Cupcake-Selling Boys Shut Down by Cops Speak Out
Filed under: In The News
If their names sound familiar, it's probably because DeMarchis and Graff made the news this week, their story spreading like wildfire on the Internet, after a city councilman tattled on them to police for selling cupcakes in a local park without a permit.
The boys, eighth graders at Seven Bridges Middle School, have deservedly been described by the media as entrepreneurs; but, at heart, they're a couple of young teens who -- like many kids -- have big dreams and are willing to work hard to make them come true.
"We wanted to earn money to buy a hot dog cart or a food truck," Graff tells ParentDish. "That's why we were selling cupcakes in the park."
DeMarchis tells ParentDish the plan was hatched by a third friend, Zachary Bass, who was not in the park with them the day their business was shut down.
"Our friend Zach had gone to look at trampolines with his family one day when he saw a hot dog cart," DeMarchis tells ParentDish. "So he had the idea that could save up to get a hot dog cart and make a lot of money like those people in New York City."
Together, the three boys, along with another friend, Daniel Katz, made plans to set up a stand on the first Saturday in October in Gedney Park, located near the boys' homes. Selling homemade cupcakes, Rice Krispies treats, brownies and cookies for $1 each, their first day was a great success, yielding $120 in sales, Graff tells ParentDish.
The following Sunday fell on Columbus Day weekend, and the boys were prepped for another good day, though only DeMarchis and Graff were available to work. Graff says he whipped up a batch of chocolate-frosted vanilla cupcakes and chocolate brownies, while DeMarchis baked Rice Krispies treats and chocolate chip cookies-on-a-stick, his mom's specialty.
"I think people really liked the cookies on a stick because they were different, but everything we made sold pretty well," DeMarchis says.
DeMarchis's mom, Suzanne DeMarchis, dropped the boys off at the park and went to get them some lunch while they settled in.
"We set up a stand next to the entrance to the park," Graff says. "As people walked by, we told them we had cupcakes and stuff for sale and they thought it was great."
Graff says, at one point, a man walked by with his wife and two little kids and asked the boys what they were doing.
"He came up to us and asked what we were selling for," DeMarchis says. "We told him we wanted to start our own business, to be entrepreneurs."
"He said 'That's great' and told us he would come back and buy something, but left to make a phone call," Graff says. "Andrew and I joked: 'This guy's great, he's going to call all his friends -- we're going to make a lot of money.' But he never came back and bought anything."
When a police car pulled up soon after, the boys thought something must have happened at the park. DeMarchis says he made a joke and hid behind a tree like he was avoiding being apprehended. But when the officer came over to their stand, DeMarchis came out from behind the tree.
Graff says the officer asked them if they had a permit. When they said no, he asked them if they were working with the PTA or Boy Scouts, because those groups don't need permits to sell at the park.
When the boys explained they were there selling on their own, the officer told them, "You need a permit, so I'm going to have to shut you down," Graff says.
"The policeman was really nice," DeMarchis adds. "He didn't want to tell us to close up, but he had to."
So the boys closed up shop and headed home, shaken by the incident.
"Kevin was so upset, he was crying all the whole way home. He was worried if he was going to get arrested or have a criminal record," Suzanne DeMarchis tells The Journal News, the local Westchester County, N.Y., newspaper that broke the story when, a few weeks after the incident, a DeMarchis family friend contacted the newspaper.
The Journal News filed a New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the police report. That's when the families found out it was New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn, a town board member, who filed the complaint against the boys -- the man the boys spoke to at Gedney Park.
Graff says he was puzzled when he found out what had happened.
"I was thinking in the back of my head, 'Why did he call the police? Why didn't he just tell us himself that we needed a permit?' " he says.
Despite the incident and ensuing media frenzy, the boys say they harbor no ill will against Wolfensohn. But they do think it's ridiculous that they would have to pay a minimum of $175 for a two-hour vending permit, and provide the city with a $1 million certificate of insurance, just to sell cupcakes in the park.
In an interview this week, Wolfensohn, a Democrat first elected to the Town Board in 2007, tells The Journal News, "Thanks to you, I am the most hated person."
The newspaper says he did not want to talk about what he described to them as a "non-event" that turned him into an "Internet pariah around the world." But Wolfensohn did call the Journal News back to comment further.
"I'm overwhelmed by the amount of negative e-mail and threats that myself and my family have received over what was basically a lack of communication. In hindsight, I should have spoken to the boys," Wolfensohn tells the newspaper. "But by the same token, the parents should have spoken to me or the town if they felt I acted in an unreasonable fashion, instead of going to the press."
"I feel bad for the councilman," DeMarchis says. "But I'm angry about this law."
The incident has brought the boys to extend some advice to kids who may be looking to start their own businesses.
"They should keep trying. Even if it's not happening for them ... they shouldn't let little things stop them," Graff says.
And, DeMarchis, adds, know the rules.
"No matter what you're going to do, you should check with the town and make sure you have all the required things to do it," he tells ParentDish. "And I would say you should try even if you heard this story."
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.