How Rock City Cake Company is changing what it means to be a bakery.
Next time you find yourself wandering the historic streets of Charleston, a tune might catch your ear. Walk in step with the rock ’n’ roll beat. Bang your head if you want. Inhale the sweet scent of freshly baked cakes infiltrating, swirling in tandem with the music. Follow this path long enough, and you’ll likely land yourself just outside the doors of Rock City Cake Company.
Morgan Morrison says the two-in-one bakery and concert venue, which she co-owns with her fiancé, is something she “just fell into.” She loved to bake and she loved rock music, so it was only natural to combine the two to create something different from any other venue or bakery that existed in Charleston. Since its start in 2013, Rock City has become a sensation, amassing a following of thousands on social media, drawing visitors from as far as California, and becoming a beloved venue for both local and national music acts.
“I think we’re a little bit, for lack of a better term, ballsy,” Morrison says with a laugh when asked why Rock City has become so popular. “We like to always, constantly keep people laughing. We like to do unique things that keep our community engaged. We’ve always tried to be a little bit more than just a bakery.”
A Place to Hear …
It’s not often that you can grab a sumptuous homemade cookie or a decadent slice of cake in the same spot that a rowdy rock crowd might find its home a few hours later, but Rock City Cake Company has made that a reality. Morrison says the bakery’s display cases stay in place for smaller local shows, but they can be wheeled out of the way when a standing-room-only crowd is expected in the venue that has a capacity for 400. In a nod to the shop’s rock ’n’ roll spirit, the cases are actually the same road cases you might see toting a band’s equipment on tour, complete with wheels, hand-built to showcase baked goods and to be whisked off to the back in preparation for a show.
Morrison says Rock City always wants to support local acts from West Virginia, but it’s prepared for more widely known names as well. Longtime beloved Dayton, Ohio, alternative rock band Hawthorne Heights has played the venue in the past, for example. Before the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the lineup, the popular Tallahassee, Florida-based pop punk band Mayday Parade was also scheduled to perform.
Growing up in southern West Virginia, Morrison says, she often had to drive four or five hours to reach the rock shows she wanted to attend. She wants the music scene in Charleston to grow so music fans in the area don’t have to do that anymore. “Some of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to have been in smaller venues that still pack a punch, and that’s kind of always been our goal,” she says.
… and be Heard
Morrison is in this for more than music and baked goods. She’s here to form a real connection with the people who walk through her doors, encourage them to live their best lives, and cheer them up when they’re feeling down. Morrison herself is emblematic of living your truth—on Rock City’s social media, she can often be found encouraging body positivity and being confident in who you are, so much so that she’s this year’s winner of WV Living’s 2021 Wonder Women Lasso of Truth Award. That joy and happiness are impossible to miss when you walk into Rock City.
Cake brings people together no matter the circumstance, Morrison likes to say. “It doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from, or what you’re going through, if you’re having a good day or a bad day, if you’re celebrating something or you’re sad over something,” she says. “We’re that relief for people. We’re either going to be the thing they’re celebrating with, or the thing they’re trying to make themselves feel better with.”
Uplifting the communities and causes she cares about, whether through interactions in the shop or through the social media audience she refers to as the shop’s “cake family,” is what Morrison says is more important to her than anything. “At the end of the day, of course I love baking—but as corny as it sounds, I like being able to help people,” she says. “I think our common goal should be to help one another.”