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Magnolia Bakery is a bakery opened in 1996 at 401 Bleecker Street, on the corner of West 11th Street in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. An uptown shop opened at 200 Columbus Avenue, on the corner of West 69th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in January 2008. A location also exists near Rockefeller center at 1240 Avenue of the Americas, and yet another in the dining concourse of Grand Central Station, which opened in February 2010. The final bakery in the United States was opened in 2012 on 108 N State Street in Chicago, Illinois. The bakery is known for its famous dessert treats, including its cupcakes and old-fashioned Depression era icebox cakes.
Magnolia bakery opened in July 1996 with Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel as co-owners. They had three employees: Kathryn McCann (who was originally hired to be the bread baker), William (who washed dishes) and Avi Bonime (barista/counter guy). They offered four kinds of bread along with both cinnamon rolls and whole wheat maple walnut rolls during the first week of operation. Making bread proved to be impractical due to time and space constraints. Southern-raised Kathryn stayed on, however, to bake cakes and pastries, helping Allysa with icing cakes and testing recipes with her late at night. The cupcakes were Allysa's brainchild that resulted because when they would make 6" coconut cakes (instead of the usual 9"), there was extra batter going to waste. Thus, the cupcakes were born in early fall of 1996. They were originally only vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream icing tinted pink...the same as the icing that was on the nicknamed "Barbie Cake" of the time. They were baked in the afternoons and iced at night when the bakery was officially closed. There would be many people (mostly guys heading to Christopher Street) walking by late at night and when Allysa would tell them the bakery was closed, they would beg for just a cupcake. She obliged. Thus the craze began.
Magnolia Bakery was originally envisioned as just a nice little neighborhood bakery that would be open from about 8am-6pm. That plan changed quickly due to demand. The first summer the bakery was open, its air conditioner wasn't working and the 100 degree kitchen was too hot for many first-time visitors.
The bakery is credited with starting a 1990s "cupcake craze". The Magnolia Bakery's owner, Allysa Torey, along with former co-owner Jennifer Appel, published a book in 1999 entitled The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook: Old-Fashioned Recipes from New York's Sweetest Bakery.
In 2000, co-owner Jennifer Appel parted ways with Torey and opened Buttercup Bake Shop in the Midtown East section of Manhattan. Allysa Torey (otherwise known by her given name Lisa Salvatore) sold The Magnolia Bakery to new owners, Steve and Tyra Abrams. As of January 1, 2007, she has agreed to stay on as a consultant for an unspecified amount of time.
On July 11, 2007, the bakery was shut down by the New York Department of Health for not having enough sinks, a missing door handle, a missing light cover, and several mouse droppings and fruit flies in its garbage area. The bakery fixed all of these problems. The same day that the NYDOH shut the bakery down, the Mayor's office was bombarded with telephone calls of protest and begging for the Mayor to re-open the shop. The Mayor buckled under the pressure and Magnolia Bakery re-opened the next day after passing inspection.
The exterior of the bakery downtown, as well as its cupcakes, were featured in Lazy Sunday, a Saturday Night Live digital short broadcast in December 2005. The bakery was also featured on Sex and the City, in the film Prime, in which one of the characters throws Magnolia pies at his ex-girlfriends, and in The Devil Wears Prada, in which the character Andy says at one point that she needs to get to the bakery to pick something up for her boyfriend. The sitcom Spin City also has Charlie Sheen's character bringing Magnolia Cupcakes to Heather Locklear's character. On October 16, 2008, Conan O'Brien bought a cupcake for each member of his audience during a taping of Late Night. It was also briefly mentioned in the third season of Veronica Mars, the title character affectionately mentioning a picture of her father "stuffing cupcakes in [his] face at Magnolia Bakery."
In 2010, Magnolia Bakery opened its first non-US store in Dubai. In 2012 announced its further internationalization into the Middle East, and revealed that it was planning on expanding to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco. The plan is a 5-year plan which included 120 new stores worldwide.