On Monday, neighborhood blog Eat Ballard posted on Facebook that beloved dessert haven Hot Cakes was being sold—owner Autumn Martin calling it quits and reportedly asking $1.8 million for both Ballard and Capitol Hill locations. Followers immediately left comments of the “OMG!” variety, and Martin says her phone started blowing up with panicky messages from friends and Hot Cakes employees.
The problem is, Martin says, Hot Cakes isn’t going anywhere.
Instead, Martin says she’s looking for opportunities to grow Hot Cakes—she says she’d like to open a Tacoma location, and perhaps expand to other states. “I’m just not the person to do it,” she says. “I don’t have the steam in my engine.”
That’s a totally understandable situation, as I don’t think Martin has stopped moving since she was first peddling those little molten cakes at farmers markets. Now, she says she’s spent the last year or so meeting with people and exploring the opportunity of partnering with someone who has the business savvy to grow her already successful business. “It’s a pretty intense process trying to find the right person or people that can really understand Hot Cakes, that I get along with, and that have both the vision and the experience,” she says. “I’m not opposed to anything… I think selling is absolutely an option, but it has to be the right circumstance.”
Eat Ballard clearly found a post on BizBuySell listing “two very successful and profitable premium dessert restaurants in Seattle;” Martin says the ad was placed by someone she’s been working with to meet potential partners, but that it doesn’t tell the whole story. “There’s no quitting in any of this,” she insists. “There’s only growth and expansion.”
While I had her on the phone, I asked Martin if she was planning to also grow Frankie & Jo’s, her plant-based ice cream shop (with partner Kari Brunson) with a single Capitol Hill location—and lines down the block at the merest hint of sunny weather. “We would totally like to,” she says, saying though how difficult it is to scale up when the product is as à la minute (i.e. made in house and without stabilizers) as their ice cream. The challenge there is how to expand and still preserve the quality—something she’s already nailed with Hot Cakes’ current locations.
So stop your panicking—those rich, gooey chocolate cakes (and boozy shakes and the best chocolate chip cookies and…) are here to stay.