So the idea of a store has been on my mind a lot lately. Mostly I get this heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach because it’s such a huge leap, a big risk. I know I declared sometime last year that opening up our own store was in future plans, but 7 months ago I was having real doubts. I don’t want a cafe, to serve breakfast and lunch and have table service, however, most bakeries eventually expand their offerings beyond baked goods just so that it can help cover the crazy rents here in the city. We are profitable now, and from day 1 really, because our overhead costs are relatively low. I know we have a good thing going here – we don’t pay rent for our kitchen space, but Mark rather barters for labor as a pastry chef for unlimited use of the kitchen at the restaurant. But even as this arrangement has worked well for us, there are limitations. We can sustain this level of production for however long this arrangement lasts, but we can’t really grow this way. We can’t bring in hired help in this space. We’re always feeling vulnerable too, not having our own kitchen, like we’re working against a ticking clock that might expire at some unknown time.
But here’s the question – how do we want to grow? What’s the eventual goal here? Dear friends, I’ll fully admit…I’m not sure. I think deep down in my gut we know that we have to end up with our own kitchen and store at some point. It’s only logical. Mark wants one. People ask about a store all the time (it’s like once you get married everyone asks “so, when are you guys having a baby?”) and lots of customers assume we have a store already. Over the past year or so we’ve seen 5 or 6 of our fellow Brooklyn Flea foodies open up stores of their own. We went to the opening of the new Crop to Cup Cafe a few months ago on Atlantic Avenue (pictured above with Kumquat Cupcakes, another favorite BK Flea vendor, at the opening celebration). Every time we hear of store plans from other vendors it’s like a reminder…store, store, STORE.
So why the doubt? Let’s just put aside the financial risks and the exorbitant upfront investment costs to build out a kitchen for now. We spent over 6 years figuring out a way for Mark to get out of the restaurant industry once we started a family. We felt dismally trapped by his chef’s schedule – working every single holiday, every single weekend, the ridiculously early morning hours. So why, after finally escaping that grueling schedule would we want to go back? When I think about being financially and physically married to a store, my stomach churns a little bit. I think it’s reasonable to close the store down 1 day a week, but the rest of the days will be long and early and at least in the beginning, we’ll have to be there all the time. My mild social phobia gives me anxiety about manning a store. When I think about our other friends who have opened stores I think about the fact that none of them have families. It’s not like it’s impossible to do this with kids, but it does present some challenges. Obviously we are not opposed to hard work and long hours – Mark hasn’t had a single day off in about a month. At best he’s had a few hours free here and there, but most times he’s in the kitchen and running around the city making deliveries and picking up supplies so it’s not about the work. I guess it’s about the potential loss of freedom and flexibility and the responsibility and stress of meeting over head costs and maintaining trustworthy employees.
So…here we are. I feel pressured to come up with a plan and future goals. People always say that it’s important for every business to have short term and long term goals. Business is fine, great even, but this is one hump that I can’t seem to overcome. I feel like we’ve been coasting for awhile, constantly chasing orders, overwhelmed with other freelance work, so there hasn’t been time to think. So far Mark has been able to rise to the demands of growing orders, but there is only so much 1 person can physically do in a 24 hour day. We’ve gotten faster, more efficient at packaging and most people wouldn’t believe that the volume of product we put out is handled mostly by a single person, but I believe we’ve reached our capacity. Still, I feel like an ass every time I have to turn down wholesale inquiries which lately has been quite often.
I know sometimes you need to close your eyes, take a deep breath, dive right in and hope for the best. We’ve done it before and I *am* proud of what we were able to build in 2 years time by ourselves alone. We feel extraordinarily lucky that for whatever reason, the press gods smiled down on us and we’ve had press coverage through no pursuits of our own. I don’t know why this has happened or if it will continue, but if this was a gift, I will gratefully take it. It just shows me that we have something here.
A friend and fellow entrepreneur recently told me that she was told in her business development class that you’re not a true entrepreneur until you delegate the tasks to others. Actually 2 friends have recently told me this. If you’re still doing all the work yourself, all you’ve done is just create a job for yourself. Interesting. So I’m trying to think about the business a little differently. I’m trying to be courageous, I’m trying to be confident, basically trying to be things that I don’t really feel right now. I’ve come to a point where I can wrap my head around a kitchen work space with a little counter and a few stools. This seems manageable as I still don’t want to operate a cafe. We actually got excited when we talked about selling sorbets and ice creams, which was our very first original business idea way before W&S’s time. And what about location? Ideally close to home so we can still pick up the kids from school and such. Are we asking for too much? And there is that little matter of trying to find an extra 160k to build out a kitchen…and this…and that…oh lord, maybe I need to find a therapist asap to help me deal with all this crap! Clearly, I have not coped well with anxiety in the recent past.