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Hi - mind if I crash?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone
I've been lurking around this site for a couple of days to get the feel of things & I'm finally brave enough to jump in! :)

I'm not really sure what to say about myself at this point; I'm trying to buy a bakery and need all the help I can get! I've applied for an SBA loan but haven't heard back from the bank yet, so don't know how far I'll actually get. I've also got competition, so I'm trying to be a little secretive - just for now. ;)

20 years ago, I chiselled out space in a legal kitchen to make bagels & sourdough and sell directly to customers (no storefront). Back then bagels hadn't caught on around here yet - there were none in the grocery stores, let alone franchises, so I had to pack it up & do something else.

But a few months ago, an established bakery came up for sale & I'm going for it! At this point I know what equipment it has, but no idea as to what recipes remain. The original owner did a lot of scratch baking, but he passed on several years ago & the current owner seems to have done mostly pre-mades. So if anyone can mentor me about anything, techniques, display, recipes, etc., I'd be most grateful! Also what are your favorite goodies when you go to a bakery. Even pet peeves. I am a sponge! :D

So I guess that makes me the "Once and Future Baker." I hope! Wish me luck!
post #2 of 29
Welcome CJ!

Nice to have you with us.
My grandfather was a baker,he owend the new york bakery for 66 years.

I think you will find the three pastry/baking forums very helpful.Amoung the 1500 people here there are some incrdible talent and resourses. So post away and good luck
cc
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #3 of 29
Welcome CJ.

To open a bakery is quite a venture.

I would read a lot, and walk around town, explore other bakeries and decide on YOUR OWN SPECIALTY!

and of course, as Cape Chef indicated, you will find plenty of info on this board!

Good luck to you CJ!

:)
K

«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
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K

«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
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post #4 of 29
Boy, CJ, did you come to the right place! Cape Chef's advice was right on the mark (as usual), so cruise on over to the bakers' forums and ask away. You'll get lots of good insights.
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post #5 of 29
Hi CJ, I'm a pastry chef at a private club. I love to talk baking, I'm always happy to both share and learn. Start a thread or two in the pastry area and everyone will be happy to help.

I've found over the last couple years since I've come on line to cooking sites that I've learned so much I can't even tell you how much I value the help I've recieved. I'm no longer a beginner but it's amazing how much you can learn from others.
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #6 of 29
Welcome to Chef Talk CJ! Good luck qith the bakery, hope it will work out for you.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #7 of 29
Welcome to Chef Talk and good luck with your bakery!
post #8 of 29
Hello CJ,

I would love to hear how far into the process you are, and what sorts of things you took with you from your previous venture. I look forward to seeing you in the Pastry and Baking Forums.
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for the warm welcome, I feel right at home. Who says the internet is impersonal?!

Cape Chef - Wow! Your grandfather was a baker for 66 years - I'm impressed!

Momoreg - I submitted my business plan and loan application to the bank two weeks ago and am expecting to hear back from the SBA any minute now... The short answer to what I took with me is, "not much." I wasn't able to build up clientele enough to do much volume and the kitchen I "borrowed" wasn't a bakery. So I'm not experienced with large recipe batches or bakery equipment such as 30-qt. mixer, sheeter, etc. On the plus side, I had my hands in dough a lot & feel fairly confident around the yeastie beasties. It isn't enough, I know, but I would kick myself forever if I lost such an opportunity by talking myself out of it.

Thanks again, everyone!
post #10 of 29
CJ-
How big is the place? How many people are needed in the production area? Who is your target market?

I assume that the people who work there now will continue working there after you buy it (I am assuming you will).

Do you plan to change the existing menu, or just add a few things?

How has business been up until now?

The more info you provide, the better we can help you.

I wish you the best of luck. It's a tough job, and I hope it will be very rewarding for you.
post #11 of 29
Dear CJ:

Welcome to the Chef Talk Cafe!

I wish you the best in your new endeavor!

:)
"Olio nuovo e vino vecchio"
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"Olio nuovo e vino vecchio"
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post #12 of 29
Welcome to the forum, CJ, and all the best of luck to your endeavor. :) :)

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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post #13 of 29
Welcome CJ. A small bakery/patisserie is something that's been gnawing at me for some time now. I'm just starting out with my current career which I'm hoping will give me enough money to do other things later on. Good luck to you and keep us posted.
post #14 of 29
Thread Starter 
Hi
Sorry I haven't been back sooner, but I'm having trouble biting my nails and typing at the same time. Gotta work on that multi-tasking.

