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The Sweet Life Bakery


ohmyganache
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I did want to offer my 5 am feedback. The feel that I get from your pics is a bit contradictory. I see Stephen in his whites standing over a table with handwritten tags with a few ears of corn thrown on a table cloth. I had been thinking that your bakery had more of an upscale feel - based on your products and personal appearance. The display in these pics suggests homey. I'd like to hear/see more about your thoughts on this since it ties back into the pricing and then ultimately what products you're presenting to the public.

Here's my take on it... We want to convey professionalism (the whites, the nice looking pastry and display, the photo album of our stuff) so that people know we're legit, and not some betty homemaker... But, we want to still project a feeling of being down-to-Earth and not being too fancy. Remember, we're in farmland here and not in the big city. We're doing pretty simple flavors (aside from the brown butter perhaps), but simple flavors done really well. The corn says, 'yeah it's fall and we're in the spirit.' It creates a warm feeling for people walking by, which is important to us. We don't want to scare people off too badly (our prices do enough of that with some people!).

This was the first time that we used the little placecard signs, and next time we'll print them out so they look nicer. Also, when the spring season starts back up, we'll need to invest in a nicer looking sign so we can ditch the whiteboard. There's only one show left this season...

The kitchen that I mentioned is looking like a done deal. They offered to let us move in this weekend, although we're going to put it off until next weekend due to us being at the food show in NYC this weekend. It's going to be great timing though... the week before Thanksgiving!

And the orders are still coming in for both Turkey day and Christmas. We got a tentative order of 15-dozen drop cookies for a gentleman in Cherry Hill. Yes!

We also are going to push (starting next week) our canned goods. We've been playing with a chocolate caramel sauce and we're pretty happy with it at this point. And we have the apple butter of course. So we'll start visiting some craft stores, christmas stores, and gourmet food stores to see if they want to sell them. We're still trying to figure out a good package for the brandy balls, and we want to start playing around with peanut brittle and fudge... we'll see how that goes.

And curlz, I did not know the chocolate show was this weekend... oh well! Thanks though...

Edited by ohmyganache (log)

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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No offense taken! lol

We had a wedding cake consultation last night. We are making our first 'Sweet Life' wedding cake on December 2nd! Hooray! It's pretty small, only 40 people, and a simple design, but it's been paid and we're happy about getting into the wedding cake circuit.

Just thought I'd mention...

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sorry it’s been a while since I wrote ya’ll. We’ve been busy, of course, since it is that time of the year. We did our first ‘Sweet Life’ wedding cake today, and we felt it looked pretty good. We were happy with it, and I hope the couple was as well! The reception was small, but was at a nice local restaurant. We dropped it off and met the owner, who was very impressed with our cake and us. She was super excited that there is a place for people to get specialty cakes in the area now. There really was nothing… she was telling her guests that Shop Rite or Acme were the only options. Well no more! She also wants us to come by later this week with some samples of cakes and banquet desserts…

We also are working on making some desserts for an Italian deli down the street from us. They’re looking for some simple Italian stuff, nothing crazy fancy, and that’s just fine with us. In addition, we’re talking with the chef at another restaurant in town about doing banquet stuff for them.

We did move into that kitchen I mentioned a few weeks ago. The Monday before thanksgiving was spent setting up, moving in, and getting ready for turkey day (or should I say pie day). It’s so so so nice working in this kitchen. It’s not perfect of course, but we’re pretty happy with it. We’ve been going in quite early in the morning, getting our baking done before the restaurant crew comes in between 10 and 11, and it’s been working well so far. They’re not too busy for lunch, so it’s not a big deal if we still have stuff to do.

Which brings up a little worrisome point. It doesn’t really seem like they’re ever busy. And a lot of people we talk to say stuff like, ‘oh that’s good you’re there, maybe it’ll bring them some business. They’re always so slow…’ So we’re a little (tiny bit) concerned about how well they’re doing...

What else?!? We ordered jars and received them a few days ago. We’ve going to work on some dessert sauces. Chocolate Caramel Sauce, Chocolate Merlot Sauce, etc… Which reminds me, we’re doing a pastry demonstration at a local winery. It’s at the place where we made the tiramisu in October, Bellview Winery. They were so impressed with the tiramisu that they invited us back for this Valentines Day demo. We’re doing three courses of cheese and dessert, and we’re incorporating some of their wines into the desserts as well as pairing some with each course. We went in a few days ago, did some tasting, and we’re good to go!

