One East Elmhurst couple is using their love for all things “geeky” and “nerdy” to create delicious treats for every occasion.
Hannah Maldonado and Matthew McNamee met in 2012 and felt an instant connection with their interest in comic books and video games. One day they decided to drive around looking for “something nerdy to snack on” and couldn’t find anything they could get enthusiastic about.
“I’ve never had a tolerance for normal. I’ve always been the black sheep of my family,” Maldonado said. “When Matthew and I met, our friendship was based on all the nerdy things we liked.”
Not finding what they were looking for sparked the idea to start a business in which Maldonado, who studied pastry arts and was not content in working at other bakeries, would create her own treats. McNamee, an aircraft mechanic for Jet Blue Airways, would be in charge of any construction.
The idea then transformed into the 8 Bit Bakeshop, which at first started out of their house. The name refers to the beginning of video games and the products sold are inspired by video games and comic books, such as Super Mario, Pokémon, Deadpool, and others.
In 2013 they started to test their product at New York Comic Con to see if people would be interested. To their surprise they were met with thousands of people congratulating their work.
“Oddly enough the fan base is there and it is a lot bigger than we thought it would be,” Maldonado said. “It just makes me feel so good because it’s a niche that is so untapped. It’s great with the old crowds and it’s great to see young people into it, too.”
Now, working out of the business incubator Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City, the 8 Bit Bakeshop is known for its sugar cookies, individually decorated by Maldonado and a team of volunteers, cupcakes and a line of fudge and cakes in various flavors. They also create alcohol-infused pastries and huge sugar cookies, which are covered in icing to resemble comic book covers or pages.
They also feature a line of treats called “Little Luna,” named after the couple’s Type 1 diabetic daughter, which includes diabetic-friendly, vegan and vegetarian versions of their products. They are in the process of trying to create kosher and gluten-free items as well.
“We just want to add more love, and who doesn’t love food? And we want to make sure we don’t exclude anyone,” Maldonado added.
Along with being creative in the kitchen, one thing that makes the team of the 8 Bit Bakeshop stand out is that when they hit conventions, like New York Comic Con, they show up as personalities from video games and comic books as a form of cosplay.
“We want to sell the experience, not just the product,” Maldonado said. “We like to take away the counter. So when you see us selling stuff, you almost never see us behind the table.”
Maldonado said that there are plans in the future to open a store, but they first want to spread the word of the 8 Bit Bakeshop by traveling around the country and setting up booths at conventions.
They are also in the process of creating a “nerdy food box” subscription service called Byte, in which people from across the country would subscribe and be sent a box full of treats from the 8 Bit Bakeshop. They plan to beta test the product this summer.
“The best part is that Matthew and I love this,” Maldonado said. “We’re not solely in this for the money, it’s something that we enjoy. We take this as an art form, more than an actual bakery.”