Momoreg- Oh thank you for assuming I'll get it! The place is tiny, but I'm not sure of floor dimensions. It's in a small plaza in a college town, so target market is 3-fold; walk bys, general community, and college students. Town's population almost doubles during school year.

The current owners bought it to re-sell; it hasn't been open for almost a year. Previous owners were a married couple without staff. Break in operation & staff is a double-edged sword. I've got some room to experiment and stumble without impacting the business as much, but without a cushion. For right now, I'll be it staff-wise. Hmmm. I wonder if a cot will fit under the bench... First addition will be a part-time counter person. As business grows, I'll add staff and expand operating hours.

I'm not sure what the last menu was. While I'm waiting, I'm picking the brains of anyone who remembers it from the original owners (1950s to 80s), when it was in it's heyday. It was a typical 1950s bakery with a small takeout lunch business. The original recipes are part of the deal, but I don't have a complete list. The soup & pasties will stay, but plain sandwiches will probably get the heave-ho. A takeout breakfast is a winner around here; I've got a baked omelet, but looking for more ideas. I'm playing around with the idea of French toast dipping sticks with flavored syrups - cinnamon/maple, lavender/vanilla. Fried things are out - fryer insurance is pretty steep.

It's getting hard to find a real bakery around here that makes dinner rolls, a good light loaf, or much of anything from scratch. Those are basics I'm determined to offer, then work some "fancier" things into customers' affections. But I'm interested in everybody's favorite things; a hard-to-find cookie, favorite filling, childhood treat, holiday traditions, etc. When you visit a new bakery, what do you search the display case for?

Yes, I am insane.
:D

[ June 05, 2001: Message edited by: CJ ]

[ June 05, 2001: Message edited by: CJ ]
post #15 of 29
I think that since there is a lot of walk-by traffic, maybe you can hand out questionnaires to people, with a postage-paid envelope, so they can fill it out at their leisure. Let them know that you are buying the bakery, and would like to know what type of things they'd like to see there. It wouldn't do you much good to ask us what we like, because we're not your market. (Although those French toast sticks do sound good!)

The only major red flag I see is that sometimes when a business changes hands too much, it can become sort-of plagued for any business that takes over. I would be careful not to change the place too drastically, if it was successful the way it was. Only you know whether the place can survive a total rehaul in menu and style. Of course if the old menu was totally dated, then I guess it can't hurt to bring it into the 21st century.

If you still have a lot of older people who remember the old menu, you might want to try and save a few of the original items.

It sounds like you're doing your homework. Please continue filling us in on your progress. You ARE crazy by the way, but a good crazy! :D
post #16 of 29
It would be a tragedy if you two turned out to be competitors! CJ, how about breakfast knishes? Fill them with egg, bacon (a sacrilege in some parts of the country, but in Ohio it might fly- unless you're in Cincinatti near the HUC campus), sausage... omelet fixins, to be brief. Big, gooey cinnamon rolls would be on my list, including ones studded with pecans and plenty of caramel. Smoothies might me nice, too. I think younger customers would like them. You could market huge oatmeal or meusli cookies or muffins for breakfast. If you could work in some protein powder, some people would consider that a nutritious breakfast. For lunches, how about ratatouille or other veggie stew (or meat stew) in a bread bowl? Wraps of various kinds; strombolis and calzones; focaccia; bagel dogs. Soup is extremely popular, so I'd be happy to see a menu of excellent soups. In my part of Wisconsin, kringles are the rave, and have been for many decades. I can hardly imagine those not going over! Having said all that, I guess Momoreg's advice that we are not your public should rule. But that was fun anyway! Good luck.

[ June 06, 2001: Message edited by: Mezzaluna ]
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post #17 of 29
Thread Starter 
Whooohooo – the loan was approved!!! :D I’m not 100% sure I’ve got the bakery yet, though. :( All the paperwork should be finished by the end of next week, but the current owners said they’ll show it to another of my competitors tomorrow anyway.


You’re completely right, Momoreg – I want to use it’s history as part of the draw, so it would be a mistake to make any drastic changes to existing recipe flavors or completely overhaul the menu. Just not sure what the menu was. Some things could be updated, though. Croissants, bagels, sourdough… anything that gained popularity around here within the last 20 years probably isn’t in the archives.

Thanks, Dave I'd love to take you up on the offer. I’m in NE Ohio, near Akron, are you close by?

