Finding the perfect spot for a second bakery location was no cake walk for Gina Martin, owner of Gina’s Piece of Cake in Santa Maria.
“We have looked in Orcutt for quite a few years. And then after COVID hit, we figured we’d stay put,” Martin said. “There were different locations that we looked at, but we never got that gut feeling about them; nothing ever really felt right.”
That trend changed when Martin saw a social media post about a vacancy on East Clark Avenue—at the former site of The Shift—in Old Town Orcutt. After some texts, calls, and a site visit, Martin and her husband decided to negotiate a three-year lease.
“You’ve got us for three years at least—and hopefully more,” said Martin, whose second location is set to open in mid-March at the earliest. “I think that three years is going to go fast.”
Martin and her staff got access to the building in January, and they’ve been sprucing up the place ever since. With an established kitchen already on-site for use, most of the ongoing renovations have been decor-related, Martin said, like adding “splashes” of the bakery’s trademark pink and black color scheme.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Martin, who added that the new location will have plenty of seating and a warm, welcoming cafe-esque vibe. “We’re even toying around with the idea of adding a little cozy fireplace.”
While Gina’s Piece of Cake, located in the Santa Maria Town Center, stays open until 7 p.m. at the latest during the week (and closes even earlier on Saturdays and Sundays), Martin said she plans to have a trial run at the Orcutt location with later evening hours, giving patrons of local eateries in town the opportunity to stop in the shop for some dessert after dinner.
Before pursuing plans to open a second bakery location, Martin almost considered relocating entirely; sticking to one bakery but moving to a different site instead.
“We were playing around with the idea of relocating all together,” Martin said. “But I felt like it was a smart decision business-wise to stay here and open a satellite.”
Martin founded Gina’s Piece of Cake in 2004, with its original Santa Maria location across the street from its current site, in the same plaza as the former Fallas building—previously Mervyn’s.
“There was a lot of foot traffic there, but once Mervyn’s closed up, and Marie Callender’s closed up, it was like a ghost town,” said Martin, who moved Gina’s Piece of Cake to its current location inside the Santa Maria Town Center in 2009.
Martin said her customer count “increased tremendously” after moving inside the mall, almost overwhelmingly enough to feel like they’d bitten off more than they could chew, she said, but she’s always felt blessed for her dedicated staff members—who have also increased in count over the years.
“There’s 18 of us total here—openers, closers, cake decorators, bakers, dishwashers,” Martin said. “I’m very blessed.”
Martin credits her start in the bakery business to her father, a longtime professional baker. While semi-retired, Martin’s father currently works part-time at Gina’s as one of the three bakers on staff.
“Before I started Gina’s Piece of Cake, my father had a business in Lompoc for 22 years. He owned a bakery. That’s kind of where I got my start,” Martin said. “When I was a little girl, I would go out and help him, and then I eventually learned how to decorate cakes. The girls he had employed with him taught me how to decorate cakes. They taught me how to set them up, and prep them, and the next thing you know, I’m icing the cakes, and fully decorating them.
“I never intended to be a cake decorator. I wanted to be a doctor,” Martin said. “But now they call me the cake doctor.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is paging the cake doctor. Send your favorite beeper ringtones to [email protected].