Now open: Cupcake Cutie, Donut Factory. 

Now open: Cupcake Cutie and the Donut Factory.

Robert and Emeka Clayton keep it sweet with the new Cupcake Cutie.

Justin Fox Burks

Robert and Emeka Clayton keep it sweet with the new Cupcake Cutie.

There's build-your-own pizza, and the build-your-own salad bowl craze, and there's always been the build-your-own sub and the choose-your-own adventure fro-yo.

Now, in downtown Memphis, there's a build-your-own cupcake bar.

Cupcake Cutie Sweets has been open just over two weeks in Court Square, and word is spreading.

"People love it," proprietress and cupcake expert Emeka Clayton says.

You start with the cake base, choosing anything from chocolate to strawberry to red velvet and beyond.

"I use real strawberries — no artificial additives," Clayton says. "The same with the icing."

Then you choose which flavor icing, say chocolate cake with strawberry icing, as in my case.

You can opt to stuff the cake with filling, and then comes the icing on the icing on the cake — toppings.

Fruity Pebbles, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, Butterfinger crumbles — there are jars and jars to choose from.

"We can give customers whatever they want," Clayton says.

A mother of three, Clayton got the idea when she decided to be a stay-at-home mom to care for her middle child, who is autistic.

Clayton was looking for something to do when she got a Woman's Day magazine with cupcakes on the cover.

click to enlarge food_cupcakecutie_w5a4698.jpg

"They were so cute, I thought, 'I want to do cupcakes,'" Clayton says. "This was 15 years ago, so they weren't really popular like they are today."

Her revelation led to a business based around custom cakes and opening a shop in Bartlett that included the cupcake bar with the custom cakes, but foot traffic was so poor, Clayton and her husband, Robert, who does all the baking, were forced to close.

They can't say enough good things about their new digs.

"This is a perfect location. We're across from the park and between all the hotels. There's definitely a better flow of traffic," Emeka says.

Next on the agenda are cupcakes for the canine persuasion.

"I'm thinking of adding all-natural doggie treats. It will be the same concept with toppings, and I will call them Four Feet Sweet Treats," Emeka says.

Cupcake Cutie, 109 S. Court. Hours are M-F, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sat., 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 901-249-6996.

Alele "Paul" Ayanru, owner of the Donut Factory, got into donuts strictly from a business standpoint.

"I can't remember anyone at any time ever saying they didn't like donuts," Ayanru says.

That's why when a space near the corner of Madison and Main practically fell into his lap, he went with the fried spherical dough confectioneries.

"I met the owner of the building a year and a half ago, and he asked if there was something I could do with the space," Ayanru says.

He thought and researched and weighed the ups and downs of different business models and settled on food.

"Everyone has to eat," Ayanru says. "I wanted to do something that was a necessity, and food is something everyone has to have every day."

Donuts offered the lowest overhead.

"I knew I could make them, and the business was something I could handle by myself. Plus there was no donut shop downtown," he says.

He even researched what type of donut was most popular, and cake donuts it was.

The Donut Factory, located at 8 S. Main, specializes in all types of cake donuts, including strawberry, chocolate, lemon, cinnamon, and so forth.

He also researched yeast donuts, and now offers a variety, including twists, long Johns, and cinnamon rolls, which he changes up daily.

Plans include adding savory items to his inventory, such as egg and sausage croissant sandwiches, and eventually lunch.

"I'm thinking sliders. I'm always looking at the data and trends," he says.

One thing is certain — the donuts will remain.

"Everyone loves donuts," Ayanru says.

The Donut Factory, 8 S. Main, #101 6 a.m. to midnight, daily. 901-308-0972.

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