We did our final ‘craft fair’ of the season last night. It was good. Not great in terms off money made, but… we did meet a lot of people, gave out a lot of menus, and made some good connections with potential customers. It’s so funny working these fairs… the people that we meet are so interesting. The women with the scary makeup and hair, the many people that are on diets, the diabetics, the kids (who ALL want to grab a brandy ball… ALL of them). The people who totally ignore us, and the people that literally hang out around the table for half the night. The other crafters that we’ve met at other fairs, and the monotony of doing the same spiel tons of different times. Like I said… interesting.

Things are doing well though. Of course, we’re not making any money now and its kinda stressful and all, but for the most part, we feel pretty good about everything.

Thanks again and I’ll try to get back sooner next time!

gallery_29961_1705_2496.jpg

The wedding cake tonight.

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A cute cake we did the other day.

gallery_29961_3623_95236.jpg

Happy feet!!!

Edited by ohmyganache (log)

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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Ok, I'm still on page two but I want you to know I'm upset that I didn't know about this thread till yesterday.

And I just made some spanakopita and have brownies in the oven so I'm on topic sorta...it's food, what?

I just have to get out more. Out of the pastry forum I mean. But actually this is so much more than just a New Jersey issue--should be in p&b. But at least you came & told us you were over here...finally... after TWO MONTHS :hmmm:

sniff

:biggrin:

I sucked all the air out of the room several times so far on these pricing issues though. Hope y'all tighten that up & fast. Ok, back to page two...

Jill, you write like an angel!

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More than you really wanted to know--and all at no extra charge :raz:

We talked to a few brides (I'm so glad we printed pictures of our cakes and stuff, people seemed to really like them and I think it helped show people we're legit and not some Betty-homebakers). 

Did you not start out unlicensed and baking from your home?

A coupla suggestions for you.

Charge more, my Betty homebaker quarter sheets start at fifty bucks.

Watch out for the copyright police. Well no, watch out for their lawyers, they bite. Rabidly. And they are on the lookout for a few good examples.

And are you planning on having a lunch counter or something? As was mentioned already, most successful bakeries are side lines to a restaurant of some kind.

I had an idea to add my line of decorated cakes to an upscale artisan bread bakery here in a chi-chi part of town. Similar to your current set up. I'm always on the prowl for a kitchen to rent, a deal to broker. I never went forward with that particular bright idea because I would have wanted to be assured of their solvency. It was just too awkward to pitch my plan and then say oh by the way I wanna go over your books. Unfortunately they went out of business...

I'd like to recommend that you do your own webpage. I taught myself how to do it. I know many frustrated merchants, who are at the mercy of their web people. Never-ending not fun. It's like putting your wisk into the hand of your accountant or something. It's such a powerful tool--it can drive your business, you need to harness it yourself.

I think you have a printer now, but I did my own menus and flyers when I had the tea-room. I used the printer at the library when/if I had to. I designed my own business cards with vistaprint using my own cake picture.

Here's a coupla other things I've learned from experience. This is cafeteria style, take it or leave it. In most areas, wedding shows do not generate return on the money invested. Wedding shows are populated by brides looking for freebies. It's a social event and merchants are burning time and money. Market to caterers, venues including churches, florists and dress shops etc.

Samples are fine and gifts are fine but it is steadfastly counterproductive to give away your product no matter how worthy, wealthy or wonderful these phantom potential clients may be. You are looking for people who will support you and your work. The line will wrap around and around the block for people who got the gimmes. A pure bakery is a penny business. A bakery gets it's pay day this month of December if it gets one at all. I know that was a friend who got the truffles and I just want to give you a clear unwaivering heads up, don't do that. It's fodder for burn out. It's burn out tender. Go buy 'em a nice cake plate for a wedding gift instead. That will in turn cause them to order cakes from you. I mean you would give your daughter or sister or Mother a gift like that. You could discount for a friend if you absolutley have to. Ten percent max. Friends are there to help support your business, do not discount. Voice of experience take it for what it's worth.

I would not be one of my own clients unless I was celebrating a big event. When friends have celebrations they have budgets, it's cha-ching time. If you are in this to feel good you will not make it.

