A Pickerington husband and wife are hoping the marriage of their respective culinary loves will yield success at the newly opened Red Velvet Café.

A Pickerington husband and wife are hoping the marriage of their respective culinary loves will yield success at the newly opened Red Velvet Café.

Reuel and Lida Cruz held a grand opening April 14 for the Red Velvet Café, a new gourmet cupcake bakery that also features specialty coffee and tea drinks.

The café, 1188 Hill North, formerly was the location of Rita's Ice Custard Happiness. The café will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

It will offer decorative cupcakes created by Lida, the café's pastry chef; and specialty coffee drinks made from local roasters and prepared by Reuel. It also will feature bubble teas made with help from the Cruz's daughter, Krizzia, a 2009 Pickerington High School Central graduate who will manage the store when she's not in class pursuing a master's degree at The Ohio State University Fischer College of Business.

This is the Cruz's first foray into the world of self-owned business. They said they took the leap of faith after Reuel Cruz used retirement money to open the café following a drop in available work in his former field of information technology.

"I think Pickerington deserves a place to have gourmet cupcakes and my wife has been baking since she was in high school," Reuel Cruz said. "Originally, she was just going to offer gourmet cupcakes and I said, 'What about me?'

"My wife loves baking and I love coffee. So, we thought it would be a good combination."

Cruz said his wife's cupcakes are "decorative and delicious." They will be sold individually at the café, or to order by the dozen.

In addition to his wife's years of baking, Reuel Cruz was trained in the art of coffee creations at the American Barista Coffee School in Portland, Ore.

He said he will serve a variety of coffee drinks, including espresso and espresso-based cappuccinos and lattes. Red Velvet Café also will offer a range of frozen smoothies, he said.

As former Rita's customers are aware, the space for the Red Velvet Café features a walk-up, carryout window.

However, Cruz noted he's done extensive renovations to the space, and it allows for people to enjoy their drinks or food indoors at counter seating or tables.

There also is an outdoor patio, and the business features free Wi-Fi access, antique coffee memorabilia and a functioning jukebox.

"We have done a very good job in making this place comfortable for customers," Cruz said. "We've been planning this business since November.

"During the planning stages, we've been testing recipes and introducing them to our friends and their friends."

In addition to cupcakes, Red Velvet will serve coffee and tea drinks for breakfast and several panini-style sandwiches during lunch.

Depending on customer demand, he said the Red Velvet Café might expand its menu in the coming months, and he also hopes to add employees.

At the outset, he hopes to employ four people in addition to his wife and daughter. He said he hopes to hire people from different age groups so he can provide job opportunities to those who've had trouble finding work through the prolonged economic slump that's faced Ohio and the nation.

"It will be very nice to have something like this in Pickerington," said Cruz, an 11-year resident of the city. "We're going to focus on quality.

"We're going to try to employ some of the kids from the schools here, and we're going to try to keep everything (product-wise) local."