That is, unless Mezzaluna’s right about us being competition. Thaanks M. :rolleyes:

I’m going to have to display some ignorance here – I’ve heard of knishes and kringles, but have never seen them around here. But cinnamon rolls – oh yeah! Gotta have ‘em! Soups are always a sellout, even in the summer. That idea of breakfast cookies is wickedly outstanding, especially in a college town. Have to remember to hide them during parents’ weekend. How about spreading on a filling, folding them in half & calling them “Breakfast Mezzalunas?” You’re right, this is fun! I think everyone’s ideas are great to hear about, especially in this case. The students come from all over and the residents are a pretty mixed bag as well.

Well, I'd better go bounce off some more walls

:D :D :D

[ June 08, 2001: Message edited by: CJ ]
post #18 of 29
That's wonderful news, CJ! Congratulations :D !

I wonder why they want to keep showing it?? That's a bit disconcerting. Can't your lawyer stop them?
post #19 of 29
Dear CJ;

Congratulations on your loan approval! That is great news!

I have read your recent postings carefully and although I am not in the business, I can tell that you know your stuff!

I will endeavour to give you some assistance by telling you what I am looking for in a bakery that fits your description. I am not a baker neither a market analyst so please understand that these suggestions are based on personal taste and eating habits. I hope they are of some assistance to you.

A bakery that does not sell bread is not a true bakery to me. Breads that I cannot resist buying are a freshly baked french baquette (not from frozen dough) and olive bread.

Real croissants are a big attraction tome. I eat them straight, and they are my favorite for sandwiches. I also love chocolate croissants, cheese croissants, omellette croissants, ... you name it.

Gallettes/crepes are a big show attraction during the preparation and making stage, fill the shop with great smell, and they can be stuffed with spinach, cheese, omellette, ... anything that you can imagine including desssert types. In Brittany there was a bakery that tourists and locals used to line up to get a seat that was serving 70 different types of crepes!

Coffee is an essential. Great profit margins and you can beat the chains easily on quality/price by using the right supplier. Tea is also another great one for the same reasons. They also attract people all day long and fill the tables during non-eating hours. They make great take-outs too.

I wish you all the best. My wishes are probably worth more than my suggestions. :)
"Olio nuovo e vino vecchio"
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post #20 of 29
CJ you said you welcomed any comments etc...I have a pet peeve to mention. When I visit a small bakery even as a pastry chef I want to see signs/labels on items telling what it is.

Most importantly I want to see price tags. I'm not cheap nor poor but I find it's too akward to ask the sales girl how much each item is (on top of "what is that?"). I might want to buy 1 of ten different small items plus a couple of breads and it becomes embarassing asking after a couple of times. Then I've met sales girls who act as if that's anoying to them to answer.

I'm the sampler buyer...I love to try everything and can spend quite abit doing so each visit...but I'm not into asking tons of questions.

just my two cents...
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #21 of 29
Congratulations CJ!


Don't forget to cater to the health crowds. Many people are looking for low fat baked goods or whole grains. Might be worth looking into.

one last thing, don't forget to check out your competitions. Visit all the other bakeries and popular cafes or students hangouts and look at what is being served and what the customers are eating. It will give you some clues as to what people like in your area.


Good luck!
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #22 of 29
I am uppity about 'service with a smile.' I worked in a mall once as a gift wrapper, and people were so impressed that I was so friendly that it got me put in the newspaper with my photo. I LOOK for service with a smile. If I get the nasty treatment from a business or vendor I usually go elsewhere or not at all. :D
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post #23 of 29
CJ, congratulations!! And I think "breakfast mezzalunas" is a wonderful name- not surprisingly, eh? :rolleyes: Here is some information about the biggest kringle maker in the U.S., I believe: http://www.kringle.com/ I've eaten my share of them. They are a local pastry made mostly in Racine, Wisconsin although there are several bakeries which make and sell them around Southeastern Wisconsin (in Kenosha and maybe Milwaukee, too). Texture of the dough varies from light and bread-like to dense and rich, more like thin pie dough. Fillings are usually fruit (cherry, raspberry, etc.) or nut (pecan!!!!), but I've also eaten a napolean style one made with puff pastry, and an eclair-style one with pastry cream filling and chocolate icing. They are usually glazed with plain sugar glazing. Kringles are usually race-track shaped, but they are also sold as "sticks" (a strip about 12" long). It is worth ordering one (or two or eight) to taste the product. The fruit and nut ones freeze very well. They can't be that hard to make, as a friend of mind had a job in at Lehman's Bakery in Racine making kringles while in high school.