It's expected that wedding cakes be pretty and that baked goods taste good. Can you make these wares provide a decent living for yourself is the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

"Things are doing well though. Of course, we’re not making any money now and its kinda stressful and all, but for the most part, we feel pretty good about everything."

Ok, here's my rhetorical questions, do you know what you need to do to turn a profit in terms of product moved and how to do move it? Do you know your break even point? Do you know your limits? Do you have a back-up plan???

Umm some ideas for getting cakes which if priced right will carry your business--design a 12 month 'menu' for the way companies celebrate birthdays. Determine delivery fees, who your contact person is--they will be glad to have someone make it easy for them to provide this for them monthly. No discounts they are paying for service and superior quality.

Umm, have a white sale in January for 2007 wedding cakes. Crunch out the numbers, but take x amount down to reserve the date & give a 10% discount. Create a buzz. Advertise this on the radio by bartering with the station to give away a free 7" cake daily for the birthday person of the day if you can afford it.

Create a need for your product and expertise. Something that tastes good isn't good enough. Make gifts--"this item is for the person who has everything". Tell people what they will want to do with your product. Watch QVC.

Just some straight talk for yahs.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am a graduate of J&W Providence, had pastry carreers as a catering hall pastry chef, a 4 star resturant, ran an in-store bakery, owned 2 stand alone bakeries and now I am a representative for a bakery manufacturer in the Midwest. If there is any question that I can help you with, I am at your service.

Sorry, this is my first post and I think I posted this in the wrong place the first time.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm back. Sorry to have kept everyone waiting for so long. I've had several people mention to me that they're waiting for the next posting...

So a lot has happened since I last wrote. We're moving out of the restaurant that we're in on Friday. When we moved in, the owners said that, just so we know, the bylaws of their shopping center do not allow two businesses to be run out of the same space. But not to worry about it, because no one will care... well somebody cared, and we're so we're leaving at the end of the week. We're disappointed, but it'll work out. Working in this spot got us through the busy Thanksgiving/Christmas season intact, with a little money in our pockets and some new customers in the wings. We also had the opportunity to develop a better idea of what the Vineland market needs, which will help us out in the long run.

A few weeks ago, the director of the Jewish Federation of Vineland came to us with an offer. Apparently, there are no kosher bakeries in the area, so the Jewish community goes to NYC for baked goods, or gets stuff mailed from Toronto of all places. We sat down with her for a meeting, and she said that her group would be willing to help us open a Kosher bakery, by providing support in terms of a lawyer, real estate agent, rabbi, financial assistance, and advertising within the Jewish community.

Jill and I researched the kosher deal and asked a lot of questions, and it turns out that having a kosher bakery is not as difficult as we were expecting. We can do almost everything that we're doing now, with the addition of having a few kosher options to sell. We don't need to market ourselves as a kosher bakery, but we are for the people that care. For instance, the bakery Bread Alone in upstate New York is Kosher, which I never knew until I started researching online. And of course, this means a market on the Jewish market in South Jersey.

They have a few items that they specifically want, such as challah, rye bread, and some pastries, but we don't have to do only kosher items or Jewish pastry. Since they want bread though, the concept of The Sweet Life is going to change dramatically. If we're going to introduce a little bread into the mix, we need to offer a substantial amount of bread to cover the costs of getting a bread-ready bakery. And we keep hearing a lot of requests for bread in the area. There are no good bread bakeries anywhere in the area, and we keep hearing the steady hum of 'a need for bread' from our customers and restaurant alike.

All this means, scraping the original business plan and starting a new one for the 'redesigned' Sweet Life, which is what we're doing now. So like I said earlier, perhaps our having to leave our kitchen now is good thing by allowing us to focus on this new concept.

If anyone has thoughts or ideas for us, please let us know. If you know anything about Jewish baking, what to eat on certain holidays, or any special recipes you have... please let us know! You all rock!

Tonight, Jill and I are going to a cooking demonstration at Bellview winery, where we will be conducting a demonstration of our own on Valentines Day. It should be fun...

I promise to write again sooner than last time. Ciao.

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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If anyone has thoughts or ideas for us, please let us know.  If you know anything about Jewish baking, what to eat on certain holidays, or any special recipes you have... please let us know!  You all rock!

Oy, do I have thoughts!

There are a few things to keep in mind - if you are under kosher supervision, then everything you bake in the bakery must be kosher. You can't use equipment for kosher items that has been used with non-kosher items.

