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.