Sisters take over local sweet spot

Suzanne Kempf (pictured) and her sister Cindy Burger moved back to Santa Monica to open up a Nothing Bundt Cake franchise on Montana Avenue. (Photo by Alex Vejar)

Suzanne Kempf (pictured) and her sister Cindy Burger moved back to Santa Monica to open up a Nothing Bundt Cake franchise on Montana Avenue. (Photo by Alex Vejar)

MONTANA AVE — All Suzanne Kempf needed was a cake for a party, not having time to bake one herself.

When a friend suggested she visit cake shop Nothing Bundt Cakes, little did she know that it would le

“Now, it’s my life and my passion,” Kempf to a whole new career for her and her sister, Cindy Burger.

Kempf and Burger, who were born and raised in Santa Monica, have recently bought a Nothing Bundt Cakes location in the city by the sea, hoping to make life sweeter for Santa Monicans.

Before buying a leg of the bundt cake franchise, which was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Las Vegas, Kempf and Burger were living 2 miles apart in Texas — Burger working in commercial real estate and Kempf doing sales and marketing for E. & J. Gallo Winery, from which she has recently resigned.

But a sample tasting of one of the cake shop’s signature desserts changed that.

“The beauty of this brand is that it’s so nostalgic and reminds you of what your mom and your grandma used to make,” Kempf said.

Wanting to make the move back to California, the sisters started the process that eventually landed them back in their home city of Santa Monica.

“It’s been spectacular,” Kempf said of the local response since taking over March 1. “The excitement and the energy from the staff to the neighborhood to family and friends that we’ve networked with coming back home — the energy’s been phenomenal.”

Kempf likes the love she has felt from loyal customers.

“It’s really a sense of neighborhood, which I think is lost sometimes in other parts of the world,” she said.

In the short time that the sisters have been in business, Kempf is already known by some locals as “the cake lady.”

“I think that it’s just such a nice, warm, neighborly feeling,” Kempf said. “You can’t pay for that.”

The store has received business from those looking for something for a house party to corporate brands like the National Football League and the Food Network, Kempf said.

The recent cupcake craze has shown the potential for bakery boutiques. Cupcake bakeries raked in $100 million in sales in 2010 in the U.S., according to Technomic, the food research and consulting firm, which believes growth in the dessert market will continue as consumers continue to crave sweet and savory snacks.

“We could see growth of numerous dessert trends such as chocolate-covered bacon shops, cream puffs, churros or perhaps macaroons,” said Darren Tristano, food service concept and menu expert with Technomic. “Health and lifestyle considerations will also remain a consideration but a balance with indulgence will likely provide ample opportunities for both healthful and decadent treats.”

The estimated initial investment to open a Nothing Bundt Cake franchise ranges from $318,700 to $419,700, which includes the initial franchise fee of $25,000, according to

Kempf said that simplicity is what led her to buying this specific franchise as opposed to a pizza place or a coffee shop.

“It’s one item, four sizes, 10 flavors,” Kempf said. “I call it the In-N-Out model of cakes.”

The cakes are quite moist and the velvety cream cheese frosting sweet and thick. It can be a bit much for those who don’t like a lot of sugar. If that’s the case, go with their drizzled frosting.

Some of the flavors of cake offered are chocolate chip, pecan praline, white chocolate raspberry, carrot, and, of course, the requisite red velvet.

Kempf believes that working with her sister rather than a new business partner makes for an easier professional relationship.

“You already know your siblings, so you know what to expect,” Kempf said. “We know each other’s personalities and behavior and so we’re very direct with each other.”

In an effort to give back to the community, Kempf started a four-week partnership with Heal the Bay in an event called Bubbles and Bundts. The bakery offers samples of their cakes and serves Barefoot Bubbly champagne from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays. The partnership ends May 10. Twenty percent of sales from Fridays will go to Heal the Bay.

“It’s a nice local partnership and it’s reflecting what needs to be done to maintain Santa Monica beaches,” Kempf said.

“I’m passionate about different charities that we can get involved in and that’s something we’re gonna continue to do going forward,” Kempf added. “It’s important to give back.”

While Kempf admitted that she would consider opening new cake shops in other cities if the opportunity arose, she said she would like to stay in Santa Monica until she retires.

“There’s such a great sense of neighborhood and community here,” Kempf said. “We’re so grateful to be a part of that. So yes, I can have my cake and eat it too.”

Local lawyer creates TV workout

DOWNTOWN — For Santa Monica lawyer Jonathan Blau, exercising is not only a healthy habit, it’s the law.

