Circle City Sweets takes chance on Indianapolis City Market

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When it comes to turning around the historic Indianapolis City Market, it’s a matter of supply and demand. Will vendors sign up to offer the goods? And if so, will patrons come back to buy them?

Among the new vendors on board is Cindy Hawkins, owner of Circle City Sweets. Hawkins, whose stand sells fresh baked goods, opened last month, undaunted by the market’s recent history.

small biz Cindy Hawkins built Circle City Sweets for several years before opening a stand in the historic market downtown.(IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Hawkins started Circle City Sweets 3-1/2 years ago. For most of that time, she shared space in a catering kitchen, slowly building up a clientele of restaurants, weddings, farmers’ markets and wholesale customers. A graduate of French pastry school in Chicago, she initially worked other jobs on the side to support herself.

Now, Circle City Sweets is her full-time gig, and the 700 square feet of space she’s renting in the market’s southwest corner allows her to sell Circle City Sweets’ cookies, tarts, pastries and tiramisu to individual customers. She invested $15,000 of her own money to expand the business. Her mom and a friend are her only employees.

So far, Hawkins said, some days have been great, while others were slow. There’s a noticeable rise in the market’s foot traffic on Wednesdays, connected to the popular farmer’s market. But Thursdays see an inevitable lull.

Hawkins isn’t waiting for the City Market’s just-announced $4 million renovation to produce customers. She’s actively marketing Circle City Sweets via Facebook, an e-mail distribution list and word of mouth, emphasizing the taste of her desserts, which she gets up at 4:30 every morning to bake from scratch.

“Part of the reason I wasn’t leery about coming here, we do a lot of marketing on our own,” she said. “Others have been scared to do that in the past, or just didn’t do that.”

She has high hopes that the City Market has turned the corner and will soon attract more small businesses like Circle City Sweets. Her husband, for example, is exploring opening a fresh soup stand there.


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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.