Knishes are little dough pouches, not unlike steamed pork bun dim sums- although they are baked, not steamed and are NEVER filled with pork. Traditional fillings are mashed potato (often with crisply fried onion bits), mushroom and kasha, or ground leftover pot roast with mushrooms and a bit of gravy to moisten. I'm sure there are lots more! I had one once one filled with scrambled egg mixture, and I'm sure they are very versatile. If Joan Nathan doesn't have a recipe, try this: http://www.betterbaking.com/baker2/matters2kni.html or this: http://soar.berkeley.edu/recipes/cgi...?query=knishes
Here is a mail order site: http://www.newyorkfirst.com/gifts/9022.html
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post #24 of 29
Thread Starter 
Hi there, did you miss me?

I have great news; we signed the sales agreement Wednesday! Apparently, the competitors didn’t pan out. Uh, no pun intended. There are still a couple of things to do on the financial/legal side, but I can see an end to that tunnel & a beginning to my new life.

Thank you all for your kind words of support & terrific suggestions. My experience with bakeries has been grounded in my hometown shop, so I’m always grateful for any other experience.

Thank you, Papa – I’m with you about the bread & croissants! I’m glad you mentioned coffee. Our town’s bakery never sold it, so that’s something that hadn’t occurred to me. One of my mentors owns a café, so I will throw myself on her mercy & expertise. My coffee tastes aren’t well-developed. I’d drink sludge if it were the only thing with caffeine. Personally, I prefer coffee toddy – mild taste, extra ZOOM! :eek:

W. – Good suggestion on the labels. I thought I was the only one who didn’t like pointing & grunting when I don’t know what something’s called. It makes me feel ignorant, and that’s poor way to build clientele. Ditto the prices. But I’ve seen so many bakeries without $that I’m going to research “why?” -if there’s a reason for it.

Great ideas & sites, Mezzaluna! Thanks so much – When trying out a new recipe, I’m unsure if that’s the way it’s supposed to taste. Ordering one (or eight ;) ) of each could be considered research. Yeah, that’s the ticket! :D :D :D The knishes look like they’d be especially good for the health food crowd. This won’t be a kosher bakery, though– will that still be ok? Should I put a disclaimer on the tray, of would it just be assumed non-kosher unless it was labeled?

Fortunately, most of the local salespeople/ saleskids are very helpful & friendly. Rudeness, unhelpfulness are not options as far as I’m concerned. IMHO, common courtesy should be exactly that –common. It costs nothing, so should be given away freely. Attitude often has to do with the boss, and I’ve had both good and bad examples to learn from. I’ll start by setting an example when I deal with customers & employees.


Thank you all again & again! On to the next step!
post #25 of 29
Congratulations, CJ! You're off and running. I would definitely write off those 8 test kringles as a business expense. About kosher labelling: those who keep kosher would ask before purchasing anything. If you want to label them "kosher style", that would be fine. It means the ingredients aren't actually kosher, but the item is made from a kosher recipe. If you were a kosher establishment, you'd be inspected regularly by a certifying rabbi and would have a certificate and sign to post. I'm guessing you probably don't have much kosher-seeking traffic where you are. Don't worry about it. But please keep us posted as the business develops!
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post #26 of 29
That's such great news CJ.

Good luck to you and your new business!


:D
K

«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
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K

«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
Reply
post #27 of 29
Congratulation CJ and good luck in this new venture. With your attitude I am sure it will be a great place to visit.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #28 of 29
Excellent news! Please fill us in as things progress.
post #29 of 29
CJ,

Congratulations, you've got so far already!

I just had a great holiday in the States/Canada. My favourite bakery was a bakery-cafe called Baba's Deli & Bakery in the West End in Vancouver, B.C.

High points were: great cinnamon rolls and the rest looked good too. Great coffee (ready-made in flasks). If you have good coffee then you have regular customers. Their loyalty cards were stored in an index-card box by the cash register. Substantial, comfortable chairs. Option of seating places: tables or bench at the window for people-watching, with enough room to really read newspapers provided. Day-old bread sold in special bargain section. Bags of breadcrumbs sold. Relaxed, smiling service; he wasn't hovering waiting for choice!

i love free samples & they make me try great things that I wouldn't usually have bought ;-)

These are just the opinions of a consumer, but good luck anyway and hope you can soon afford staff!
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