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Las Cruces mom's cupcake shop is legacy in making

By Brook Stockberger

Las Cruces Sun-News

Published: Friday, Nov. 19 2010 1:05 a.m. MST

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — As the crowd thinned, Krisha DeLong took a moment Thursday to survey her store's kitchen.

"We're out," she said, casting a eye over mostly empty racks that earlier held flavorful cupcakes (pumpkin spice, red velvet and vanilla to name a few).

"This is the third day in a row."

The new business, Cupcake Hut & Rock n Roll Gift Shop, in the Arroyo Plaza, had just opened its doors with a grand opening celebration on Nov. 6 and had its first full day on Nov. 9, so DeLong, 33, took the demand for her product as good news.

"It has been amazing," she said. "We've stayed every night until 10:30 baking and cleaning."

Employee Adriana Zizumbo said the business is still trying to get a handle on how many cupcakes to make.

"We sold out (when we opened) so the next day we made double and sold out, so then we made triple," she said.

The long hours and hard work have not stopped DeLong, though. As she spoke from the kitchen, she could see out into the store to watch her 11-year-old daughter, Kambree Wilbanks, talk to customers and friends.

The Cupcake Hut & Rock n Roll Gift Shop is a labor of love. Kambree, the oldest of four, has been blind from birth. DeLong hopes the store will give her child an option for the future.

"God gave me Kambree and I wanted to do something that, when she graduates, she can go into and have self worth," DeLong said. "She can have (the store) if she wants it." After all, there are Braille printers and machines that allow someone who is vision impaired to operate a cash register. "There's a lot of different Braille technology out there," DeLong said.

For now the 11-year-old hangs out after her day at Valley View Elementary School and socializes with friends and customers. Eventually, though, she'll do more and learn the business.

"I envision her answering the phone and taking orders and printing them off," DeLong said.

Where else in Las Cruces can you spend a few dollars on some Oreo-flavored cupcakes and, if the mood strikes you, also plunk down $995 for a guitar signed by every member of The Guess Who? If that's not your style, you can pick up a guitar signed by all the members of Def Leppard for about the same price.

Suffice it to say, the Cupcake Hut & Rock n Roll Gift Shop is a unique concept. Cupcake-shaped candles are for sale next to Elvis merchandise. You can purchase a T-shirt and a framed gold record of Guns N Roses' breakthrough album "Appetite for Destruction."

"This is the coolest store," said customer Cristal VanCarson as she looked around on Thursday. "There's no place in town like this."

DeLong said her mother, Terri Fowler, has operated several stores and was the bridge to the memorabilia business.

"She has been in retail forever and has had a lot of different stores," she said. "When I told her what we wanted to do with the cupcakes, she said, 'Let's do it together.'"

And thus the unusual yet happy marriage of cupcakes and rock and roll was born. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and can be reached at (575) 652-4470.

Some cupcake flavors, like vanilla, chocolate and red velvet, will always be on the menu, but there will be occasional specials, like apple, lemon and Boston cream pie.

Kambree was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia when she was 2 1/2 months old. Before that, DeLong did not know what was wrong with her daughter, who was born in Roswell.

"I remember the doctor coming out and telling me, 'I did an eye exam and your daughter is going to have limited vision,'" DeLong said. "I said, 'Oh, is she going to have to wear glasses?' He said, 'No, it's not fixable.' And that's all they left me with."

She spent several more worrisome months living in a hotel in Albuquerque with her newborn hospitalized for more testing. Her parents and other family members spent time with her, but the experience was draining.

"One week you think, 'OK, it's going to pan out on its own and she's going to be released,'" DeLong said. "Then things go haywire again and they say, 'No, we don't know what's going on.'"

The diagnosis of optic nerve hypoplasia finally gave the problem a name, but did not make the family feel much better.

"They throw out a (phrase) like 'optic nerve hypoplasia' and you're like, 'What does that mean? That's not even self explanatory,'" DeLong said. "The first thing we did was get on a computer and try to figure it out."

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