Made with love: Je T’aiMe mixing cupcakes, cocktails in CT Post Mall in Milford

MILFORD — Maxine Harris believes so strongly in the business she co-founded — Je T’aiMe Cupcakes and Cocktails —she has put her savings into opening its first shop.

Harris, chief culinary executive at Je T’aiMe Cupcakes and Cocktails, co-founded the eatery with her longtime friend Laurren Robinson, and the pair have now moved from simply an online operation to a storefront in the Connecticut Post Mall.

“Our overall goal is to be Connecticut’s first cupcake bar,” said Harris. “That’s the dream. But we realize to get where we want to be, we have to take a few small steps along the way.”

The pair held a fundraiser to help kick start the business, but Harris said her belief in its success was so strong she decided to use the remainder of her savings to make the new storefront a reality. Je T’aiMe’s soft opening is on May 1, with the grand opening May 2.

“We specialize in creating gourmet cupcakes using a unique combination of clever flavors, texture, beer, wine and other spirits,” said Harris, who teamed with Robinson, head of the marketing department, to open Je T’aiMe Cupcakes and Cocktails in July 2020.

Harris’ love for baking began when she was 5 years old as a way to connect with her mom.

“Baking was a tool that my mom and I would use to connect because we are so close in age,” said Harris, adding that her mother had her when she was 14. “A lot of the times we were missing that mother and daughter connection, and we were more like sisters. But the one time I did feel closest with my mom is when we would cook and bake together. Baking became a therapeutic practice for both of us.”

When Harris’ mom married her husband, Harris said she was also able to connect with her father and his family through baking and cooking.

“His mother and I began to take cake decorating classes at Michaels as a fun activity to do,” she said.

Around 2012, Harris decided to work for herself and started coming up with business ideas.

“I was a backup dancer for underground artists, and did that for a while. I tried to start a clothing line, I attempted to start a nonprofit, I had a dance team at one point,” she said. “At the start of 2020, I went to Laurren and told her we need to do something because we were always helping people do things, but I told her it was our time this year.”

What they decided to do was to create an event planning business because they both enjoyed doing it.

“Just as we applied for the business line of credit and got approved, literally the world shut down,” she said.

At the same time, Harris had her fourth child, and because of the pandemic, she had to be in the hospital by herself and said she went into postpartum depression.

“I did go to therapy and talk to family and relatives to try and get through and was open with what I was going through, but I still was suffering from anxiety and depression,” she said. “It was at that moment that those therapeutic tools kicked in, and I was in the kitchen baking cupcakes for no reason.”

When her family and friends would come by to drop off supplies for her, she would offer them a cupcake.

“The response I was getting at my front door was these cupcakes remind them of their mother or grandmother’s cupcakes,” she said. “There was one moment I gave my friend a cupcake who was struggling with depression. His sentence was, ‘I was having a really, bad day, and the moment I took a bite out of this cupcake, nothing else mattered.’”

The responses Harris was getting made her realize the cupcakes could be something that spreads joy not just to herself but to others.

Once again, Harris went to her friend, and together they decided to open Je T’aiMe.

“In French, Je T’aime means ‘I Love You,’ but for us, it is also an acronym for people in our family we want to pay homage to,” said Harris. “The J is for Judy, Lauren’s aunt; the T is for Thaine Boomer, my 93-year-old great grandmother, and the M is for Miles, Lauren’s uncle.”

Harris decided to use her bartending experience and incorporate alcohol into their cupcakes by infusing them with different beverages.

“We are partnering with different brewers in Connecticut, we have six or seven so far that we collab with,” said Harris. “They give us beer to infuse in our cupcakes, and now we do that as well.”

They wanted to go one step further and include different flavors that customers wouldn’t think of. Even though they do have the traditional vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and pineapple, they also have flavors such as blueberry passion fruit with a mango frosting or cranberry and white chocolate pumpkin cupcake.

“Also, all of our cupcakes come designed,” said Harris. “I take an extra hour doing a design for each cupcake at no extra cost for the customer.”

Je T’aiMe has been in business for a little more than two years, and Harris said she ran out of space in her home to continue running the business and fill the orders they have been getting from weddings to special events and festivals.

Harris said she was in the Connecticut Post Mall and saw space available and decided to reach out for rent prices.

“When I got the response, I brought it to my partner, my fiance and my family and we talked about it to see if this was something we could do,” said Harris. “We decided to throw a fundraiser to raise some money because even though we pay the security deposit we will still need things. It didn't work out that well, but we received some helpful donations, and we were greatly appreciative. I ended up taking money from my personal savings and putting it all on the line.”

Harris said they will have cupcakes at the location, starting with 10 different flavors. They will also have other merchandise like their cupcake scented candle, shirts, and stickers and are partnering with the Drunk Alpaca to have beer snacks.

“It also gives us a space to meet with clients,” Harris added.