Walking into Cakes by Happy Eatery is a feast for the eyes, nose, and spirit. The artistically decorated cakes, cookies, and pastries, the heavenly aromas from the kitchen, and the friendly greeting makes you feel welcome as soon as you walk in.
Sisters Victoria and Emily Wu are the second generation to continue the family bakery business. Their parents started the business nearly 40 years ago at a location in Alexandria. They ran a popular bakery for many years. When they needed a larger location, the family moved the business to Centreville where they became a fixture in the community. Then, when Aksoylu Properties was developing a new center in Manassas, they really wanted a bakery, and they approached Cakes by Happy Eatery about moving to their current location on Liberia Avenue.
“It wasn’t that far for us to move, so we could keep the clientele that we had. The appeal of custom designing our own space was too powerful to resist,” says Victoria. “We’ve been here 14 years now, and we love being the go-to place for the birthday and wedding cakes, special occasion desserts, and savory dinners for our community.”
When they moved to Manassas, it was the perfect time for their parents to retire. Bakery owners do not travel during the holidays, so when their parents’ first grandchild was on the way, Victoria and Emily stepped up to take things from there. Emily runs the back of the house and Victoria is up front.
The business continued to evolve and grow. “We offered grab-n-go before it had a name,” Victoria said. “We’ve always done curbside.”
Those services really came into play when COVID hit and changed everything. People still celebrated birthdays and weddings, but Cakes by Happy Eatery had to make things special on a smaller scale. They have always created custom cakes, but now they were creating smaller, taller cakes, for example, or individually wrapped cakes or pastries. That created new challenges for packaging and for how to transport their creations securely.
When nearly everyone was working from home, local people were discovering the bakery for the first time because they were home more and exploring places near their home. They were awarded a grant through the Prince William County Department of Economic Development (PWCDED)’s Microgrant Program for COVID relief. The grant allowed them to purchase a commercial air purifier and filtration system as well as oven’s dedicated to the bakery’s savory options, like their Chicken Pot Pie.
Their fresh and frozen family-sized offerings appealed to working families. The bakery’s multiple large ovens gave them the ability to be flexible with what they offered.
“Our landlord was wonderful to work with,” Victoria shared. “We had banners printed with all of the businesses in the plaza offering grab-n-go options, and the landlord put them up, so people driving by would notice them.”
Many people took up bread baking during the lockdowns, and Victoria and Emily were able to hook them up with yeast when the grocery stores were out of stock.
“We just became surfing survivors—we kept riding each wave as it came and adjusting to what our customers and neighbors needed. Now that people are feeling more comfortable, we’re all about the parties again!” says Victoria. “But we are still working with supply chain issues, particularly getting single-serving packaging. The truck-driver shortage is affecting everyone’s deliveries, so we continue to make adjustments and be prepared.”
Earlier this month, PWCDED ordered 500 cookies from Cakes By Happy to serve as the takeaway swag for the department’s exhibit booth at Modern Day Marine. Each service branch honors faithful service with a version of the Good Conduct Medal, one of the oldest military awards of the United States Armed Forces. In the Marines, this medal, often referred to as a “good cookie,” is earned after three years of faithful service. The playful cookies were an immediate hit with Marines, government contractors, and the show runners themselves.
Victoria and Emily realize that many others have had difficult times and consider themselves fortunate to have worked through the pandemic, they continue to do the work that they love with the community they love to keep their family business going.