about those store plans

January 12, 2011 |  Category:   life the biz

It’s postponed, indefinitely. We’ll never rule out opening a store, but for now, we feel really good about the decision and a sense of relief, really. I know at some point last year, we were pretty set on opening our own store and even declared that it was happening here on this blog, but I always had reservations, you know that. So what lead to our decision? A couple of things.

1. We found a kitchen. And it works for us in every way possible and Mark really likes it. This is HUGE. The fact that we were sharing kitchens that held no possibility for growth hindered us for awhile even though the restaurant kitchen that Mark used was free in exchange for pastry help. Then the restaurant closed down. We always knew there was a strong possibility of it happening and it finally did. If you remember, Mark was able to cobble together kitchen hours at a few different places for the Summer and Fall, but it often meant waking up at 2am and driving to his old Central Park restaurant he still consults at and working 18-20 hours on those days. The schedule was brutal. The new (to us) kitchen is owned by some really great guys who are accomplished in the pastry biz, shared with by 4 other small food businesses and Mark has flexible access to the space. It’s also affordable and large enough that we can finally hire interns and help if we need it. The main reason we wanted to open a store was because of our precarious kitchen situation. But now, we finally have a home.

2. A few businesses that I’ve been following closely have closed down, one of which was in our neighborhood and shut its doors very recently. The businesses were very similar to ours and they were open for less than 2 years. You never really want to see businesses fail, but these 3 were of great interest to me for obvious reasons. I know businesses close all the time and I shouldn’t take these few closures as a sign, but it’s something I can’t ignore either. There’s a reason why they couldn’t make it and I’m not confident that we’d be able to avoid the same issues. I’ve also been observing other stores that are making it, but the amount of money, time and dedication that it takes to keep a store open, stocked and successful is something that I can’t commit to right now. We work hard enough as it is. I really can’t imagine working harder than we already do.

3. Which brings us to family/life/work balance. It’s true that at times we often tiptoe at the edge of that balance, but generally speaking, we’ve done okay. We’re always there to walk the kids to and from school, help with homework, cook dinners and put the kids to bed. It was hard starting a business with a baby and a toddler, however, we’ve navigated all the challenges of having both kids and a business in parallel with each other. I’m very sympathetic to those who are on the same business trajectory as we are, but thinking about starting a family now. I feel like the hard part is behind us. Mark and I are masters at tag team childcare. Seriously, even without a sitter – especially without a sitter – we’ve engineered our career choices and lives to make it flexible enough to work for the 7 years that we’ve been parents. Opening and being responsible for a store would take away a lot of this freedom. When I think about how crazy busy we were during the holidays, working long hours, not really seeing the kids, struggling to stock the Flea for 9 straight days while keeping up with orders, I think to myself that this could be our lives all the time if we had a store. We worked really hard to get to this point of flexibility in both our careers, to have weekends and holidays off with the kids. We’re enjoying it and we’re not ready to let that go.

4. I’ll admit it. We don’t really know how to grow. There were some real, tangible roadblocks in our situation that made growth hard, but I think we’re also a bit afraid to let go of some control and delegate tasks to others. It’s the fear of losing control over quality, of becoming so big and having so many orders, that you lose track of what’s going on. We usually just take on what we can handle, but saying no to inquiries, to stores, to potential customers, feels so wrong and terrible. Who turns down business? Who expects to be turned down when all they want are cookies? But we do, sometimes, to keep our sanity. But the downside of doing everything ourselves is that if Mark gets sick, we’re screwed. I don’t know how to do what he does in the kitchen and it doesn’t make financial sense for our family to quit my freelance work to train to be a second baker. But now that we have a better kitchen situation, we can think about growth a little more slowly, at a calculated pace, rather than hitting it head on, suddenly, with a store, a staff, and a whole lot of bills. Maybe this is the more conservative way to grow, but we’re ok with that. We’re not aspiring to be like Crumbs Cupcakes and open 200 more locations around the country by 2014 (have you guys heard about that one??).

And so my friends, I know some of you were really rooting for us to open a store, but it’s not in the cards for now. I think the *idea* of a store is nice – a warm, cozy place for the kids to come to after school, a place where our neighbors can hang out – but the reality of owning a store is much different. The only pang of regret that I have about the store is our plan for ice cream and sorbets. Maybe there is still a way to do it, but not for now.

PS. the cookies above are from our Little Box of Valentine’s Day Cookies. Available now in our shops.

