It’s been a busy two years for Josh Bartell.
He opened Bartell’s Cupcakery in Struthers in February 2011, appeared on the reality-competition TV show “Cupcake Wars” and moved the bakery to Poland as 2012 came to a close.
Now, with the help of other local businesses, Bartell is planning to give back in a big way with a free wedding.
“To me, as a local business owner, you depend on local business to help you. ... It’s necessary we give back because we wouldn’t be able to have a business without the local support,” Bartell said.
Interested couples must fill out an entry form, submit a photo and write an essay describing why they deserve a free wedding.
“We’re looking for local couples who are engaged but may have fallen on hard times or can’t quite pay for a wedding,” he said.
The entries will be whittled to three couples, and people who attend a March 3 bridal show at the Saxon Club in Youngstown will vote to determine the winner.
One of Bartell’s key partners in the contest isn’t far from his shop. Jacqueline Stout’s boutique, Jacqueline’s Bridal, is only a few doors south.
“I love to give back to the community. If I can’t do something like that, then I don’t belong in the business,” said Stout, who is donating a wedding dress.
Her shop has been in Poland for about 31/2 years, and she said cooperation among local businesses is
key to ensuring all of them succeed.
“Working with other businesses, it just pulls us together to make us stronger,” she said. “We build off of each other, and we help each other so much.”
Bartell said he knows how it feels to struggle like many of the couples who are applying for the free wedding. Before entering the cupcake business, he had declared bankruptcy.
“I was in the military prior to this. I was unemployed for a year or so, and I had to dig my way out. When I started out at the business, I had no loans at first and was doing car sales. I was tired of working crazy hours and wanted to start a business so I could make my own schedule,” Bartell said.
He researched businesses that have low overhead and a good start-up rate and decided to try his hand at cupcakes.
“I had never baked before. I made hundreds of inedible cupcakes. After many failures, I came to one where it was pretty good. My goal was to make a great vanilla cupcake. If you can excel with a plain vanilla cupcake, you can make anything else,” Bartell said.
Now, customers can find Vanilla Ice, Red Velvet, Murder by Chocolate, Salty Caramel and a dozen other flavors at 82 N. Main St. in Poland.
“It’s incredible how much we’ve grown over the past year,” said Bartell, whose second appearance on “Cupcake Wars” will air March 31.
Couples who want to enter to win the free wedding can pick up an application at Bartell’s Cupcakery. Forms are due Feb. 14. Sponsors include American Commodore Tuxedo, LimeLight Images, Jubilee Limousine, Elmtree Catering, Komara Jewelers, Escape Salon, Tune Weavers DJ Service, Tables of Temptation and Stambaugh Auditorium.