the store or it’s product, fine, that’s your right, but the wave of ignorance in response to an article where the author never attempted to contact the owners is despicable. Check your facts, trolls. And perhaps stop by one of the confectional’s other locations so you can see just how amazing their cakes are.

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