Uptown Girl Cupcakes and Dessert Bakes Up Success in White Bear Lake

The newest dessert haven in White Bear Lake greets its customers with a friendly message: “Welcome, cupcake lovers.” Inspired by the creativity of owner Melynda Harjes, the white and blue building on the corner of Banning and Third Street, is now home to Uptown Girl Cupcakes and Dessert. The shop, which opened in February, offers gourmet cupcakes and cakes for various occasions—or no occasion at all.

Whipping Up the Idea

Harjes’ interest in baking started in high school when she began experimenting with recipes. “I just started baking for friends and family, and the demand kept growing,” she recalls. “Eventually I was faced with the decision to expand the business.” It was then that she learned further details about catering to a wider customer base, which meant the need for a commercial kitchen.

In 2015, the solution came to her in the form of a food truck, the simplest and least expensive way to own a licensed kitchen. Bearing the Uptown Girl Cupcake logo and using her original recipes, Harjes’ mobile business became a success. While driving the truck in the White Bear Lake and Mahtomedi areas, she would have people wave, flag her down and give her a thumbs-up. Clearly, it was a sign that something she enjoyed doing was also making people happy.

Rising to the Occasion

Just one year later, the business has expanded to its current brick-and-mortar location. When considering a permanent space for her business, the Hugo resident felt certain about White Bear Lake. “The east metro is often an overlooked area,” Harjes says.

In this cupcake haven, several tables dot the store, waiting for customers to sit and indulge in their cupcake of choice. The novelty of this cupcake shop flows from its pink-and-white striped walls to the splashes of colorful artwork on display by local artists. The overall atmosphere of Uptown Girl Cupcakes is bright, whimsical and fun.

Every Wednesday through Saturday, customers take in a countertop of cupcakes in perfectly lined rows, each an edible work of art. A raspberry-filled dark chocolate cupcake, an oatmeal cream pie cupcake (made with no fewer than seven crushed oatmeal cream pie cookies) or a refreshing lemon cake cupcake, topped with limoncello frosting, are just a few of the options on this inspired menu.

Clarifying the Concept

So where does this cupcake queen come up with her ideas? According to Harjes, there is no end to the possibilities with this particular dessert. “The awesome thing about cupcakes is that you can have this variety that’s not making a commitment to any one flavor; there is really no end to what you can put into cupcakes,” she says with a smile. With Pinterest, Instagram and other social media outlets, it’s easy for her to put her own signature spin on a recipe that catches her eye. The current season is also a way for her to plan some of the upcoming menu items. In the spring and summer, Harjes gets busy baking with strawberries and blueberries. In the fall, apples and peaches are her best ingredients.

The Cherry on Top

Lylah Dixon, a 10th grader at White Bear Lake Area-North Campus, is one of the employees who makes a visit to the shop especially sweet. She smiles as she describes her job. “My favorite part about Uptown Girl Cupcakes is the people I work with and the new people I meet from my community,” she says. “I like watching people walk by and look in the window—it makes them smile.”

This particular Saturday morning, Dixon helps a woman buy two dozen cupcakes for a birthday party after recommending her own favorites from the menu. Next, she assists a man who heard about Uptown Girl Cupcakes from his wife. Finally, another woman strolls inside seeking out one of the famed triple vanillas. After helping them make their selections, Dixon hands over each package wrapped in a bright green-and-pink bow.

Sweet Success

On starting a small business, Harjes says it’s important to be creative with all aspects of the process. What began as a hobby developed into her mobile truck business and eventually a physical space for the store. Whether it’s funding for the project or collaboration with pastry chefs, interior designers and marketers, Harjes advises being resourceful will take you to the next step of your goal.

“I heard a survey on the radio the other day about what people most often regret in life. They listed answers from not finishing college to a past relationship that didn’t work out,” she says. “But the No. 1 regret people listed was not starting their own business. I feel in that regard, I’m a bit more of a risk-taker.”

Uptown Girl’s Top Five Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Cup
Death by Chocolate
Triple Vanilla
Dark Chocolate Raspberry