Despite the "Cupcakes from the Crypt" title, this event is not an exhumation of thousand-year-old cupcakes, nor a Halloween-themed bake sale. No, Johnny "Cupcakes" Earle is in the T-shirt business, and he got his start over a decade ago selling shirts out of a suitcase in the trunk of his car. Now he's going back to his company's roots, traveling across the country with the "Cupcakes from the Crypt" Coffin Tour. And tomorrow he'll be stopping at Sweet Action Ice Cream, where he'll be selling limited-edition Halloween gear out of -- you guessed it -- a coffin.
Growing up in Boston, Earle had a lot of nicknames. "Johnny Cupcakes was one of the random nicknames, so I made some shirts as a joke for my band and I wore them to work," he explains. "They made people smile and I wanted to make people continue to smile, so I made more shirts and I kept poking fun at pop culture, replacing icons with cupcakes."
To make fun of the typical bad-ass skull-and-crossbones symbol, Earle decided to replace the skull with a cupcake, and that became the icon of the brand. "Guys thought it was funny, girls thought it was cute," he says. After selling the shirts out of his car while touring with his band, Earle had enough money to open up a store, and the brand just kept getting bigger. He now has four shops around the country and one in London.
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The shops carry on the cupcake theme -- there are even vanilla-scented car fresheners hidden around the shops to make them smell like frosting. "All of my stores are set up like old bakeries, and instead of selling food we sell shirts with food on them," Earle says. Confused costumers still walk in searching for baked goods; some leave disappointed, while others leave with a new T-shirt and a smile. "One hundred percent of the time they leave with a unique story," Earle notes.
And his own story is unique, too. "My biggest personal accomplishment has been being able to hire my family, and with their teamwork we've been able to accomplish a lot of great things," Earle says. His parents, sister, neighbor and close friends all work with the company.
With his stores in good hands, two years ago Earle decided to get back on the road with his T-shirts, and created the Suitcase Tours. This year he's doing the Coffin Tours, which are Halloween-themed. At each stop, he sets up a pop-up shop at a local business and sells limited edition T-shirts, pins, hats, hooded sweatshirts, stickers and more. Fans can meet Earle at these mini-celebrations.
The tour will stop at Sweet Action Ice Cream at 7 p.m. tomorrow, October 11. Attendees are encouraged to wear costumes or Johnny Cupcakes apparel; the Shoppe will be providing spooky cupcakes. "We're very excited to be there," says Earle. "We have a lot of fans in Denver." Last year, he gave a lecture at the Denver Art Museum as part of a series put together by AIGA Colorado; since then, he says, he's been itching to return.
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