As well, you need to discuss whether or not this will be a 'dairy' bakery or a 'parve' bakery. If they want Challah and rye bread, then I would assume that they want it to be parve (no dairy products allowed) so that it can be eaten with a meat meal. It depends on the levels of the kashrut in the community and what they want - they may very well allow you to bake both dairy and parve items in the same ovens - but they may not. They may have issues with you being open, or in the kitchen working on Saturday.

There are lots of topics around about traditional Jewish baking and other foods - as well as topics about kashrut. I'd suggest taking a look at some of them. Kosher baking is easy to do, but you need to understand all of the laws and make sure you're on the same page as the people you're dealing with.

I have to run, but I'm happy to answer questions on Kosher issues - as I'm sure many others are. This could be a really exciting opportunity for you - good luck!

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If anyone has thoughts or ideas for us, please let us know.  If you know anything about Jewish baking, what to eat on certain holidays, or any special recipes you have... please let us know! 

I was going to suggest you contact Pam R. REALLY!!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Even though you've probably heard enough (too much :rolleyes: ) from me, I'd like to offer a coupla thoughts anyway. Umm, a friend of a friend runs a Kosher cookie business. She charges a genuine fortune for the stuff. She does well. The kosher bread/pastry bakeries around here go out of business routinely. :biggrin: I mean I am so not being a downer. But there's not enough money in bread & pastry for the time invested even when one corners the market.

Bakers do not live by bread alone. :laugh::rolleyes:

For me to feel good about me doing Kosher breads and surviving, I would want a full scale wholesale outfit, employees, trucks, etc. And I'd market into the immediate area, Toronto and New York too. Shoot, Memphis is between kosher bakers right now, truck some over here. Pennies are the profit on bread. Think about the gas, insurance, salaries, licenses just for the trucks, then think about the payload there all bread. Then tack on the time it takes to make it. There's just not enough profit margin in bread. People are backed away from breads anyway with the carb thing.

Now decorated stuff for bar mitzvahs & bat mitzvahs and weddings, you can recoup some of that time (that's not making you money while you're making challah).

Charge a lot. You can only raise prices in small increments later.

Have you considered a breakfast lunch thing? That idea has proven mileage to be able to sustain one's passion for baking, pastry and all things sugary and stay afloat.

Does this compromise your principles to have a cafe-ish bakery?

Don't hate me. :biggrin:

I'd be ecstatic if I was and please prove me wrong but the bridge is out up ahead.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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Pam R has some very good issues to cover as well as K8memphis. When I owned my bakery we were a kosher bakery also. There is not much profit in bread. The bakery business is a nickle and dime business and it takes alot of those coins to make a profit. As a sales rep in bakery industry now, I have a few kosher bakeries as clients. Large portions of their business are wholesale. If you want I can put you in touch with one of my customers who is one of the most honest and helpful business owners I have come across. You can visit his website at http://www.bakestation.com/

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Stephen,

So glad to read how you've been doing! I check here all the time for updates.

I'm a little concerned about your having to "scrap your original business plan" because I know you've spent a lot of time and money getting to where you are now. A set-back in losing your kitchen and then having a Jewish angel come in to save you is tempting I'm sure, but you must think long term. Is this really what you want to do this year, 5 years from now, etc. It's a fact that all businesses evolve, often far from where they started, but please make sure the changes you make are in the direction you are comfortable with.

I'm pulling for you guys!

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I agree with RayNickBen, but I'll also share that a local couple recenlty opened a "martini bar" only to find that people want their food more than their drinks. Now they're complaining about having to focus so much on food. They also have the dilemma of sticking with their original plan which is getting modest but positive receival from the community versus scrapping it and going for the food crowd. Tough decision. PS I also watch for your updates so thanks for keeping us posted.

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Ok, here goes...

Oy, do I have thoughts!

There are a few things to keep in mind - if you are under kosher supervision, then everything you bake in the bakery must be kosher. You can't use equipment for kosher items that has been used with non-kosher items.

As well, you need to discuss whether or not this will be a 'dairy' bakery or a 'parve' bakery. If they want Challah and rye bread, then I would assume that they want it to be parve (no dairy products allowed) so that it can be eaten with a meat meal. It depends on the levels of the kashrut in the community and what they want - they may very well allow you to bake both dairy and parve items in the same ovens - but they may not. They may have issues with you being open, or in the kitchen working on Saturday.

