Shopping in L.A. is about to get a whole lot less tasty. Johnny Cupcakes’ L.A. store will be closing its doors at the end of April, meaning fans of humorous cupcake-themed T-shirts (as well as shops that look and smell like bakeries) will have to shop online or fly to Massachusetts — or London, for those looking to use their passports.
The lighthearted brand has always maintained one of the most dedicated fan bases of any casual clothing company, but the West Hollywood stretch of Melrose that houses the store has proven a difficult area for stylish brands over the last handful of years. When a young Johnny Earle signed an overpriced lease to bring his T-shirts to the West Coast in 2008, his high hopes and entrepreneurial spirit blinded him to the red flags of the deal he was making.
“At the time, I was pumped to open on the same block as Paul Frank, Kid Robot, DC and A Bathing Ape,” Earle says. “I had no idea my heroes would throw in the towels.”
Although Earle’s initial concern for the L.A. store was that Laker fans wouldn’t support his Boston-born (and therefore Celtic-loving) brand, it turned out that high rent, competing with his own online sales and long-distance management ultimately spelled the end of JCLA. While Earle knows his diehard Angeleno fans will still be able to order their favorite shirts online, his schedule just became too full to bring his personal touch to the brand’s L.A. outpost.
“Running a business from the other side of the USA is tough for someone like me, who values personal relationships with customers,” Earle says. “It was fine in the beginning when I'd go out to L.A. for months at a time, but for the past few years, my team and myself have taken on many other time-consuming responsibilities that split up our focus.”
Aside from having more time to spend on both his personal life (Earle just got married and wants to start a family) and other Johnny Cupcakes projects (such as an upcoming collaboration with Saucony for some Cupcake-themed sneakers), the closing of the L.A. store will allow for more of the brand’s iconic pop-up shops all over SoCal.
“So far I've done hundreds of pop-up shops around the globe and plan to continue to pop up in L.A. and beyond,” Earle says. “Pop-up shops are a great way to constantly introduce the brand to new people while also meeting online customers in person. Plus, you get to theme them differently, which is great when it comes to branding. … We won't be doing pop-up shops as frequently as we used to, but the ones we do will have more of a punch.”
One of Johnny Cupcakes’ calling cards has always been outdoing other brands, so the closing of the L.A. shop won’t be a quiet one. Earle and his family-run business will be giving fans one last treat, a “grand finale” party on April 30. Johnny Cupcakes fans far and near will be in attendance, and the handful of unhappy Yelpers who were disappointed at the store’s lack of pastries can finally stop complaining about having their hunger teased by the “unordinary bake shop.”
“It will be a great celebration of friendships and memories, old and new,” Earle says. “Customers from around the world are already buying flights and plan on camping out the night before with their fellow Johnny Cupcakers. I look forward to giving everyone one last big hug before I send my fake ovens back to Boston.”
Earle knows that shutting down a store “looks funny,” but he says it’s more of a new beginning for the brand than the end of anything. It’ll allow him to be “more sharp, successful and focused on innovation” going forward, and Earle wants all of his fans and followers to remember the central message of the brand, regardless of where they’re buying the clothes and accessories.
“Life is short, don't be a turd,” Earle says. “Keep positive and always remember to do more of what makes you happy.”
For more information about Johnny Cupcakes and the JCLA Grand Finale, follow @JohnnyCupcakes on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, visit johnnycupcakes.com, call the store at (323) 653-2253 or visit it at 7959 Melrose Ave.