Canada + Spain + Cupcakes=A Mix of Cultures that Works

(As previously seen on the Writer With A Passport blog.)

It’s 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve finally managed to get out of the house. I walk down a few blocks, past the supermarket, and past the park, and hang a left on Calle San Francisco. My intention is to make good on a two-week-old promise: to go to Canada Cupcake Cafe and interview the owners of the shop. It’ll be a sacrifice to drink good coffee and eat a cupcake, but hey, I’m used to hard work.

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Thankfully, Arthur—one of the owners—remembers me when I enter. I order an iced latte and a really yummy chocolate ganache cupcake that I eat (in total) before I can remember to take a picture. When Arthur has a minute, he comes to sit with me and has his own cup of coffee. His partner, Shawn, is sitting close by and helps out any straggling customers before the shop closes for siesta time.

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I do a quick recap for Arthur—I’m a writer from California, I’m living in Spain for the summer, and I love interviewing people and making new connections. Then, I get straight to the questions.

“How long have you been doing this?” I ask him.

Arthur tells me that he and Shawn opened CCC last August. They’re just getting ready to celebrate the shop’s one-year anniversary, and are still in the process of putting something together to show appreciation for loyal customers and draw in new clientele.

Like any “new and/or newer” business, there are loyal customers, newbies (like me!), a healthy rotation of students—especially Americans, and tourists. CCC offers a relaxing atmosphere, custom coffee, fresh desserts and bagels, and free WiFi. It sounds like a normal coffee/dessert shop in Northern California, but here in Spain, CCC is somewhat of an anomaly. Arthur and Shawn run a slightly different business model than other shops like them (there are only a handful of cupcake shops in Alicante, by the way), and walk a fine line between offering something culturally new while still providing some cultural comforts.

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“Alicante chose us,” Arthur explains.

When he and Shawn decided to create a new adventure for themselves in Spain, they weren’t planning on making it to the south. They initially went to Barcelona, but the cost of living there is very expensive, and most people prefer to speak Catalan—a dialect of the region. Alicante drew in these Canadians with its good climate, lower cost of living, mix of people, and business potential.

At CCC, Arthur and Shawn make everything by hand with high-quality ingredients. They don’t use anything frozen or pre-made. And though this sounds normal to a California girl, it’s not so normal for everyone here. When the guys first began their cupcake endeavors, some people commented that cupcakes are cool, but just a “fashion” or phase in Spain. In other words, they didn’t anticipate the store to be a big hit—especially long-term.

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But I think Arthur and Shawn will be seeing said people eating humble pie–or maybe humble cupcake. Canadian Cupcake Cafe seems like it will not only remain a part of Alicante, but also will grow and expand in the near future. Arthur shares with me that the goals of CCC are to make North Americans feel like they’re getting a taste of home, while allowing the Spanish to symbolically travel through their taste buds.

Even purchasing coffee at CCC is a different experience for most of the Spanish people here. For example, when I order a latte at a cafe I frequent here, it’s always in a porcelain cup—one size. But at CCC, you can choose a small, medium, or large size, AND can even have it customized to your preferences. Kinda like that one really popular coffee shop in North America that starts with a S… Plus, you can take your stuff to go (para llevar).

And the cups and utensils are unique as well. Both Arthur and Shawn take decreasing our carbon footprint very seriously. Therefore, they use biodegradable cups and utensils. They even have a sort of recycling center set up. Arthur joked that at times, it has “scared” the Spanish people here to see such a thing in the store. (See image below of the recycling center.) But customers are catching on, and Arthur and Shawn are teaching many people here something good—something that will help the environment and generations to come.

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Though things seem to be going pretty well, success doesn’t come without hardship. Arthur tells me of the difficulties of all the paperwork involved in starting a business in Spain.

“Things are constantly changing,” he says. “At times, it feels like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing—and that’s not a knock against the process; it’s just how it is.”

Especially for a foreigner to start a business, it can be a struggle. But Canada Cupcake Cafe made it through the hoops and jumps, and now, Arthur and Shawn can focus on things like defining their products (they have recently added bagels to the menu and offer ice cream in the summer), and defining their market.

To top things off, both guys are community-oriented. They host intercambio (language exchange) groups at their shop, and aim to create a comfortable and relaxing environment for everyone. Shawn also tells me that they are both passionate about animals, and have been developing treats for pets. They’d like to partner with a local animal shelter in the near future, and donate a portion of pet treats sales to the shelter.

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It’s safe to say that I’ll be making a return visit to Canada Cupcake Cafe—and soon. I’m glad I discovered this place and had the pleasure of speaking with its owners. If you find yourself in Alicante, be sure to visit them. You can eat your cupcake and drink your coffee in the store, or take them to go if you’re headed to the beach.

Virtually Connect with Canada Cupcake Cafe:

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