There are lots of topics around about traditional Jewish baking and other foods - as well as topics about kashrut. I'd suggest taking a look at some of them. Kosher baking is easy to do, but you need to understand all of the laws and make sure you're on the same page as the people you're dealing with.

We've spoken somewhat with the director of the federation about these topics, and we're meeting with the Rabbi on tuesday. From what we understand, they do not want us to be super-strict when it comes to all the kosher and jewish laws. A dariy bakery is fine, they just want a parve option or two for people who are having meat for dinner. We will not need to be closed on Saturday or during passover. They want us to do what we're doing now, just tweaked a little bit. They don't want us to alienate the customers we have now by branding ourselves as a 'Jewish bakery.' We'll be a bakery that happens to be kosher.

It doesn't sound like the jewish population here is very hard-core in thier laws, but that's what we're meeting with the Rabbi for on tuesday. We want to make sure we're on the same page.

Even though you've probably heard enough (too much  ) from me, I'd like to offer a coupla thoughts anyway. Umm, a friend of a friend runs a Kosher cookie business. She charges a genuine fortune for the stuff. She does well. The kosher bread/pastry bakeries around here go out of business routinely.  I mean I am so not being a downer. But there's not enough money in bread & pastry for the time invested even when one corners the market.

Bakers do not live by bread alone. 

For me to feel good about me doing Kosher breads and surviving, I would want a full scale wholesale outfit, employees, trucks, etc. And I'd market into the immediate area, Toronto and New York too. Shoot, Memphis is between kosher bakers right now, truck some over here. Pennies are the profit on bread. Think about the gas, insurance, salaries, licenses just for the trucks, then think about the payload there all bread. Then tack on the time it takes to make it. There's just not enough profit margin in bread. People are backed away from breads anyway with the carb thing.

Now decorated stuff for bar mitzvahs & bat mitzvahs and weddings, you can recoup some of that time (that's not making you money while you're making challah).

Charge a lot. You can only raise prices in small increments later.

Have you considered a breakfast lunch thing? That idea has proven mileage to be able to sustain one's passion for baking, pastry and all things sugary and stay afloat.

Does this compromise your principles to have a cafe-ish bakery?

I love hearing from you, you keep me thinking real! As I mentioned before, we're keeping the same basic concept, but with kosher items thrown in the mix as part of our menu items. Bread will be a part of it, but it will not be all that we'll do. The carb thing hurt bakeries a few years ago, but is over now (from what I've seen and read). We are planning on having a few tables and offering some breakfast/lunch items. The only issue is that if we're kosher, we can't have any meaty items. There are no vegetarian restaurants in the area, so that's what we're leaning towards right now. And I make some killer tofuna salad and hummus sandwiches. Charging a lot sounds like a fantastic idea, I just need to do some research to find out similar prices on kosher items...

Pam R has some very good issues to cover as well as K8memphis. When I owned my bakery we were a kosher bakery also. There is not much profit in bread. The bakery business is a nickle and dime business and it takes alot of those coins to make a profit. As a sales rep in bakery industry now, I have a few kosher bakeries as clients. Large portions of their business are wholesale. If you want I can put you in touch with one of my customers who is one of the most honest and helpful business owners I have come across. You can visit his website at http://www.bakestation.com/

Thank you so much!

I agree with RayNickBen, but I'll also share that a local couple recenlty opened a "martini bar" only to find that people want their food more than their drinks. Now they're complaining about having to focus so much on food. They also have the dilemma of sticking with their original plan which is getting modest but positive receival from the community versus scrapping it and going for the food crowd. Tough decision. PS I also watch for your updates so thanks for keeping us posted.

Stephen,

So glad to read how you've been doing! I check here all the time for updates.

I'm a little concerned about your having to "scrap your original business plan" because I know you've spent a lot of time and money getting to where you are now. A set-back in losing your kitchen and then having a Jewish angel come in to save you is tempting I'm sure, but you must think long term. Is this really what you want to do this year, 5 years from now, etc. It's a fact that all businesses evolve, often far from where they started, but please make sure the changes you make are in the direction you are comfortable with.

So maybe 'scraping' was too harsh a word, and perhaps I didn't explain well enough. But like I mentioned a second ago, we're still going to be doing mostly the same stuff that we're doing now. But the business plan is going to take some modification... maybe that's a better word! So yes, this is still what I want to be doing in a year, 5 years, etc... Thank you for bringing that fact to my attention though...