Blau, who is a certified personal trainer, has a new exercise regiment which is featured in his book “TV Workout,” comprised of simple exercises people can do while watching their favorite show, sports team or movie.

His exercise book contains exercises focusing on strength, flexibility and aerobic workouts for the upper body, lower body and the core. Each section of his book contains step-by-step instructions on how to execute each exercise, along with information about which muscles are being strengthened.

“All of the exercises are easy to learn and simple to do,” Blau said. “They don’t take a lot of concentration.”

The typical American spends 144 hours and 54 minutes watching traditional television each month, which is a little over four and a half hours per day, according to the 2012 Nielsen United States Consumer Usage report. Blau is looking to capitalize on this fact.

Blau was going to the gym three to four times a week before he began practicing law. As his schedule got tighter, he began doing more workouts from home, performing simple exercises with minimal equipment.

“But it got a little bit tedious sometimes, doing rep after rep, and I started watching TV when I was doing some of the real simple exercises, like the curls and the tricep extensions,” Blau said.

That led him to take an eight-month fitness course at UCLA, which got him thinking more about the possibility of exercising every major muscle in the body while watching TV. He then took an exam from the American College of Sports Medicine, a program which provides certification for those interested in careers in health and fitness, and passed.

Even though Blau acknowledged that those who go to a gym are also provided with televisions while they work out, he feels that his book takes things one step further.

“The difference is that the home TV workout is an extension of the idea that the gyms have adopted,” Blau said. “What the home TV workout does is it starts with that concept, but it extends it beyond the cardio exercises to all kinds of strength and resistance exercises, as well as flexibility exercises. You can do so much with just a little bit of equipment.”

However, Blau does not feel that his TV workouts would replace gyms entirely.

“It could be a replacement for the gym, but it can also be a supplement to the gym,” he said.

Adults should engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, which can equate to 30 minutes per day if they work out five times a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The length of the average television show, with commercials, is 30 minutes.

“You can kind of link your workouts to the TV shows you like to watch,” Blau said.

Over 68 percent of Americans are overweight and obese, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

“This may not be for everybody, but if a lot of people do it, it could … reduce this health problem in this country,” Blau said about his TV workout plan.

Dr. Denise Sur, chief of staff at UCLA Medical Center — Santa Monica and director of the UCLA Family Medicine Residency Program, said that prolonged sitting can cause weight gain and obesity.

“It’s just impossible to try to keep yourself in shape and to keep your weight at a good weight and be inactive,” Sur said.

With his book, Blau is looking to join the fight against obesity by advocating “getting some exercise in during the week in a convenient, entertaining way.”

“TV Workout,” which was released in July 2012, is available in print and as an e-book on


Local service offers dogs a home away from home

Tatiana Masterson plays with her dog Auggie in her Santa Monica home, where she cares for other dogs as a host for the company DogVacay. Photo by Alex Vejar

CITYWIDE — For pet owners who would rather leave their little critters in the comfort of a home rather than a kennel during their work day or when they travel, there is a scarcity of options in Santa Monica.

Local company DogVacay is looking to change all that.

The company allows users to find, schedule and book appointments with a host, who cares for dogs in their own home. Prospective clients can also register for a free account, read reviews on the hosts and make payments all on their websit

Tatiana Masterson is one of those hosts. In her professional life she works in the music industry doing public relations, managing, tour support, and more. She became interested in the concept of hosting pets in her home after a friend suggested she do that for her own adopted dog, Auggie, when she traveled for work.

“I fell in love with the concept, and I decided to become a host,” she said.

Masterson has been hosting since July of last year. With the extra money she makes from DogVacay she is able to pay for her puppy’s expenses.

“I’m very thankful because Auggie has the company that he needs and I have the company as well in the way that also I have a little bit of extra cash while working from home,” she said. “It’s been a great experience.”

Prospective hosts go through an approval process before being able to work for DogVacay, said founder and “top dog” Aaron Hirschhorn, who started the company in March of last year in his home with his wife Karine after a negative experience with a dog kennel. The process consists of an online application, a phone interview and reference checks.

“These are people’s babies,” Hirschhorn said of the detailed approval process. “I love my dog so much, our customers love [their] dogs so much. Everything we can do to make them feel good is what our business is about.”

Hirschhorn feels that customers get a different experience than they would if they left their dogs at a kennel.

“What we really feel is so incredible is the opportunity to give your dog individual attention in someone’s home, like what they get normally,” he said.

