DADE CITY — After nearly three years, the owner of Betty Cakes, home of the famous chocolate and vanilla spider cake, is hanging up her apron.
Vickie West, who began tempting local taste buds in 2011 with gourmet cakes and desserts as a franchise of the original store in Ocala, has decided to retire.
"I have had no lack of business," said West, who is married to David West, promotions coordinator for the Tampa Bay Times in east and central Pasco. "I've had to turn people down for custom cakes."
The Dade City store opened when West, 60, approached mentor Betty Williamson about expanding Betty Cakes to other locations, and they embarked on a franchising plan with the bakery's top-secret recipes.
While custom orders boomed, day-to-day traffic in downtown Dade City, which relies mainly on daytime tourism, was sluggish despite homemade goodies such as kumquat pies and orange Dreamsicle cake.
A recent analysis from a consultant group composed of Saint Leo University graduate students showed that daytime visitors are not enough to sustain the downtown area or attract entrepreneurs or the arts community. West said she agrees with that assessment.
The shop was flush with marketing efforts, even making cakes for blockbuster movies at the Cobb Grove Theatres. When the Twilight series played, moviegoers got to see an elaborate themed wedding cake in the lobby.
West said she enjoyed working in the store, which began with cake and expanded to offer soups, sandwiches, salads and a dessert bar, along with gourmet coffees. Patrons also could get a free slice of cake on their birthdays.
The store employed about 12 people. Its last day will be May 24. The two days before that, visitors will get a free beverage with purchase at a "grand closing." Those who want custom cakes for upcoming events can order them before the closing date.
"They freeze well," West said.
A veteran caterer, West said she's retiring for the foreseeable future but might resume handling special events later.
The little shop at 37941 Meridian Ave. won't be closed long. An Italian deli will be going in on June 1.
"It's the perfect place for a place like that," West said.