If you thought Chicago’s artisanal cupcake bubble was set to burst circa 2013, well, think again: Gigi’s Cupcakes (3217 Lake Avenue, Wilmette, 847-800-4084), the self-proclaimed largest cupcake chain in the United States, will open October 28 at Wilmette’s Westlake Plaza.
Founded in 2008 by singer-turned-entrepreneur Gigi Butler, Gigi’s Cupcakes is a straight-up bootstrap operation. “In 2007, my brother was in New York City standing in line for two hours at a cupcake store,” says Butler, who moved from California to Nashville at age 18 to pursue music. “He called and said, ‘You make better cupcakes. Why don’t you do this?’ I took out a $100,000 cash advance on my credit card and built my first cupcake shop.” Gigi’s has expanded considerably since then, to nearly 100 stores in 24 states, slinging baked sweets from wedding cakes to pies to fruit breads.
As for what Butler and local owner Christine Yaccino will bring to the Wilmette location, it’ll be a by-the-books Gigi’s menu—but you will need a month to get through it. “We have about 378 flavors of cupcake,” says Butler, “and usually [do] 12 flavors day.” The runaway favorites are red velvet, cookie dough, chocolate mousse, and wedding cake (an actual flavor), with wonkier highlights including s’mores, butterscotch bacon, and pumpkin spice latte (of course). Details on the interior are scant, but it will definitely have café tables and, according to Butler, “southern flair.” Pressed on what exactly that means, she elaborates: “Hospitality. Friendly and helpful when you come in the door. Really not what Chicago is used to.” Consider yourselves warned, grumps.