Hosts can also send photo and video updates of the owner’s dogs while they are away, adding to the unique experience that Hirschhorn promotes.

In case of a pet emergency, DogVacay has a 24-hour service that a host can call, as well as a partnership with VCA Animal Hospitals, which provides emergency veterinary care to all of their customers, all paid for by the company, Hirschhorn said.

The company doesn’t only care for dogs. Customers have used the service for cats, rabbits, and even a pig,  Hirschhorn said.

In the time that it has been in business, DogVacay has grown to having 10,000 hosts all across the United States and Canada, Hirschhorn said.

“The real business is the hosts,” he said.

DogVacay’s pricing ranges from $15 to $50 per night, with the norm being under $30, which can be half of what someone would pay for a kennel depending on the quality of the facility and the types of services offered, Hirschhorn said.

According to the trade group American Pet Products Association, it is projected that people will spend $55.53 billion on services and products related to pets, $5.54 billion for grooming and boarding alone.

For more information, to find a host, or to become a host, visit

For some runners, life is a marathon

During last year’s Los Angeles Marathon, Charles Delvalle was in a wheelchair, watching the marathon on television while recovering from a coma, unable to participate in the race he had been running since 1995.

On Sunday, he was back on the course dressed as Uncle Fester, a character from the television show “The Addams Family,” as he has over the past few years.

“This is my coming-back-to-life marathon,” Delvalle said.

From elite runners who make a living running marathons, to ordinary people who run for a cause, a charity or for fun, the LA Marathon seemed to bring those who participated together.

Unlike Delvalle, who ran the marathon just for fun, Abigail Gregg had a more personal motivation for making the 26.2 mile trek across Los Angeles.

“I ran the marathon because 30-something years ago, my mother ran it,” she said. “It was sort of one of those things. I was living in Los Angeles for four years. I was carrying on the tradition.”

Sunday’s marathon was Gregg’s first, much like her mother, whose first marathon was in Los Angeles as well.

Julie Weiss, a Santa Monica native, is a mother herself. On Sunday, she ran her 52nd marathon in as many weeks in an attempt to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer, an illness that ended her father’s life in 2010.

“I knew that I needed to do something dramatic, something big, to make a difference, to spread awareness,” said Weiss, who also has a full-time job as an accountant for a commercial real estate company.

Another runner who participated in the race for a cause was Christian Alvarado, a blind 27-year-old who lost his vision due to optic atrophy while in high school. He ran this year’s marathon on behalf of the Fulfillment Fund, a charity that helps high school students do well in school and enter college.

“One of the reasons why I do it is to prove to the community that my blindness is not a disability; it’s just an additional challenge that motivates me to accomplish all my goals,” Alvarado said. “Anything is possible. There is nothing that can stop you except your mind.”

Jeffrey Lemberger is two years sober, after having been addicted to drugs and alcohol for 10 years. He ran the marathon as a part of Team Beit T’Shuvah, a residential treatment center in Los Angeles.

“I’ve gained a sense of spirituality through running marathons,” Lemberger said.

Lemberger said Sunday’s race was his 10th in the past year. His goal is to run 20 by December.

Larry Rosenblatt chose to run his 22nd marathon to raise funds for a family in need. Through his employer,Synchronoss Technologies, Rosenblatt ran to support the Everett family, whose four children, all under the age of 20, lost their parents during Hurricane Sandy.

“This is a heartfelt tragedy,” he said. “It touches all people.”

For runner Cesar Marquez, the marathon was more than just running a race. He proposed to his girlfriend, Miroslava Rojas, as she crossed the finish line. She said “yes.”

The marathon started early Sunday morning at Dodger Stadium, with the wheelchair participants taking off at 6:55 a.m. Shortly after, the elite women runners began their 26.2-mile run, 18 minutes and 35 seconds ahead of the men.

The race ended on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, just blocks away from the Santa Monica Pier. Thousands of people gathered to meet their loved ones and cheered for runners as they crossed the finish line.

In her marathon debut, Aleksandra Duliba of Belarus came in first for the elite women with a time of 2:26:08, leading her to win the gender challenge. Erick Mose of Kenya won the men’s race with a time of 2:09:44.

Merissa Weiland contributed to this report.

Brief: dineLA comes to Santa Monica

With about 40 restaurants being represented during dineLA’s Restaurant Week, Santa Monica foodies will have lots of menus to choose from.

