Johnny Cupcakes pop up shop in Edgartown

Johnny Earle, founder of Johnny Cupcakes, posed with his signature expression outside Dock Street Diner last Saturday.
Photo by Susan Safford

Johnny Earle, founder of Johnny Cupcakes, posed with his signature expression outside Dock Street Diner last Saturday.

From a joke to a multi-million dollar business, Johnny Cupcakes has returned, temporarily, to owner Johnny Earle’s childhood playground. Johnny Cupcakes, a tee-shirt and accessories shop that sells mainly limited edition styles, has taken up a brief evening residence at Dock Street Diner in Edgartown. Opening again tonight at 6 pm for its second and last weekend of the season, you find out for yourself the reason many people travel far and wide to visit.

Johnny, 29, best explains why, in spite of his four extremely successful physical stores along with his online store, he decided to open a two weekend long Pop-Up Shop here on Martha’s Vineyard.

“My mom [Lorraine Earle] was a New Year’s Baby that was born and raised on the Vineyard, so it is also a place where my uncles and cousins are. I thought it would be a nice way to pay homage to my childhood memories and give my loyal customers a great place to visit. We have people here who came from as far away as Hawaii to Florida, New York, DC and Ohio.”

What you will find when you visit is that Johnny Cupcakes is not just a retail tee-shirt and accessories store designed as a bakery, but an actual experience that is not to be missed. When you arrive on Dock Street, you arrive to a welcoming Johnny Cupcake crew including Johnny himself, out on the street. They will hand you a menu, explain that you can preview the items in the menu and in turn enter the store to place your order, which is then wrapped and packaged for you in a food box for your trip home.

On this year’s menu, along with the newest versions of pins, belts, hats, stickers, snapback baseball hats, tee shirts and more, Johnny shares the Island-derived menu additions.

“We have eight special MV themed shirts this year that are limited editions, so once they are gone, they are gone. We will sell them only on the Vineyard.” Keep in mind that almost all of the items are limited editions, so if you see it and want it, you better buy or you might regret it.

For a business that was unknowingly started when, according to founder Johnny Earle, “I was working in a record shop and had gotten many nicknames, including Johnny Cupcakes,” to it’s inception in 2001 when he wore his original Johnny Cupcakes tee-shirt to his then pin business and, according to his website story, “caused quite a commotion. Not only did everyone I work with want a tee-shirt but most of the customers wanted one as well! While at work, I’d get heaps of compliments, questions, smiles, and requests for my tee-shirt (even from the slightly miserable or quiet regulars!).”

He then made a couple dozen tee-shirts that sold out the day he took them off the press, and an empire was born.

It is quite an amazing feat that Johnny is able to say, “We just opened a new store in London and we expect sales to grow 20 percent this year, which will have us reach the $5 million mark,” considering he began by selling tees from the back of his van, and especially in light of the current economy. Johnny simply states their recipe for success: “We accomplished our growth by taking risks, having fun, being passionate, doing something that has not been done before, then keeping it fresh and getting our customers excited by giving them an experience.”

This is a model Mr. Earle says can be successfully applied to any hobby or passion, a message he likes to pass on to kids such as Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students, to whom he has given two lectures on the topic. In these sessions, he also likes to pass on another important message that he feels very strongly about, and that is the importance of not using drugs or alcohol. He himself shares, “I am 29 years old and have never tasted alcohol nor spent time partying. I saved that time and money, as time is money, and put it into something I am passionate about. I encourage kids to live a more positive lifestyle, based on staying positive, teamwork, innovation, solving problems, along with managing their time and money.”

Johnny Cupcakes Pop Up Show is open Wednesday through Saturday, Aug. 17-20, 6–11 pm, Dock Street Diner, Edgartown.

To learn more about Johnny Cupcakes and Johnny Earle himself, you can visit him at JohnnyCupcakes.com, follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCupcakes, or visit him on Facebook via Johnny Cupcakes.