You Might Also Like

  • kate hart January 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Good for you! It’s always nice to make a decision and breathe a sigh of relief. But as you mentioned, you can always change your mind… so it sounds like you’re in a really good place!

    (and maybe I’m just biased.. because if you opened a shop in brooklyn, I’d live too far to visit anyways… and that would just be lame!)

  • linda January 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    sounds great that you’ve figured out your business plans. those types of decisions (the ones that have us teetering) are always the toughest to shrug off..until we find good reasons. your decision seems like a good way to grow your business and so i look forward to hearing many new stories from it.

  • arounna January 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    those are all good concerns – one day if all the cards are in place – I’m sure you can make it happen.

    we have a shop and I tell people it was the scariest and also the best decision we ever made. we were lucky to find a storefront that we can live above and with having two small kids it works out really well for those late nights of working.

  • Jenna January 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Arounna, love your store! At least what I can see of it from the blog, and maybe I’m mistaken and or being assumptive, but having a food biz is a bit different. To really make it work, you have to be open a lot. Like from very early in the morning to late at night. Plus the build out of the kitchen is so so very expensive. The thought still churns my stomach, even though we’ve decided to put it off.

  • cherish January 12, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    your cookies look so delicious and beautiful. They look like edible art! best wishes in the new year.

  • Emily January 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    This sounds like a brilliant decision. It must truly be such a relief to have it made.

  • Studio MME January 12, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I think you made the right decision for the moment. I’m so happy for you that you found a large kitchen to work out of. I think taking things one step at a time will allow you to really get a sense of how you want to grow. I’m in the same scary boat as you: wanting to grow but not knowing in what way. Hopefully we can all figure out our futures with just a little faith and meditation. Those cookies look amazing by the way!

  • PAWLING | print studio January 13, 2011 at 12:54 am

    thank you for being so honest, as usual jenna. we’re struggling with the same issues, albeit on a much smaller scale. how to expand at a pace we’re comfortable with when it seems like everyone else is always moving faster than you are. we’re pretty confident that things could happen faster if we borrowed money, but for now we’re content reinvesting only what we make in sales. the student loan payments are enough on their own and the thought of taking on any more debt is absolutely terrifying to me. (your post about paying off your student loans actually made me tear up. oh, how i can’t wait for that day!) anyway, congrats on the new kitchen arrangement! you and mark are such an inspiration and i hope you do not actually think you are letting anyone down! -trisha

  • quyen huynh January 13, 2011 at 1:23 am

    you bring up some really valid and strong points that can’t be ignored. i completely agree that if you have a storefront, you will lose some flexibility, the overhead cost is not worth it and taking time away from being with the kids.

    you guys have an awesome brand. maybe use that money to build the brand more and add more products.

  • Funkysteph January 13, 2011 at 3:14 am

    I wihs you a great 2011 year. I am not following you for very long so don’t know all the story but it seems you have taken a very wise decision… Autenticity rather than bigger, faster and losing control… You deserve all respects for the decision you’ve taken and I hope I will have one day the opportunity to taste your cookies (I am in Luxembourg…)
    I wish you the best for yourself and your business. Take care.

  • gail January 13, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Kudos to you Jenna for your astute risk assessment and analysis. It is another valuable skill to have in your satchel! The work/life balance is essential to a rich life, with or without kids, and being able to step aside and reflect on the particulars that make that more attainable for both you and Mark is in and of itself a form of prosperity–it will help you to prosper. Thanks, as usual, for such candid and sincere sharing.

  • Renee Alam January 13, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I might not be no business expert,but I think you both made the right decision.Things are tough right now and it’s not easy for anybody to be so successful with a store.If things are going good for you right now,I say be thankful and keep things the way they are.I would hate to see you 2 years from now losing your business and life savings and don’t know what to do.While your cookies are wonderful I don’t think you’d get all the business you deserve at this time,with so many people out of work,most people are not worried about buying cookies.Wait for things to get better and once they stay steady for a while,then maybe do some more research and see if it’s worth the risk.

    I agree also about the family…a store would take a lot of time away from your family.We know people with small restaurants that complain about the sacrifice of no family time.Maybe it’s something you can look into when the girls are older.I think you’re really smart and I don’t see you as a risk taker so that’s good.Keep growing your business online and by the time you are ready to open that shop,you will already be well known and hopefully you will have much success. 🙂

    We haven’t remodeled our kitchen yet,but I can’t wait to hang your picture and towel in my new kicthen b/c they are so pretty! I hope to see many more kitchen items from you.Once we get our kitchen remodeled,I will share pictures showing you where we placed your lovely items. 🙂


  • Alicia January 13, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I’m a huge advocate of staying small. It’s what I hope to do. Knowing your limits is so important, and why would you be a freelancer if you couldn’t say no to things you don’t want?

