The sign on the front door said “Closed.” A near-full parking lot and the buzz of activity Friday morning inside Ta’Nisha Monique Cupcakes indicated otherwise.
That’s a good thing. A very good thing.
Just four days after fledgling entrepreneur Ta’Nisha Kimbrough discovered the wreckage left behind by the thief who’d committed a smash-and-grab, the support of a community breathed new life into her business.
Some 2,000 cupcakes flew out the door nearly as fast as Kimbrough and a tight circle of close friends and family could make them.
“We were sold out by 12:30, 1 o’clock Wednesday and Thursday,” Kimbrough said. “It’s just been a blessing. Unbelievable. The whole community came together.”
And it all started with a simple hash tag — #BuyOutTheBakery — put out on social media by a friend determined to help.
Thinking about others
It was difficult to tell Friday morning that the bakery had suffered a terrible setback.
Tim James, Kimbrough’s father and a retired city cop, was up to his elbows in dirt sprucing up the landscaping in front of the store. A handful of friends and potential customers rolled into the parking lot eager to help.
Inside, behind the small counter and cold-drink display case, Kimbrough and a couple others were busy with the day’s baking and icing duties.
It wasn’t exactly where Kimbrough imagined she’d be in the pre-dawn hours Monday when she was alerted that somebody had broken into her business. The thief knocked down a wall to escape and left a mess in the back where the sugary magic happens.
She felt violated and betrayed; Kimbrough had deliberately chose to re-purpose a service station on Liberty Street so she could be a good steward and supportive of the neighborhood.
She was initially angry, and rightfully so. Anybody out there who’s had a burglar rifle the inside of their home or some dumb kid smash a car window knows the feeling.
“At 4 a.m. yesterday (Monday), as I ran out of my house, my main focus was on protecting my business,” Kimbrough wrote in the opening of a Facebook post.
But then a funny thing happened. Her deep faith and a silent moment of prayer completely changed her focus.
“Although my spirit was shaken and I was very upset, I put that aside as I sat outside my bakery and just began to pray for the young man who felt the need to break into the bakery. He was the one who needs prayer right now more than this mess he made at the bakery.”
Kimbrough began planning to re-open as quickly as possible. She initially made arrangements to bake off-site but said Friday that she managed to cobble together enough equipment and supplies to stay put.
Then social media, goosed by classic old-school media, stepped in.
No question about trying to help
The hash tag #BuyOutTheBakery stirred action. A friend named Candice Benbow floated it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as soon as she learned about the break-in.
Benbow, a native of Winston-Salem who now lives in New Jersey, said Friday that she got to know Kimbrough after Kimbrough offered to help a complete stranger, a young mother in a tough spot, by donating cakes and cupcakes for a child’s birthday party.
“I would not have known her if she hadn’t offered to help someone out in their time of need,” Benbow said. “That just tells you how her heart is.”
So once Benbow learned about what had befallen her friend there was no question about trying to help: a social media trend was launched. But even with her savvy with social media, she was a surprised by the size of the reaction.
“I did not expect it. … I just thought it would be great for a day to have people buy out the bakery,” she said. “It’s just a testament to the power of Winston.”
Big-hearted individuals and groups from all over the city came to the store on Liberty Street to buy cupcakes and baked goods. Nigel Alston, the executive director of the N.C. Black Repertory Company, made a pledge to match individuals’ purchases.
Thousands of cupcakes were sold — and many consumed — within an hour of the bakery’s opening each day last week.
Photographs of people enjoying fresh cupcakes were fed into Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter accounts. A graphic-design company created a logo for #BuyOutTheBakery.
“I did not (see it coming),” Kimbrough said. “But then again, my daughter keeps saying she’s tired of teaching me to Snapchat.”
Hurdles remain to fully restore the bakery, of course. She still has an insurance claim to work through, and repairing the damage fully will take some time yet.
But the support of friends, family and the larger community has buoyed her spirit.
“It’s been a blessing. I’m just so grateful,” Kimbrough said. “I want all small businesses to stick together. People do care and it’s great to see.”