On another note here, as Jill and I were leaving the kitchen today, Rosa (the owner of the restaurant we were in), introduced us to the owner of a bakery in town. He's looking to sell his place (he didn't say which bakery, but I figured it out). His friend owned the original bakery, but passed away a few years ago. Before he died, he told his friend to take care of his nieces who worked at the bakery. So he bought it and they moved the bakery into Vineland proper, got a nice little storefront up and running, but there were problems (apparently). It seems as though the nieces don't really care for the job of actually running a bakery, and it shows because their quality has gone down down down since they opened the new place. Everyone is town has said this. The gentleman I spoke with said that the girls just don't care anymore and they want out. So he's looking to sell...

We're meeting with him to discuss...

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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A few weeks ago, the director of the Jewish Federation of Vineland came to us with an offer.  Apparently, there are no kosher bakeries in the area, so the Jewish community goes to NYC for baked goods, or gets stuff mailed from Toronto of all places.  We sat down with her for a meeting, and she said that her group would be willing to help us open a Kosher bakery, by providing support in terms of a lawyer, real estate agent, rabbi, financial assistance, and advertising within the Jewish community. 

Jill and I researched the kosher deal and asked a lot of questions, and it turns out that having a kosher bakery is not as difficult as we were expecting.  We can do almost everything that we're doing now, with the addition of having a few kosher options to sell.  We don't need to market ourselves as a kosher bakery, but we are for the people that care.  For instance, the bakery Bread Alone in upstate New York is Kosher, which I never knew until I started researching online.  And of course, this means a market on the Jewish market in South Jersey.

They have a few items that they specifically want, such as challah, rye bread, and some pastries, but we don't have to do only kosher items or Jewish pastry.  Since they want bread though, the concept of The Sweet Life is going to change dramatically.  If we're going to introduce a little bread into the mix, we need to offer a substantial amount of bread to cover the costs of getting a bread-ready bakery.  And we keep hearing a lot of requests for bread in the area.  There are no good bread bakeries anywhere in the area, and we keep hearing the steady hum of 'a need for bread' from our customers and restaurant alike. 

If you know anything about Jewish baking, what to eat on certain holidays, or any special recipes you have... please let us know!  You all rock!

Cait and Abbey's has Kosher certification and is open on Saturdays, has parve and dairy items, and serves veggie and fish salads/sandwiches at the Millburn Ave location (if you have eons of time to wait for them to be made). Not sure if there is someone there who can talk to you or if you are 'competition'.

I think there may be confusion as to which agency is going to certify you. My guess is that you are NOT going to be certified by the ultra orthodox/kosher agency. You are going to be certified by the conservative agency. The difference is material more to the ultra orthodox (clearly as they have their own agency), but does lead to confusion as *those* are the bakeries that are closed for holidays and sabbath. The vast majority of your patrons who keep kosher will most likely be fine with the conservative agency's monitoring.

Just to clarify any confusion. I hope.

Good luck!

Still searching for hash browns in Jersey.

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  • 1 month later...

Funny that you ask...

I was just coming back here to update what's going on (I haven't been on eGullets in a while...). We have found a spot that we like located on Sixth and Landis. It's currently a small cafe, called the Rise and Shine Cafe. The owner is selling it because she can't work in the restaurant business anymore (too hard on the body). They have some equipment that we need, but we'll have to buy a few things. Some minor renovations will need to be done. The space is SMALL, but will actually be perfect for us because it will be super efficient. It's already kitchen-ready, which is key. It's located in the same building as the Vineland Downtown Development Project headquarters, and is right across the street from some development that is going on. (We're actually serving on two of the committees that help to guide the revitalization process and will likely be in charge of the farmers market in the summer) It's three blocks away from a $40 million dollar revitalization on East and Landis, and is two blocks from a new school that is under construction. It's also in the immediate vicinity of city hall, police headquarters, law offices, accountants, and retail shops. Landis Avenue is in the middle of a revitalization project, which we hope will continue to be successful.

We went to the Small Business Development Center in Atlantic City for a once over of the business plan, and they seemed pleased. We spoke with our real estate agent a few hours ago, and we will be putting in our bid on Thursday.

I have to run, I've got a million things to do! I'm sure there will be questions and comments, and I promise to TRY to answer them all...