  • Annie January 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

    It makes so much sense Jenna when you explain it this way.
    You HAVE accomplish a balance that is very good to have.
    I think we all really admire what you have done with your business, careers and family.

    Can I be an intern?

  • Lulu January 13, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Good decision. I think you should concentrate on doing a cookbook instead. Your photography and Mark’s easy to do yummy recipe. Blogging = selling cookbooks.

  • Amy January 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    How about some kind of chilled/cooler delivery cart for your ice creams. Maybe you can have them as a pre-order/local delivery service option for the Brooklyn & NYC area. Or have a weekly pick up date at the new kitchen. There’s a gelato place in Park City, Utah, that was at the farmers market and had a chilled serving station with 3 flavors available. It was simple and you could take your gelato with you while you shopped or stop & enjoy the park.

    Hope you find a way to make that part of your dream come true!

  • Maggie January 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Sounds like a well thought out decision – congrats! You seem to have taken the reasonable, sensible approach to keeping your life the way you like it. All of those questions about space, time, growth, and goals are big ones. I think there’s always a temptation to follow a path someone else has made for themselves. It’s important to remember that we all need something a little different, though. Your honesty is greatly appreciated!

  • laura January 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Opening up a shop is something I’ve wanted to do too.. and I’ve decided against it for the same reasons that you guys did. It would be a wonderful thing at some point, but right now is just too difficult a time. I think it would be even easier to run a shop that wasn’t in the food industry, since the hours are much longer and in order to get away from that, you’d have to hire a bunch of people you really trust. And that’s terrifying to do, especially with a business you built from scratch. I’ve been nervous about even hiring people to do certain things- giving up that control is scary.

    It’s a shame about the ice cream and sorbets though. 🙂 I would have totally trekked out every weekend for that.

  • unha January 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    great post.
    yeah, once you have a physical space with permanent scheduled overhead, it gets multiple-fold complicated.

    we are still struggling to find the balance. sadly, in our case, we need to work on “more” time with the children on a daily basis. my major focus on figuring out this spring…

  • Lichen January 13, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I hope that you are earning some revenue for this wonderful blog you post to so often and well.

  • Josephine January 14, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Yay for sensible decision-making! It’s no small thing identifying one’s own strengths and weaknesses. I hope this new kitchen arrangement works out as long as you need it to 🙂

  • wendy January 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    yup, those are definitely good, sensible reasons to postpone opening a store. i think the relief you feel is a good sign that you made the right decision. it’s so interesting reading about your biz.. thanks for being so open and honest, as always!

  • rebeccanyc January 15, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I am rooting for you to succeed and be happy. The details for how that happens is in your capable hands.

  • emeline January 17, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Oh Jenna! What a great post! I totally hear you about the balance- the problem with a store is that you ALWAYS have to be there. So yay to making decisions that feel right but boo on the fact that I when I do come down to NYC I won’t be able to get a w&s store experience!

  • Alicia January 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Jenna, were you referring to Little Buddy Biscuit Company as the one that shut down recently? I live a block or so away from there and was sad to see it go. When it shut, I immediately thought of you guys for the spot, but obviously I knew, well, if they weren’t doing well there, perhaps it’s not the greatest spot for any bakery (also with Lopez and that other Latin bakery a few blocks south of it getting most of the local biz), and even though I think you guys would do amazingly well anywhere, I’d put more northern PS as the best place for you guys were you to ever have a place, despite the much higher (sadly) rents. =/

  • Pete Solomita January 20, 2011 at 6:43 am


    I just read your blog and would be happy to talk to you about business. After what I went through I think you made the right decision.

  • Caroline February 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Hi, I think you’ve made the right decision too. I’m London (England) based with a small but growing glutenfree cake biz and also make artisan confectionery. I do want to have a GF cafe but slowly (and I know others will get there before me) and when I’m ready – not at the expense of my health or work-life balance. I wish you luck in your new kitchen space and look forward to reading more about your biz and life. I’m planning a visit to NY later this year so will definitely be visiting your market stall at the Brooklyn Flea.