BJ'S GETS HITCHED TO WEDDING CAKES

NATICK, Mass. -- BJ's Wholesale Club has added a limited selection of wedding cakes at a handful of stores around the Boston area, where it joins a line of specialty cakes and pastries all provided by the same local bakery.BJ's has agreed to carry a line of special-occasion tortes, tarts, bar cakes and cheesecakes made fresh at Montilio's Baking Co.'s production facility in Brockton. Montilio's delivers

NATICK, Mass. -- BJ's Wholesale Club has added a limited selection of wedding cakes at a handful of stores around the Boston area, where it joins a line of specialty cakes and pastries all provided by the same local bakery.

BJ's has agreed to carry a line of special-occasion tortes, tarts, bar cakes and cheesecakes made fresh at Montilio's Baking Co.'s production facility in Brockton. Montilio's delivers the cakes daily. The family-owned bakery will also supply BJ's with some items bundled in four-piece club packs, such as strawberry shortcake and French eclairs.

The wedding cake center made its debut at BJ's new club in Dedham, Mass., during the grand-opening weekend June 21. There are plans to open more wedding cake centers at five other BJ's in the Boston area, an official with Montilio's told SN. Officials at BJ's did not return phone calls.

Club members planning to get hitched will not have as many cake options as they would at a freestanding bakery. But they will save money at BJ's. They'll be able to choose from a selection of eight wedding cakes, retailing for prices substantially lower than regular prices at Montilio's bakeries, the official said.

"They'll save money buying through BJ's," said Stephanie Penn, director of sales and marketing for Montilio's. "It's the same recipe we use for the cakes [sold at the bakery's freestanding stores]."

Montilio's will offer two choices of cakes for a party of 50, two choices for a group of 100, two cakes for groups of 150, and two types for groups of 200. Shoppers can select marble, chocolate or white cakes; pick from a selection of colors for rosettes; and choose from among several cake fillings. All cakes come with butter cream frosting.

BJ's bakeries have open production areas where consumers see associates baking doughnuts, muffins, croissants and other products. Montilio's will supply a catalog, brochures and order forms at the ISBs. Shoppers interested in ordering a wedding cake will fill out an order form and drop it off with the bakery manager, who will accompany them to the registers for checkout. Orders will be faxed to Montilio's, Penn said.

It won't be the first time the bakery, in business for 50 years, has received wedding cake orders at an untraditional site. Montilio's accepts orders from prospective brides at a bridal salon in Waltham, where the bakery rents space.

"Wedding cakes are a huge part of our business," Penn said. BJ's "is an entirely new market. We'll get new customers."

An observer who frequently visits warehouse clubs and recently stopped in the BJ's in Dedham told SN Montilio's presence is a clear departure for the club operator. The independent baker has a refrigerated case, about four feet wide, with four shelves filled with cakes and pastries, next to a case containing Carvel ice cream cakes, the observer told SN. Montilio's case contained 19 different items filling the display space.

"I thought it was interesting," said Michael Clayman, publisher of Warehouse Club Focus, a twice-a-month newsletter. "It's definitely not something you'd normally see at BJ's. It looked appealing."

The addition probably is a sign of the warehouse club's ongoing effort to upgrade fresh foods as a way to improve the overall business, Clayman said. He speculated the line is also a sign of new merchandising strategies being put into place under the leadership of Michael Wedge, who recently took over as BJ's chief executive officer.

"I think there's just a need to bring in high-quality products," Clayman said. "Montilio's already has a good reputation. The concept could be duplicated in other areas."

BJ's operates 140 clubs.