There's a new sweet spot on the shoreline road in Old Lyme. Cupcakes and Flying Hearts, an improbable but appealing assortment of decadent mini-cupcakes and a collection of beach cottage furniture, artists' creations, whimsies and what-nots, is the collaboration of two enterprising sisters who grew up in East Lyme.
The Lacey sisters, now Pat Maillett and Teri Thompson, finish each other's sentences, often with a punch line. They didn't set out to open a shop last fall, but when Pat, a graphic designer and artist, found herself unemployed two years ago as the mail order catalog company she had worked at for 15 years folded, an article about two women in Rhode Island who started a mobile cupcake business got her going.
"I had never made cupcakes before, but I said to Teri, 'This is what we have to do,'" Pat said.
"She never really baked," laughed Teri.
Teri moved back to the region in 2005 after her husband, John, whose job with Electric Boat had taken them to the West Coast and Denver years ago, had passed away. She decided it was time to be back with her sister. John's ashes were scattered in the bay, not far from Niantic's Board Walk.
The sisters admit to being like Lucy and Ethel in "I Love Lucy," with Teri the expressive extrovert and Pat the questioning introvert who wonders what the two have gotten themselves into. Both are full of creative ideas and energy.
Their latest enterprise started with a neighbor's early morning party to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding on TV. Pat bought her first mini-cupcake pan and decided to make champagne cupcakes. Friends tasted them and wanted more. After checking with Ledge Light Health District, Pat turned a trailer into a legal food service kitchen and started creating cupcakes and taking orders.
Their first big event was the New London Adult Education fundraiser last October, which draws more than 500 people. The sisters snapped up a garden cart from Salem Country Gardens as previous owners sold off the business, painted and redecorated the piece as a wedding cart, and whipped up hundreds of cupcakes.
"People kept asking 'Where's your store?'" said Pat, who was getting into a daily habit of baking and decorating cupcakes for orders and wondering what to do with the extras. One day, she noticed the vacant storefront next to Old Lyme Seafood. It felt like the perfect location, especially with the coastal view from the kitchen.
"Dawn (Root) of Old Lyme Seafood has been instrumental in helping us get the shop set up," she said of her landlord. "Imagine two sisters, neither who had done this before, installing a commercial kitchen and a store."
Cupcakes and Flying Hearts, which opened in the spring, carries a daily variety of enticing little treats, plus Ashlawn Farm coffee by the cup. The majority of mini-cupcakes come with exotic fillings, plus frostings, candy melt toppers and other decorations.
For example, chocolate cupcakes can be filled with peanut butter, coffee, mocha, vanilla cream or strawberry filling and topped with chocolate frosting. Coconut minis are cream-filled and topped with coconut cream frosting with a hint of lime. The champagne ones have raspberry filling with champagne frosting and a fresh raspberry on top.
A few unfilled minis are chock-full of ingredients. The Hummingbird, billed as a Southern favorite, has pineapple, coconut, banana, toasted pecans and cinnamon in the batter, topped with orange cream cheese frosting, coconut and toasted pecans. The carrot cake minis have walnuts, carrots, pineapple and coconut topped with cream cheese frosting.
There are filled vanilla, peanut butter and red velvet minis, too.
At $1 apiece, the mini-cupcakes are affordable luxuries, each is a decadent treat that doesn't pack in too many calories. The minis come packaged in multiple sizes of presentation boxes, from 2 , 4 or 6 to 12 or 24.
Pat, who developed the recipes after experimenting with several she found online, also welcomes customers to bring in ideas for ingredients, combinations and requests for special decorations for holidays, bridal and baby shows, birthdays and other celebrations. Custom orders start at $14 per dozen.
Art and flying hearts
Somewhere along the way, the plans evolved from a cupcake shop with a few other items for sale to a beach lifestyle shop with one-of-a-kind finds and cottage furniture, vintage linens, dishes and jewelry that also has cupcakes and coffee. Both sisters have a passion for antiquing, finding treasures and making things.
"Teri's always creating something, clothing, sweaters, jewelry," said Pat.
Artistic genes run elsewhere in the family; the shop also features paintings by their nephew, Rick Lacey, a recent graduate of the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. His sister, Hannah, a Lyme-Old Lyme High School student, also helped out this summer in the shop and kitchen.
But the sisters complement each other. Pat likes to be back in the kitchen; the initial plan was for Teri to be out front talking with the customers, but as she started decorating the place, she got inspired to create collections along the whimsical and beachy lines. Artisans have started stopping by with their creations.
"Pat's the visual artist; she can draw and come up with the greatest little sayings and art," said Teri, who makes her own jewelry and creates miniatures with little statues. "I love finding diamonds in the rough - we both like to comb yard sales and find things to paint."