Hi - mind if I crash?

Discussion in 'New User Introductions' started by cj, Jun 3, 2001.

  1. cj

    cj

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    10
    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!
     
  2. cape chef

    cape chef

    Messages:
    4,508
    Likes Received:
    32
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    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
     
  3. kimmie

    kimmie

    Messages:
    2,550
    Likes Received:
    12
    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!

    :)
     
  4. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

    Messages:
    9,204
    Likes Received:
    65
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    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.
     
  5. w.debord

    w.debord

    Messages:
    1,640
    Likes Received:
    11
    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.
     
  6. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    10
    Welcome to Chef Talk CJ! Good luck qith the bakery, hope it will work out for you.
     
  7. svadhisthana

    svadhisthana

    Messages:
    579
    Likes Received:
    10
    Welcome to Chef Talk and good luck with your bakery!
     
  8. momoreg

    momoreg

    Messages:
    2,938
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    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.
     
  9. cj

    cj

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    10
    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!
     
  10. momoreg

    momoreg

    Messages:
    2,938
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    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.
     
  11. papa

    papa

    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Dear CJ:

    Welcome to the Chef Talk Cafe!

    I wish you the best in your new endeavor!

    :)
     
  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    81
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Welcome to the forum, CJ, and all the best of luck to your endeavor. :) :)
     
  13. risa

    risa

    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    11
    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.
     
  14. cj

    cj

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    10
    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 ]
     
  15. momoreg

    momoreg

    Messages:
    2,938
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    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
     
  16. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

    Messages:
    9,204
    Likes Received:
    65
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    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 ]
     
  17. cj

    cj

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    10
    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 ]
     
  18. momoreg

    momoreg

    Messages:
    2,938
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    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?
     
  19. papa

    papa

    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    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. :)
     
  20. w.debord

    w.debord

    Messages:
    1,640
    Likes Received:
    11
    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...