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November 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Why you should care that this cupcake shop is closing

Cake Envy in Green Lake is closing its doors. The stylish, white-on-buttercream-white shop will sell its final cupcakes, cakes, and delectable cream puffs on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 (it’s closed Friday, Nov. 29.)

We don’t have any shortage of cupcake shops (or even any shortage of chains of cupcake shops) in Seattle, but I was sad to see this little independent venture go. Owner Helen Noh makes gorgeous special-occasion cakes that taste as good as they look. Her enchanting daily selection of cupcakes includes Cake Envy’s vanilla, with its Italian meringue buttercream, which was named the city’s best vanilla cupcake and best vanilla frosting in a blind taste teste I led last year. Judges appreciated the cupcake’s homemade taste and premium quality ingredients.

Noh told me in an email that she’s closing mainly because of the juggling act that came with the birth of her son this year.

“As a single mom, it’s been hard to keep up with the hours, the stress, and the day to day tasks that were somewhat easier before becoming a parent. For the longest time career was the most important thing in my life and I never thought anything else would come before that but I was wrong,” she said. “Sebastian came to this world and changed my outlook on priorities and life. Having him also changed my ability to think straight, speak clearly, and keep focused all because of the lack of sleep!”

But the secondary reason is worth stopping to consider. Noh, whose resume includes culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle and research and development at Starbucks, said she also made the decision because of the daily stresses of owning a business — the negativity of online reviews being a big one.

“I opened Cake Envy because I have a passion for cakes and baking and wanted to share that with customers. But there is so much negativity out there with yelp reviews and ratings that it makes me never want to follow my passion ever again. Most of the negativity comes from ignorance. If the person writing a terrible review knew and fully understood what a business owner goes through each day, and what it took to make their dream come true, they wouldn’t utter one word. I would love to have them in my shoes for one day. I guarantee that they would think twice before typing away negative comments.”

Looking at the Yelp page for the business, its 4 out of 5 stars looked pretty positive to me. I would have focused on the many raves instead of the few harshly worded pans. But Noh is far from alone in seeing anonymous online hostility directed her way.

I want people to be honest in their reviews. But it’s possible to be fair and truthful about a bad experience without aiming for snark and cruelty. There are real people — real bakers, real parents, real entrepreneurs — on the other end. Lucky Sebastian will be getting some of the best birthday cakes in the city in coming years, and I hope Noh comes back to a broader audience too.

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