'We're Baking On Demand'
Tony Velazquez could see more than a dozen people lining up outside of Baked & Wired. It was a Saturday morning, not yet 8 a.m., and the relaxed bakery and coffee shop was about to open its doors to some seriously anxious customers.
‘We opened and all of a sudden there was a problem with someone butting in line,’ Tony says. ‘These two ladies almost went at it, and they hit one of the cupcake holders and glass started flying everywhere. There was glass all over the place and they were arguing and it’s like…it’s a cupcake!’
It is just a cupcake—but ask tourists, office employees and residents alike and they’ll tell you it’s also one of the best in the city.
Tony and his wife, Teresa, have owned the space on Thomas Jefferson Street since 1980, but the frosting frenzy didn’t come until later. Tony’s first introduction to Georgetown was as an architect. After meeting and falling in love with Teresa, the couple opened a graphics store called Zap.
‘Eventually, we saw the market dying, and I was always looking for something else to do,’ Tony says. ‘We thought coffee and baking were a niche market in DC that wasn’t being addressed, and we’d looked at the idea of it 10 years prior when we went to the West Coast. But then Starbucks moved in and it didn’t seem like good timing.’
In 2001, timing changed. Zap was still in business, but Tony and Teresa found themselves carving out more and more space for the bakery and coffee shop as business picked up. In 2007, the only thing that remained of Zap was the sign outside—still there today.
‘A reviewer came and wrote a nice article about us and we lived by that,’ Tony recalls. ‘At first we didn’t open on weekends because no one would come down this street. It was probably the worst location to open any business; we just did it because we already had the space.’
The street traffic eventually grew to a bustling block of office workers and bikers alike—matching pace with the Velazquez’s learning curve.
‘I came from a family where we drank a lot of coffee, but we just didn’t know what good coffee was,’ Tony says. ‘Teresa comes from a family where they always baked. She grew up with it and had good technique, but it was all for family. We never thought it would be a business. The difference is huge.’
Let’s talk volume, for starters. In the beginning, Teresa baked everything—her daughter, Tessa, molding all the cupcake papers as a child. As business grew and volume increased, they started hiring bakers who worked off of Teresa’s recipes. And while the coffee side of the business has evolved tremendously, Tessa says the taste of the cupcakes and other baked goods is consistent with the early days—a testament to baking in small batches, resisting cheaper ingredients, and Teresa still spending a considerable amount of time in the kitchen.
So exactly how many cupcakes—cakecups, as they're known at Baked & Wired—are they making every day, in addition to scones, pies, cookies and more? ‘It’s something ridiculous,’ Tony says.
Baked & Wired keeps pace by taking inventory every two hours. Three to five times a day, the van makes a new delivery from the kitchen in Tysons Corner.
‘Everything that gets baked is made because we’re running out of stuff,’ Tony says. ‘We don’t have much waste; we’re baking on demand.’
High demand, as it were—which leaves little time for rest. Both of Tony and Teresa’s kids work for Baked & Wired; Tessa as the Operations Director and her brother, Zak, as the manager of the coffee program. The family takes a vacation every year to clear their heads, but Tony says it’s impossible to separate the business from their home life.
‘We try to take time off, but it’s hard to talk about something in which work doesn’t filter in,’ he says. ‘It just happens. We all care about it, and it’s not a bad thing. That’s not to say we don’t have our fights and get pissed off, but it’s good. It’s healthy. It’s wonderful to get to know our kids as adults.’
While the Velazquez’s don’t tire of each other, they can’t say the same for the cupcakes.
‘We’ll taste them sometimes to make sure they aren’t overbaked, but it’s not every day,’ Tony says. ‘The new hires are very assertive about going after anything they can eat. It’s the Baked and Wired 15. And then it’s the Baked and Wired Lose 30.’
That doesn’t mean they won’t pick favorites. For Tony, it’s the Tessita—a vanilla cupcake with dulce de leche filling and chocolate-hazelnut satin icing, named after his daughter. He’s a smart man.
A smart man, and a humble one.
‘Never in our wildest dreams did we think there would be such an interest in what we do. Maybe it’s because it’s a product that makes you happy, and you know it’s going to be the same thing tomorrow.’
Even at 7:55 a.m. on a Saturday.