CUPCAKE crazy

Gophers Bakery sweetens Washington Street with its new location

MARQUETTE — Washington Street in Marquette got a little bit sweeter this year with the help of Eric and Gemma Martello.

The husband-and-wife team of 30-year-olds own and operate the dessert-oriented Gophers Bakery, which they relocated earlier this year from Third Street in Marquette to a building along Washington Street, formerly occupied by Bella Beads. The new shop, at 325 W. Washington St., opened in late October.

Years ago, Gophers used to serve other dishes. But more recently its focus had shifted to be solely on bakery desserts, such as cakes, bars and cookies, cannoli and, of course, unique cupcakes.

“We’re trying to do more than just your traditional, you know, here’s a chocolate cupcake, here’s a vanilla cupcake,” Eric said.

The couple makes a variety of cupcakes filled with different creams, ganaches and even raspberries, and topped with frostings and other items.

“Inspiration really comes from anywhere,” Eric said. Sometimes it’s as easy as surfing the internet and checking out various posts, such as “Cupcakes You have To Try Before You Die,” Gemma said.

“And then once in a while there will be an idea that really just knocks around in my brain for a while,” she added.

One of those ideas was for a root beer float cupcake, which is a root beer-flavored cupcake, filled with vanilla custard, and topped with vanilla buttercream and crushed root beer barrel candies from Donckers.

“It’s really surprisingly popular,” Gemma said. “I thought it might be a little weird for people, but they really liked it.”

Other popular selections are simply based off of Gophers’ “most popular cake flavors,” Eric said, such as chocolate raspberry.

“That’s probably one of our most ordered cakes, if not the most ordered,” he explained. “So having that in cupcake form, people are just like, ‘You mean you made just a single serving of that? Yes, please. Give me six.'”

Gemma began working as a waitress in 2003 at Gophers, which was first opened by Patrick and Jackie Gonda in 1998 at the corner of Third and Ohio streets in Marquette, and was eventually moved to 910 N. Third St.

“When you were a waitress there, you had to know how to bake at least a little bit,” Gemma said. “You had to know how to do cheesecakes, because at the end of the night you’d be told ‘Have a couple cheesecakes ready for the case tomorrow.’ So, we learned those fast.”

Aside from learning some baking skills from her parents, Gemma said she learned most of her craft “on the fly.” And after the previous cake decorator at Gophers left, she was given the position.

Eric’s experience in the food service industry began as a dishwasher his freshman year of high school. He continued performing similar work at restaurants along the way, building up a “basic run of the mill food service” resume.

The couple was offered the opportunity to buy Gophers and took ownership in 2014 from the Gondas, who by that time had already opened up Coco’s Restaurant along Lakeshore Boulevard in Marquette.

“When they opened up Coco’s down on the lakeshore (about eight or nine years ago), that’s when the food went down there … and we stuck to doing just desserts at that Third Street location, and we’re sticking with just desserts down here too,” Gemma said of the new Washington Street location. “We have no plans to get into soups or anything like that.”

Taking ownership of the business wasn’t exactly something Eric dreamed of, but he has no complaints.

“Gophers opened when we were both in middle school up on Third Street,” he recalled. “If you would have told me when I was in like sixth, seventh grade that I would own that business someday, I wouldn’t have believed you … It’s been a wonderful experience and we wouldn’t change anything.”

Though partly predicated on their former landlord’s plan to renovate the Third Street location and the inability of the Martellos to continue operating their business during that time, Gemma said the move to Washington Street has made the shop more visible and easier to get to.

“We’ve seen a lot of other business owners coming in and saying hello and seeing what we’re doing, and it’s been really cool to see how the community supports other small businesses,” she said.

The response from customers thus far has been good, Gemma said, noting that Gophers serves a certain niche market in the area.

“We’ve heard a lot of people come back to us and tell us that they really wanted a cupcake shop in Marquette,” she said. “They wanted somewhere where you could just come in and grab gourmet cupcakes and … we were able to fill that little void in Marquette.”

Gophers Bakery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

For more information call 226-0900 or visit gophersmqt.com.

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is rjarvi@miningjournal.net.