Once a hobby, PinkaBella Cupcakes expands into Bellevue Square

“Frosting shots – $1” states a card sitting next to the cash register at PinkaBella Cupcakes in Redmond.

A buck will buy you a dollop of your choice of frostings – and you can avoid all those messy cake crumbs completely.

Margo Engberg’s passion for cupcakes started when she was a little girl. Over the years it morphed into a hobby and then a home-based business. Seven months ago, she started PinkaBella in Redmond.

On June 5, Engberg’s passion will expand into Bellevue Square Mall with the grand opening of her second PinkaBella shop.

Her business began in an unlikely way: baking birthday cupcakes for children in Africa. Her husband, Doug, is affiliated with the nonprofit Children of the Nations, a Christian organization that supports orphans and destitute children. The couple have four adopted children, including three siblings from Guatemala.

“We really are passionate about kids and children in need. We have been very involved in the community and giving back and try to do as much as we can,” said Engberg, who was attired in a red polka-dot dress and black apron.

“I was already baking cupcakes for friends’ parties and events. And I thought why not turn it into a business and use cupcakes as a vehicle to raise money for as many children in need as possible,” she added.

With the sale of her cupcakes, the Engbergs have been able to donate some of the proceeds to help children around the community and the world.

As for her expansion, well, Bellevue came to her. “They had recently lost their cupcake vendor, and the leasing agent there had enjoyed one of my creations and approached me about the offer,” said Engberg.

Don Ford, a first-time customer, was visiting the shop on a recent Sunday. “I’m in from Colorado, but my granddaughter loves this place, and says it’s great,” he said. His granddaughter, Kaleigh Carroll, posed for a photo while he gently wiped frosting off her cheek.

Keeping just a two-person baking staff, Engberg will be working double-duty in the next couple of months as her community-based business doubles in size.

“It’s going to be very busy. I have hired two new girls to work in Bellevue, but will still keep just two-full time bakers,” Engberg said.

PinkaBella in Bellevue, with a more open concept, will offer the same 34 flavors of cupcakes, from chocolate and red velvet to banana split and key lime. Also available are gluten-free cupcakes. Unlike Redmond, the new location will feature everyday mini-cupcakes as well.

“We are conveniently located in the children’s section, so minis just seemed appropriate,” said Engberg.

When asked what it is that sets her cupcake business apart, Engberg responded with a quick, yet modest, “We are small; I know everyone that works for me.

“We are very hands-on. I am around, I interact, and maybe that’s because we are still so small, but I think that is what makes us very different,” she added.

“In fact, many of these girls call me Mama Margo,” she added with a smile.

“I’ve known the Engbergs since I was young,” said Hilary Green, a part-time summer employee. “They are just good people; I actually used to color pictures (for Margo),” she said.

With a pink-dominated color scheme that resembles a Victoria Secret shopping bag, Engberg’s quaint shop leaves you with the feel of nothing but girlie day in the kitchen.

Engberg’s cozy ambience hasn’t gone unnoticed. Many customers stay and chat while they enjoy their snacks. And many simply wander in for to peek at the creative magic that has come to life in the baked goods.

As for her opening, Engberg is hoping for a party.

“We are planning a big to-do, with a strong focus on the kids. We will have face-painting, balloons, free mini cupcakes, coupons for discounts, and drawings for free cupcakes.”

Ganelle Swehla is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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