Three girls sat huddled in the corner of Sarkara Sweets, playing the word game Scattergories in silence.
The entire sweet shop was quiet. They were the only customers.
This summer, quiet nights are all too common in the sweet shop at 201 SE Second Ave. The lack of customers meant the shop had to cut back on costs. The first thing to go was the custom cupcake bar.
Sarkara Sweets is known for its whacky cupcake flavors, and its custom cupcake bar is where people can build their own cupcakes from a variety of choices.
Every Summer A, though, the lack of customers forces the shop to close its custom bar.
It is now open for Summer B at reduced hours: Wednesday through Saturday from 2 to 9 p.m.
Stephanie Silva, manager and co-owner of the store, said whether it stays open depends on if sales increase. Sarkara will soon be deciding if it will make the custom cupcakes for the rest of Summer B.
Everything in the shop is made from scratch, Silva said. There is not enough money to make all the unique items for the custom bar every day if it is not going to sell.
She said this is the worst summer she and her twin sister and business partner, Susan Stieglitz, have endured in the three-and-a-half years Sarkara has been at its current location.
The custom cupcake bar is still open on what Silva described as a trial run. The first two weeks, the custom bar did not make enough to money to justify being open but picked up in the third week.
The fourth week will determine if the custom bar stays open.
Last summer, there were not enough customers to keep the custom bar open.
“We’re doing it out of stubbornness and hoping it works,” Silva said.
Monday night, the silence was only interrupted when the round of Scattergories ended and the three girls burst into animated talking.
Paige Parnell, Victoria Parnell and Keyannie Johnson enjoyed a cousin get-together at Sarkara Sweets that night, but they came for a custom cupcake.
Johnson said the custom bar is the whole reason they come to Sarkara and Victoria said had they known it wouldn’t be open, they would have gone somewhere else.
One time, the three walked in together and did just that when they discovered that they could not get exactly what they craved.
“I wish it was open,” Paige said.
[A version of this story ran on page 11 on 7/29/2014 under the headline "Cupcake store battles summer slump"]
Eleanor McKenna, a 23-year-old “cupcake elf” at Sarkara Sweets downtown, waits to help incoming customers on Monday.