This is one of a series of stories we are sharing to show what's inside CubeSmart. You not only get a peek inside our customer's storage unit, but also a peek inside what is important to them. Thank you to Huascar, customer of our CubeSmart store in New York City, for sharing his story with us.
Huascar Aquino, owner of a bake shop on West 54th Street in Manhattan, said he spends a lot of time thinking about his next confectionary creation.
Like when he recently visited the supermarket and noticed peaches were in season. He began to wonder about making a peach cobbler cupcake.
"But there's a million peach cobblers," Huascar said. "So I added guava."
And now it's his favorite cupcake as well as a new customer favorite.
"We try to put a little Latin flavor in them," he said of his entire menu.
No wonder. Huascar was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where his mother taught him to cook and where he developed his talent at hotels across the island.
He came to New York in 2002 with $11 in his pocket to study pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center).
Now Huascar operates from a 280-foot-square shop that greets customers with the aroma of freshly baked macaroons, cheesecakes, cookies, cupcakes and more. His store is two corners away from our store at 444 West 55th St.
In 2012, he competed on the Food Network's Sweet Genius and, in 2013, won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, which he points out is a first for a New York baker. On Sept. 7, 2013, Huascar opened H Bake Shop on West 57th St., in Manhattan.
But in 2016, with just 10-days' notice, Huascar was forced to leave after the restaurant he subleased from closed. It was a difficult time for Huascar, who had just finished repaying a $35,000 loan to renovate the kitchen. "I had no cash again," he said.
Huascar took walks in the neighborhood to scout a new site for his business. But many places were looking for franchises who could afford 100-year leases.
Huascar chooses to visit independent coffee stores over corporate ones, a preference that led he and his partner, Carlos Ramos, to a shop on West 54th Street. He and Carlos recognized the salsa version of the song, La Vie En Rose, that was playing and talked about it with the owner. Turned out the woman lived in the co-operative building that housed the coffee store and encouraged Huascar to approach the president of the co-op about a small vacant retail space.
The co-op president invited Huascar to meet with the board of directors. Huascar readily obliged, arriving with freshly baked macaroons and brownies in hand and following up with a letter that included some of the many positive reviews he received on Yelp.
Huascar sealed the deal after eight months and after securing $100,000 in various loans for renovations. Then, on Jan. 14, 2017, he reopened at 453 West 54th St., between 9th and 10th Avenues. His fears about whether he would carry over customers from the first store were unfounded. He sold 1,000 cupcakes on the first day.
The store's cozy space means he has to store packaging materials, containers and more at our store on West 55th Street. Huascar lives in an apartment on 64th St. that is just a 10-minute walk away from his bakery. His typical workday features him and his kitchen assistant working from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. When he bakes for a wedding, he often works until 1 or 2 a.m.
"I do what I do because we make people happy," he said. "We always feel honored to be part of their special day."
Even when he's not working, he often visits the store just to sit and relax outside the door. It's not because he micromanages, Huascar said. "When I'm at home I feel like I'm bored…This is my life."
We’d love to hear how self storage has positively impacted your life. Share your #HumansofSelfStorage story in the comments.