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Sweet! Middletown cupcake company opens New London location

March 10, 2019

New London — Bank Street just got a lot sweeter.

Piggybacking on the popularity of her flagship store in Middletown, food truck, farmers’ market presence and catering business, Carrie Carella has opened a location of NoRA Cupcake Company on Bank Street where Berry’s Ice Cream operated before moving a few doors down.

NoRA had its opening celebration Tuesday evening, with music from DJ Frank Lo and the attendance of city employees, elected officials and other boosters of local business.

Standing in line were Waterford residents Kevin and Tara Smith, who had NoRA cater their wedding at The Pavilion on Crystal Lake in Middletown. That included the Irish Car Bomb cupcake, a bestseller that is made of chocolate Guinness cake with Jameson chocolate filling and a Bailey’s cream-cheese frosting, and the Samoa cupcake, a shortbread-crusted coconut cake filled with caramel and topped with chocolate ganache.

“In general, they’re the best cupcakes I’ve had,” Kevin Smith said. “Their flavors are unique in a lot of cases.”

Adult Twinkie. Arnold Palmer. Blackberry Margarita. Cookie Dough. Funky Monkey. Mexican Wedding. Oreo Cheesecake. Pecan Roll. Rocky Road. Vanilla Chai Latte. The list of cupcake flavors goes on and on.

Carella said NoRA typically sells 12-14 flavors during the week and more on the weekend, but there’s 118 listed on the website. And that’s not including the “March Headliners” — Chocolate Shamrock Shake, Fat Elvis, Irish Coffee, Lucky Charms, Pistachio and Pot of Gold — and the 12 vegan and gluten-free options.

A regular cupcake is 6. Mini cupcakes are also available for special order.

Carella, 43, opened NoRA Cupcake Company — which stands for North of Rapallo Avenue — in Middletown in 2011. Over 15 years, she had worked her way up from bartender to general manager at Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, while her at-home baking found popularity with friends, family and co-workers.

Phil Ouellette, owner of Eli Cannon’s at the time, offered to help Carella with a venture so long as it wasn’t a bar. He was her partner for about two years.

“It was just kind of a very natural progression of time for me to replace myself at the bar,” Carella said.

Cupcakes aren’t as trendy as they were when she started. “But that’s OK,” Carella added. “We still reinvent the wheel every day.”

She started bringing the cupcake truck to the New London Food Truck Festival and found that NoRA sold out every time it was at City Pier. Event planner Barbara Neff told Carella that if she ever wanted to open a store in New London to let her know.

Linda DiPalma, owner of 60 Bank St., called Carella this past summer, and Carella’s initial reaction was that she was too spread out to open any more stores. But after going to look at the space, she changed her mind.

“It’s just a really eclectic, fun, artistic street,” she said, “and I just feel like our brand meshes really well with it.”

Tuesday marked the fifth opening of a new NoRA location — Carella has also opened temporary pop-up shops in West Hartford and Canton — and the owner said she’s never gotten a welcoming like this before.

Cupcakes will be delivered every day from the much larger Middletown location to New London, and Carella said if the Bank Street shop is well received, she’d love to expand. She also hopes to partner with other local businesses, create fun events and make signature cupcakes.

Carella said that with the food truck, NoRA has already worked with other businesses in southeastern Connecticut, such as Epicure Brewing, the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut and the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce.

e.moser@theday.com