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The Sunday read — the real story behind the dethroning of Cupcake King • Brooklyn Paper

The Sunday read — the real story behind the dethroning of Cupcake King

The ‘King’ is dead: Sean Rich standing in front of what used to be his shop, The King of Cupcakes.
Photo by Bess Adler

The King of Cupcakes is dead — but the epic fight over the demise of the popular Park Slope shop wages on.

The failure of the fledgling business is a cautionary tale of buttercream and bitterness, pitting soon-to-be-married bakers Megan Kerrigan and Sean Rich against the far more established Ricky’s NYC cosmetics and costume chain.

Kerrigan and Rich opened their mom-and-soon-to-be-pop bakery on Seventh Avenue five months ago in partnership with Ricky’s NYC — a deal that called for the couple to make cupcakes for sale at the shop and at kiosks inside every Ricky’s location. Ricky’s would own 51 percent of the company, and in return provided the storefront and promotional help.

But the arrangement ended on St. Patrick’s Day, when Ricky’s padlocked the shop with no warning. Kerrigan and Rich say that their shop flopped because Ricky’s failed to provide enough promption or install the kiosks to sell the treats.

“They’re millionaires and we have nothing,” said Kerrigan.

Ricky’s honchos contend that the bakery flopped because the newbie owners ran the place like the amateurs they are.

“You can’t do good business with bad people,” said Ricky’s founder Todd Kenig.

In the beginning, of course, it looked like this fairy tale would have a happy ending. Kerrigan and Rich burst onto the baked good scene after The New York Observer wrote up their cupcake cart in Manhattan. Within days, a Ricky’s realty honcho named Adam called Kerrigan to make his pitch.

“His exact words were, ‘Today is your lucky day. We’re gonna make your dreams come true,’ ” she said. Both parties signed a contract and the shop opened near Fourth Street in late October, in the midst of the borough’s roaring cupcake craze.

The couple worked long hours to make their unconventional banana peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pumpkin cannoli cupcakes. They even appeared on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” but the shop couldn’t generate enough cash to stay alive. Kerrigan and Rich blame the “weak” promotional effort by Ricky’s.

Foodies from the neighborhood had their own theories about the demise, calling the cakes “dry” and “oily” on Yelp.com. Dan Myers, who tends to write business-positive stories for the blog Here’s Park Slope also noted, “The staff’s lack of training was painfully apparent to most customers.”

A Ricky’s spokesman declined to talk about the failed business and would not answer questions about the contractual agreement.

Kerrigan is more vocal, saying that Ricky’s took advantage of her and Rich, working them to the bone without the support it promised.

“We had a dream,” she said, adding her Marine Park house is in foreclosure. “Now we’re broke.”

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