Love Muffins keeps sweet aroma going at former beloved Kalamazoo bakery

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave's On the Ground Kalamazoo series.

KALAMAZOO, MI — Eileen Pawlicki knew she had something special when a pregnant woman on the sidewalk in front of her house proposed to her. 

“I want to marry you, this is so good!” the woman crooned. 

Pawlicki laughs. But the compliments she was repeatedly hearing about her carrot cake muffins were having an impact. She may just have something special here. 
The recipe for her carrot cake muffins came from her mother, Kathy Pawlicki. 

“About 20 years ago, I typed up all of Mom’s recipes for my sisters as a Christmas gift,” she says. “Including this one, for carrot cake muffins. I had made these twice a year for my own family, and we just loved them. Dad always loved dessert, and these were a favorite for him, too.”

CourtesyEileen Pawlicki, owner of Love MuffinsPawlicki wasn’t pulled early to the bakery, however. She made Mom’s recipes on occasion for her two daughters, Savannah and Helen, but her day job was in education. She has worked for ASK Family Services, for KRESA, for Kalamazoo Public Schools in different capacities, including with students with special needs. 

“I’ve always had jobs helping people,” Pawlicki says. “I wanted to be a social worker but ended up going into teaching. At ASK, I was a mentor and community services coordinator.” 

And then … the pandemic. It happened in 2020 and it came in big. The world shut down, and Pawlicki found herself out of work and back home. 

“That’s when I started making carrot cake muffins for my neighborhood community,” she says. “It was a safe way to get people out of their houses and on the sidewalk talking to each other — and eating muffins.”

Therein came the proposal. And also the texts. 

“People were texting me even before they got back home how much they loved the muffins,” Pawlicki says smiling. 

When Pawlicki brought her carrot cake to a child’s birthday party, another mother’s comment got her thinking. 

“She said they were so good that I should sell them,” Pawlicki recalls. Hmm, maybe so. 

Baking love into muffins

Pawlicki got serious about her cakes and muffins and started baking bigger batches in her kitchen. Initially, she focused on muffins as she figured those would be an easier sale. Soon learning that a State Cottage Food Law prohibited home cooking for sale under certain conditions, Pawlicki moved her new industry to a downtown kitchen, then to the Can-Do Kitchen in Kalamazoo in April 2023. 

Along with this access to a professional kitchen with all the industrial equipment she might need, Pawlicki improved the recipe. One of those improvements was whipped up by her daughter, Helen. 

“Helen taught me patience,” Pawlicki says. “Whip the cream cheese frosting longer, she said, be more patient. She tweaked Mom’s recipe for the frosting a little — that part is a secret — and got it to the right consistency.”

Perfection. Pawlicki began selling her carrot cake muffins — and carrot cake — with intent. In July 2020, she declared Love Muffins, LLC, as a reality. By October 2020, the business was legal. 

“I added the tagline — Better When Shared — because that’s how it all began, by sharing with my neighbors in my own community,” she says. 

Along with carrot cake muffins and cakes — in six-, eight--, and ten-inch sizes — Love Muffins also offers carrot cake muffins and cakes layered with cheesecake. Both muffins and cakes come with or without walnuts and golden raisins. Pawlicki is also currently perfecting a gluten-free version. 

Savannah PawlickiLove Muffins illustration by Eileen Pawlicki's daughter Savannah PawlickiWhile her daughters were her initial helpers, they have now been mostly replaced by employees as the business has grown. Pawlicki currently has three employees baking, and they are delivering to 16 locations in and around Kalamazoo, including Vicksburg and Battle Creek, with more locations coming. To name just a few, People’s Food Co-op, Harding’s Market, Midtown Fresh Market, Tiffany’s Wine and Spirits, Cherri’s Chocol’art, D&W Fresh Market, Bronson Healthcare Group, Kalamazoo/Battle Creek Airport, and others carry the treats. 

“Delivery can be the most challenging part of the business,” Pawlicki says. “Especially in warm weather because the muffins and cakes have to stay cold. I do some of those deliveries myself, with the help of three of my staff.”

When Can-Do Kitchen recently announced an upcoming move, Pawlicki began to contemplate another move herself for Love Muffins, LLC. While her current location allows for taking in online orders from the Love Muffins, LLC, website and then having customers pick up their orders at the Can-Do Kitchen, Pawlicki has longed to restore that community outreach feel to her business. 

Eileen Pawlicki, Love Muffins owner, outside of the company's new location at the former Boonzaaijer Bakery“I would love to have a storefront,” she says. “I would love to be able to meet directly with customers and have those chats as we used to on the sidewalk in my neighborhood when I first began baking for others.”

Her wish has recently come true — almost. Pawlicki has made an agreement with the former Boonzaaijer Bakery at 126 East Cork Street in Kalamazoo to share space. 
“They still have a part of that space for baking, but Love Muffins would move into the other half,” Pawlicki says. “I will have access to a huge oven there, like a ferris wheel. All the equipment I’ll need — it will be a real cost savings.

"I hope to move there by mid-June, and I am negotiating with the owner to open at least once a week directly to the public. Or even better, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I would love to have that face-to-face with customers again.”
Pawlicki credits a list of others for her fast-growing success. 

“I knew education, not business,” she says. “I am very grateful to John Keppinger of SCORE. SCORE provides free mentoring for new and established businesses. John has given me the guidance I needed, ideas to get me thinking. He would challenge me and help me develop goals. We started talking my first year in, and now we talk maybe once a month to keep me on track.”

Making her baking life easier is also Crisp Country Acres in Holland, now Pawlicki’s source of sustainably grown carrots, delivering the carrots to ValleyHUB Kalamazoo Valley Community College campus on Crosstown Parkway. There, the carrots get shredded and packed into bags, and delivered to Love Muffins. 

“That helps so much,” Pawlicki says. “I also worked with Red Tricycle Ice Cream Company to develop a carrot cake ice cream flavor. They make the ice cream using my cake and sell it at events.”

Love Muffins, LLC, has recently been granted a trademark for its name, another business milestone. Noticing the business growth and expanding success, Start-Up in Kalamazoo has chosen Love Muffins to receive its second annual Award of Excellence. 

“That was a real boost,” Pawlicki smiles. “At this point, when I think of Love Muffins, I think of the sense of purpose it gives me. It’s about relationship-building with the community around me. I want to use it as a platform for making positive changes in my community.”

With that in mind, Pawlicki recently ran a fundraiser for Portage victims of the May 7, 2024, tornado. A portion of every sale went to victims. Because success, she says, is better when shared.

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Read more articles by Zinta Aistars.

Zinta Aistars is the creative director of Z Word, LLC. She is the producer and host of the weekly radio show, Art Beat, on WMUK.