I have a several questions all on the same theme: I'm considering doing my own thing as a cake decorator and I really want to know other peoples opinions. 1. I've spent sometime lately looking at bakeries in my Chicagoland area. I've come up extremely dissapointed with the quality I've seen. First, in the City at least 70% of all the bakeries are Spanish (not that that's bad) but why are their so few American or European shops? I printed out a list of bakeries to visit thru digital city.com and MANY businesses were no longer in business. 2. I'm rather shocked at the market price for pastries. I think their low, too low. The pricing is what squeeze's most bakeries out of business or do you think it's a quality issue? Unless you have alot of dollars to complete, the big bakeries that dominate the market do so because no little baker can afford to offer such a big product line at prices that would be so close to cost for the little guy. Wrong or right? 3. I talked to several country club managers inquiring about their pastry needs. The consensis is, they need good product and have a hard time finding it. Then they tell me their ceiling is $22. for their high end items. While out of their other cheek they brag at how ellite their clientele is. I'm wondering what all you chefs out there (who buy in) pay for your pastry items???? Someone shot me the figure that he charges his members 3x his cost on purchased desserts. In the retail business 2x is standard mark up. 3x only makes sense to me when your incurring labor making the item, I don't get the profit structure there? 4. Why are all the big name cake designers in NYC? I can't find a "name" in Chicago for who's good. Are the rich people not spending it on dessert? I think Ben Isreal is in CA but don't any other large cities have the demand? 5. All of the clubs make the client find their own wedding cakes (even clubs with pastry staffs don't do wedding cakes). Another thing I don't understand is: Why don't they have a network of designers and at least make the intro.s for the members. Instead of loosing money for a dessert, why don't they make a profit on it? It's another hassle, yes but all they have to do is provide an intro and sell through them, no? 6. Why are people willing to spend small fortunes on floral centerpieces at their parties and not care about quality in their desserts? Neither last and both can be dazzling? I tend to believe no man remembers the flowers but they all remember the dessert. Yet the women party planners don't sell to men, why not? Or, is no one doing any dazzling desserts? This isn't a grip list, I really want to know what other people think? This will help me understand what I'm facing if choose to open a business again. It's like a dessert waste land in my area. I'm trying to figure out why. Has the price not matched quality? Have we driven away our clients? What do you think?