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Cake: have it and eat it too at Maxie B’s

by Lauren Cartwright

Owning a small business is a lot like juggling. There are always five or six balls going around at once ‘— a valuable employee on vacation, a laptop meltdown, piling paperwork and inventory that must be accounted for. The trick is not to drop a ball or let one get ahead of the others.

Robin Davis knows all about juggling. A mother, wife and owner of the two Maxie B’s in Greensboro, she could probably join the circus.

Robin and her husband Lewis started a yogurt business in August 1985 at 5700-E W. Market St. Back then, they worked under the franchise of I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt and in 1988 they opened their Battleground Avenue location. As the business grew into more than just a yogurt shop ‘— with home decorations and ice cream ‘— they decided to branch out on their own in 2001. And thus Maxie B’s was born.

Robin said it was tough after they first changed their name. People thought someone else took over the shop. The new Maxie B’s signs went up on the buildings on Sept. 11, 2001. People would look confused in the parking lot at the new signs, Robin said. ‘“It was like they just couldn’t take any more change on that day.’” Luckily, the News & Record wrote a story on the name change and it brought people back around, she said.

The name is derived from the Davis’ pug puppies (now deceased) named Max and Bitterman, and the couple came upon the bakery business almost by accident. Robin says when she was pregnant she craved chocolate and baked herself cakes. She brought what remained of one of the cakes up to the shop one Sunday evening and by Monday there were people calling to place orders for the bakery business that Maxie B’s didn’t technically have.

‘“The cakes will be sixty percent of our business this year,’” Robin says as she sits in one of the blue booths in the Battleground store, periodically stopping to talk to a customer or solve a problem for an employee.

The yogurt and ice cream part of the business ‘“just happen’” Robin says, ‘“It’s not in my mind, not like the cakes.’” The baked goods division of Maxie B’s has taken on a life of it’s own, causing Robin to begin plans for a larger store.

Robin says that cakes are an emotional item. People associate tastes with happy times in their lives, weddings, birthdays or showers.

Adding another ball to the act, Maxie B’s has started attending bridal shows in the area and expanded their market to the surrounding towns. Maxie B’s has delivered cakes as far away as Raleigh and Danville. Robin says they’ve seen lots of trends in wedding cakes over the years. A current fad is a Krispy Kreme cake with tiers and platforms consisting of donuts from the famous local chain. Robin says one bride came in with a detailed drawing of the donut cake she wants.

‘“We’re going to have to figure that one out,’” she says.

They are also moving into the wholesale arena. (Does that make eight or nine balls to juggle?) The River Twist Kitchen in Jamestown is their first wholesale account, but Robin says, ‘“We would like to move into Winston-Salem with the wholesale.’”

River Twist’s manager, Jason Swanger says that his restaurant orders twice a week from Maxie B’s. ‘“The cakes sell exceptionally well’… we usually go through five to six cakes in three days,’” he said. So well in fact, a deli case that was meant for meats and cheeses was converted into a cake case.

One thing is for certain with Maxie B’s: the business is always evolving. With each season the menu gets a few new items and others disappear until their season comes around again. In the summer months the strawberry butter cream cakes are always a hit. The pumpkin chocolate cakes are popular September through December. Maxie B’s also does holiday cakes too ‘­’— a Christmas cake that is actually an eggnog pound cake and earlier this month a red, white and blue cake made with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. Customers sometimes bring in a recipe, Robin says, so it’s possible your Aunt Edna’s chocolate crème surprise might eventually find its way onto the menu.

Most of the baking is done at the Market Street location, where Ashley Carroll, Payton Egger and Kristin Sink are manning, or should I say ‘wo-manning,’ the store. Maxie B’s is an all-woman operation, except when Lewis is called in to tackle a honey-do list at one of the stores.

Kristin is in charge of baking today, a task she says she enjoys. Talking to her co-workers she rhythmically pulls goodies out of the side-by-side double ovens, mixes white gooey batter and refills mini loaf pans with unbaked banana nut cake. Payton, between digging through the case of cake decorating tips, runs to the front of the store to wait on customers. She seems to be the designated customer service representative on this particular day. Ashley works on a yellow-iced chocolate cake with white daisies. She doesn’t know what the cake’s occasion is for. ‘“I’d rather ice than bake,’” she says and it looks, to an untrained baker with years of cake eating experience, like she’s doing a great job. Robin says they will refocus on the home decorations soon. They will be restocked just time for the holiday season. ‘“That’s on my to do list for today,’” she says. As she jokes about working on Christmas in July, another ball labeled ‘gifts and decorations’ is tossed expertly into the juggling cycle at Maxie B’s.

To comment on this story, e-mail Lauren Cartwright at lauren@yesweekly.com.

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