Local restaurants will offer specially priced lunch and dinner items costing no more than $25 and $45, respectively. So if you’ve ever wanted to eat at La Botte, or The Penthouse on top of the Huntley Hotel, Restaurant Week is the chance to do so.

Owner and Chef Stefano De Lorenzo of La Botte said that during dineLA’s special week, he sees more people than usual in his restaurant and that it creates the opportunity for customers to get a good deal. It also gives the restaurant the chance to present new menu items, he said.

dineLA’s Restaurant week is going on now through Feb. 1. For a complete list of restaurants that are participating, visit

Brief: Get fit for free

Now through Jan. 28, start getting healthier for free at two local places of fitness during Active Santa Monica week. Venues include the Fitness Room at Memorial Park and the Santa Monica Swim Center, city officials said.

At Memorial Park, LIfeFitness strength training machines, hand weights and cardio machines will be available for use. The Fitness Room is located at 1401 Olympic Blvd. and is open Monday through Friday, noon to 9 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it is open from noon to 7 p.m. No membership is required. For age requirements and additional information, call (310) 458-2201.

Three classes will be offered at the Santa Monica Swim Center. The classes are Shallow Wet Water Workout, occurring Sundays at 8:15 a.m. and Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Deep Wet Water Workout, which takes place on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Adult Fitness Swim, which happens on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

The Wet Workouts are low-impact and integrate aerobic exercise with strength-training. All skill levels are welcome in either class. However, Deep Water Workout participants must be able to swim one pool length. The Adult Fitness Swim is for those who would like to improve their technique and form, as well as develop endurance and physical fitness with the help of an expert coach. For more information on these classes, visit

To find out more about Active Santa Monica, visit their facebook page at

Santa Monica gets exclusive with new social club

OCEAN AVE — A designer and a businessman walk into a bar, but this time, the bartender doesn’t ask them what they’d like to drink, because the bartender already knows.

That scene is what Max Russo envisions with his new members-only social club, 41 Ocean.

“When you come in, everybody knows your name. They know everything you’re drinking and everything you’re eating. So you get this amazing service where you feel like you’re at home,” Russo says as he takes a journalist on a tour of the new venue.

Located just a hop, skip and a jump from the Santa Monica Pier, 41 Ocean will be one of the only social clubs of its kind on the Westside. For a yearly fee of $2,000 — or $1,250 if under 30 years of age — members can enjoy a variety of perks, such as free hosting of events at the club and discounts at local hotels for those who are from out of town. There will also be a six-person electric golf cart available to pick up and drop off a member if they live in the area.

Becoming a member involves more than simply paying the yearly fee. A prospective member will have to fill out a unique application which asks questions about items on their bucket list, favorite wines and charities they support.

After receiving and reviewing the application, Russo will put membership hopefuls through his own screening process to get to know them on a more personal level.“I meet with every member one on one. We talk about them, who they are and what they’re doing,” Russo says.

There is already a 200-person waiting list, he claims.

Designed by Russo’s lifetime friend Matt Winter, the space is decorated in the Spanish Revival style of the 1910s to the 1930s. The furniture, light fixtures, rugs and even the bar are all true to the time period. Growing up in a Spanish house, Winter wanted to create something that replicated the comfort he felt in his own home.

“You can literally sit in this place, have a drink and you don’t want to go anywhere. It feels like a cozy mansion,” Winter says.

The food on the menu will go along with the theme of the club and include dishes such as bone marrow and ox cheek. The menu will also feature more contemporary dishes, such as lobster, salmon and various salads. The menu was designed by “Top Chef” star Chris Crary, who will serve as executive chef.

The most unique characteristic of dining at 41 Ocean will be that the choices will constantly change. New dishes will be added to the menu on a regular basis, and outside chefs will make appearances to guest cook, Russo promises

“Who wants to eat at the same restaurant every day?” Russo says. “We’re trying to create something where people are always excited; always innovative. We have to keep it fresh.”

Eclectic music choices will fill the atmosphere of 41 Ocean on a nightly basis, including live jazz bands that will perform periodically at the club. The mood of the bar will be dictated by the variety of music that is played.

“It can start off early with pianos, Spanish-themed music, guitars — really acoustic-type stuff,” Russo says. “As the night goes on, it’ll pick up and you’re going to get The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Madonna, Guns ‘N Roses and AC/DC.”

The grand opening of 41 Ocean will be held on Jan. 25 and will feature a musical performance by up and coming songstress Andra Day, whose retro-influenced sound and powerful vocals seem tailor made for the club.