KULPSVILLE, Pa. -- Clemens Markets here is expecting big rings, come wedding season.
By that time, the retailer will have its new wedding cake program, launched last month, fine-tuned and ready to handle heavy volume.
"We've been planning this for over a year, but it's just now that everything has come together. We have a full-time, talented person to make the cakes, and we've got the transportation so we can deliver," said Paul Rorer, food services buyer for the 14-unit chain.
Rorer said he was pleased the company could introduce wedding cakes so far in advance of the busy, summer wedding season.
"It's good that we can get into it gradually, see what we can handle, test it out, before the height of the season," he said.
The early launch should also help the company get more catering business, he added. "We can get into all the related wedding activities such as engagement parties, bachelor parties, rehearsal dinners. We have the capability since we expanded our central kitchen two years ago."
The cake program was announced with a full-page ad on the front cover of Clemens' circular last month. "For the most important day of your life, let Clemens help make it a first-class event," it said.
A color photo of a wedding cake occupies a third of the page. Below it, a coupon offers $15 off any cake valued at $100 or more ordered between Oct. 12 and Dec. 31.
The ad lists a toll-free number, 1-800-CLEMENS, for orders; customers calling any day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. "will be connected with Clemens' wedding cake coordinator."
A permanent display near each store's bakery counter calls customers' attention to the new service. The display is a decorated foam, tiered wedding cake, with a sign urging customers to let Clemens help them make their wedding "a first-class event." Next to the cake is a rack displaying "wedding pound cakes" in three varieties: vanilla, chocolate and marble.
Rorer explained that pound cake is very popular in the marketing area and he expected most wedding cake orders would be for pound cake in one of those three flavors.
"But we can also do them in carrot cake or regular cake, or really, whatever anyone wants," he said.
"The purpose of the wedding pound cake display, with a sign calling attention to them, is to get people to taste the cake ahead of time so they'll know what the wedding cake will be like," Rorer said. The 18-ounce loaf cakes are $2.99.
Like the loaves, the wedding cakes are made from scratch in Clemens' central kitchen. They can be as elaborate as the customer wants. "We have fountains and a large variety of decorations. They can have whatever they want," Rorer said. The recent ad urged customers to make an appointment to "sit down with our designer to plan your custom-designed cake." The retail price for the wedding cakes was about $1.25 per person, Rorer said.
The only major competition in the market is from small, specialty bakeries, he said. "Only one other supermarket offers wedding cakes, and they're inconsistent because they don't have a full-time person doing them. Sometimes you can't get one, and they don't deliver," Rorer said.
Clemens sends a decorator along when it delivers a wedding cake. The charge is $1 per mile. Customers may also pick up their cakes. Each layer is boxed separately and instructions are included on how to assemble the cake.
"Naturally, we'd rather send our person with the cake and have him put it together. We have more control of the product that way; we know it'll look like it's supposed to," Rorer said.
The retailer is already at work filling orders. "We had received some orders for wedding cakes even before we formally announced the program," Rorer said.