After watching Paula Deen procure a miniature version of the red velvet cupcake on the Food Network, passionate home-chef Brandon Arnovick had a vision that could transform San Francisco’s food culture in a very sweet way.
Inspired by his love for food, Arnovick plans to cater to every sweet tooth in the Mission District and beyond by bringing the first mini cupcake bakery to the food-friendly neighborhood. Located at 3168 22nd Street, the 550 square-foot storefront known as “Mission Minis” officially opened last Friday and is filled with tiny bites of heaven, wrapped in delicate paper liner and topped off with a penny-sized dab of icing.
“Cupcakes are like chocolate and sex — everybody loves them,” said Arnovick, 38. “Baking is an ultra rewarding experience for me.”
At Mission Minis, customers can choose from a selection of eight different types of cupcakes, ranging from classic flavors such as “red velvet” to more exotic tastes, such as “cinnamon horchata” and “Aztec chocolate,” priced at $1 per cupcake.
“Being in the Mission has made me gravitate to Aztec chocolate and horchata-inspired cupcakes. It’s been my throw to the Latin community,” said Arnovick, who has been a resident of the Mission District for 14 years. “I can speak maybe 100 words of Spanish — but that doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in the community and making a product that residents are familiar with.”
Music producer by day, Food Network devotee by night, Arnovick has always had a habit of cooking for the bands, artists and friends who come through his home and studio. But it wasn’t until this past summer that he started experimenting with ingredients and cupcake recipes — and soon found himself baking seven days a week.
“One day, I took my cupcakes to a local corner coffee shop. I’d check in everyday to see if they were sold,” Arnovick said. “Then I took them to Phil’z — he’s like the mayor of coffee shops. He wanted my cupcakes in all four of his stores.”
Arnovick’s mini cupcakes are currently carried by 15 major coffee shops and restaurants throughout the city, including Whole Foods and Asqew Grill, and the increasing demand for his sweet creations prompted him to start a delivery service and open a kiosk in North Beach two months ago.
“Brandon’s been working non-stop since he started making the cupcakes,” said Ayda Ortega, 33, a former neighbor who occasionally helps out at Mission Minis. “My experience selling the cupcakes is that people fall in love with them at first bite.”
With the mini cupcakes’ instant success, Arnovick realized that he had tapped into the “cupcake craze” that has been sweeping the nation ever since popular shows such as “Sex and the City” made empty calories chic.
“In Los Angeles and New York, the cupcake trend is huge. I’ve done no advertising whatsoever, but the word is getting out,” Arnovick said. “I don’t see the trend dying anytime soon — people are going to get addicted to them.”
By selling strictly mini cupcakes, Arnovick seems to have found a niche that, at least in San Francisco, comes with limited competition — for now.
“You have to have some sort of twist — we only make mini cupcakes, and that’s what will come to mind when people think of us,” Arnovick said. “We only make one thing, and we make it well.”
While hoping to expand his business throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area in the future, Arnovick is now focused on keeping Mission Minis up and running six days a week — much to the delight of his neighbors.
“I’m all for mini cupcakes,” said Lindsey Sheehi, who works across the street from Mission Minis. “If they had big cupcakes, I’d only get one of them. But since they’re so small, I can get two or three flavors and not feel bad.”