As Chief of Police of the Ocean Beach Police Department on Fire Island in New York, George Hesse has proudly served the residents of his community for 24 years. And during the last 2 years, he’s started serving them something even sweeter than justice: cupcakes.
Hesse is not only the Chief of Police, he’s also the chief baker of his own company. How did he cross over from handcuffs to baking sheets? “It all happened by accident,” he told me on a recent phone call. “One wintry night, my daughter asked for a cake. Everyone has a cheap box cake in the cabinet, so I pulled out a box and followed the directions. While it was baking I was reading the ingredients and I was like, ‘Who eats this crap?’ It was all mono-sudo-whatever. I thought, if you can’t pronounce the words, you shouldn’t be eating it! So I decided to try it from scratch. I made one, I made two, then three, then I tried cupcakes and it just took off from there.”
Helping his business take off was its catchy name. “A friend of my dad’s said, ‘You should call it Copcakes’ and I thought that was a pretty good play on ‘cupcakes’. And then I was sitting there thinking, ‘What do Copcakes do?’ and it hit me: ‘They arrest appetites!’ So we put it together: Copcakes Arresting Appetites and it just exploded.”
Like a delicious cake in the oven, his business quickly began rising thanks primarily to word of mouth and social media. “We have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, and the business has branched out from just small orders from friends. I’ve done wedding, bat mitzvahs, sweet sixteens – it’s getting to the point where I think I need help!” Hesse, who grew up in a family that owned and operated delis, says that he is currently looking into options that allow bakers to rent out blocks of hours in commercial cooking spaces. “I can’t really afford to rent my own space with a storefront just yet, and I want to expand my operation where I can do seven orders at once instead of one at a time like I do now.”
Sure, a great name will get you consumer interest, but to get repeat customers, you need a great product. Copcakes’ ingredient? Simplicity. “To me basic, is better,” he says. “I don’t use fondant, I don’t use cheap ingredients. I use top of the line butter and sugar and flour and I think that’s what people like the best. It’s simple and just tastes really good.”
So what’s more stressful to the police chief, a night on patrol or a night in the kitchen? “Making sure my cupcakes are perfect is way more stressful to me!” he laughs. “I’m a perfectionist. I don’t ever give anyone anything I consider sub-standard. I want everybody to be happy!”
Does that mean he hands out baked goods to cheer up people he’s arrested? “No,” Hesse reports. “They don’t deserve my cupcakes.”