One year! I suppose it sounds trite to say it feels like we just opened yesterday, but it does seem like just yesterday that I was having a mini-nervous breakdown in the bakery hallway, the night before I opened. I had no idea what to expect that first day. I had done no formal advertising, but people seemed excited. I was equal parts worried that no one would come and that we’d sell out in the first hour.
People did come, and we sold out of most everything, but not in the first hour. The first week was insane—I was doing all of the baking and manning the front. I remember people walking in and asking for granola. I would pack it up warm and hand them the open bags, so the granola could continue to cool.
While it feels like yesterday, the bakery has come a LONG way in a year. And it doesn’t look exactly like what I expected a year in, although to be honest, I’m not sure I had many expectations.
I had these sweet ideas of being the neighborhood baker lady and friends stopping by and me pouring a cup of coffee and having cozy, leisurely conversations. Much like Meg Ryan in her little bookstore in “You’ve Got Mail”. What I quickly realized is that the reason Meg Ryan had so much time to sit around and be cozy was that her business was in the dumps. The reality is that I barely have time to talk to my co-workers….about important work things.
I thought that the bakery would have a core group of loyal customers, but I never imagined how large that core would be. How customers would become close friends—the kind of friends who feel like family! How generous people would be as they trust me with their stories and struggles. We truly have the nicest, KINDEST customers.
I had my fears that the bakery would fail, of course. I would lay in bed and literally compose the Facebook status announcing that the bakery was having to close. How I gave it a go, and how I would try to sound positive, but that I would certainly feel like a failure. Mostly I thought it would probably stay open, but that it would be constant worrying about getting customers in the door. So to have the bakery stay so busy is mind-blowing. I mean, we never even had time to properly plan a grand opening! I never would have believed that in our first year we would have done catering and that our granola would be carried at local farmstands, or especially that people would drive from all over the state to get our food. Not to mention the Best of Birmingham award!
Here’s a funny one: I thought that I wouldn’t make cakes. Seriously, I am such a diva. I never learned to decorate cakes and I just didn’t want to (because I don’t like being bad at things), and somehow I thought I could have a bakery without cakes. Needless to say that I made a special order cake during my first week open, and while I’ll never be a professional decorator, my skills are passable, and simple, elegant cakes are what I do.
I thought I’d be able to handle the bakery on my own for a while. Maybe 3-6 months. Um, no. I hired Susan 4 weeks in, and now we have 3 employees, all of whom work so hard with the best of attitudes.
We started out with just baked goods on a walk-in basis, and now we offer weekly menus, delivery, pre-ordering, single and family meals, and ship our granola nationwide. That is rather mind-blowing.
When I say it seems like yesterday when we opened, I mean it. I think I’m still running on adrenaline and caffeine. To be honest, I feel like every few months, I’m launching the business again, because we add in something new….and always, always, our customers show up. And they tell their friends.
My mantra seems to be: just get through this week. And so far, I’ve gotten through all 52 of them! But not without a lot of help. My husband and boys have been so gracious. They went from having me home and available 24/7 to sharing me with hundreds of other people. This year hasn’t been the easiest on them, but they love and are proud of the bakery and what we are accomplishing there.
Rebecca and Susan make my work life so much better. I love our little team that pitches in to help on whatever needs doing. People always say good help is hard to find and I believe that, but somehow, these two found their way to me, and for that, I am grateful.
To my precious customers—thank you for sharing your lives with me. For driving out of the way to come to my store. For telling your friends, and talking about us on social media. Thank you for choosing to buy local. Thank you to the Bluff Park community for showing up—so many of my regular customers have no dietary special needs, they just love supporting a local business. Thank you for caring about me and my dream of a bakery where my children can eat anything they want.