Ciao.

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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The little cafe accepted our offer today! We're excited and nervous of course. We meet with the landlord on Monday to discuss the lease. The lease is up at the end of this month, so we need to figure out whats going to happen after that. We expect for the rent to go up a reasonable amount, but we'd like to not have to pay rent until we're actually up and running.

The morning began with a meeting with the 'executive director of economic development' for Vineland. As well as the 'director of redevelopment.' Fancy sounding names... they gave us the phone numbers of the urban development zone people and the cumberland county empowerment zone people. We're hoping to obtain our investments from two small business loan programs, the cumberland county empowerment zone, as well as the cooperative business assistance corporation. Both provide mirco-loans to small businesses like ourselves... so we'll see what happens. The urban development zone lets us buy equipment and supplies tax-free, as well as only collecting 3.5% taxes from our customers (half the normal tax rate).

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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  • 3 months later...

Hello all. Wow, I'm awfully sorry that I haven't written in a while. I know I should have been informing everyone of our trials and tribulations, but when it gets busy... eGullet is not high on the priority! I haven't even visited the site in God-knows how long... but I'm here now and I'll try my best to update what's been going on.

First of all, let me say that we're not open yet. We haven't even moved into the space yet. It's still the same place that I mentioned several months ago, but because we're getting our funding through the State government... it's taking a very long time to go through the motions and paperwork and general crap that's involved in asking the gov for help. We should be getting the money in a month or so. Since it's taking so long, we went to our bank to request a short-term loan so that we can move into the space and begin the renovations and inspections. Hopefully, that'll come through late next week, but more likely early the week after.

During this time, we've been sourcing out purveyors and farms. The network of farms in this area is pretty amazing. We're going to get a lot of our fruit from Mood's Farm, which is pretty close to us... about 20 minutes. They have (at various times throughout the year) sweet and sour cherries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, pumpkins, grapes, apricots, plums, and more that I can't even think of off the top of my head. And most of these fruits are offered in several different varietals, so we've got options baby! The owners are very nice and the fruit is very good.

We've also done general networking, spreading the word about our future bakery. Talking to everyone we know and passing out a lot of business cards has been a daily ritual. We've been directing everyone to our website, which was done by a small web design business in north Jersey. 7m Design Studios did an amazing job with the site, and everyone we ask seems to really like it. Super professional, and very nice... we're very happy with the work they've done for us. I'm glad to pass along their info, so please check out their website and don't hesitate to contact Kristi if you need some work done. Their site is http://www.7mdesignstudios.com/

We do have some concerns as we get closer to opening, which is understandable and not too surprising. There are doubts about the area that we're opening in, about how much trouble the city is going to give us in inspecting and licencing, about the bill we're going to get from the lawyer, about if we're going to be able to pay this loan back at the end of the day! But for every doubt, there are two instances of excitement and opportunity. There is definitely a market for our product, the downtown area is under heavy revitalization, there is a school/community center opening in December two blocks from us. The police headquarters and city hall and the school board and law and accounting offices are all hungry for pastry and thirsty for coffee. We're just getting very anxious to move in and start baking. We miss it. We miss the routine and the smell and the cakes in the oven and the feel of the piping bag in our hands. We're looking forward to meeting people and building relationships with our customers... and of course, at the end of it... we're waiting to make a little money!

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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We're a patient lot, so we just appreciate the updates when you can make them. I'd be interested in hearing more about the "state funding." When I opened my store I used SBA funding (federal through state agency) and it was a nightmare. The mandated additional environmental tests that were unnecessary, additional bank service fees, and a delay in 4 months. I ultimately have decided that SBA loans are really for small businesses - they're for mid-sized businesses ($1M plus). What funding source caused you troubles?

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We're a patient lot, so we just appreciate the updates when you can make them.  I'd be interested in hearing more about the "state funding."  When I opened my store I used SBA funding (federal through state agency) and it was a nightmare.  The mandated additional environmental tests that were unnecessary, additional bank service fees, and a delay in 4 months.  I ultimately have decided that SBA loans are really for small businesses - they're for mid-sized businesses ($1M plus).  What funding source caused you troubles?

Did you mean to say that SBA loans are NOT really for small businesses- they're for mid sized businesses($1M plus)??

We too are looking at our funding options right now.

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Les Marmitons-NJ

Johnson and Wales

Class of '85

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