The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

4 years at The Back Home Bakery

  • Pin It
mcs's picture
mcs

4 years at The Back Home Bakery

Hello Fresh Loafians,
Yes, it's hard to believe, but July 28, 2012 marked our fourth anniversary as a successful bakery!  Thanks to our very loyal customers, product consistency and quality, plus a lot of hard work, we've continued to grow. 

I thought some of you might be interested in a bakery update from here, so below is a brief summary of our 2012 product line, where the income comes from, and my work schedule for the year. 

During the busy season (detailed below), about 60% of our business comes from pastries (laminated doughs mostly) and 40% of it is in breads.  We sell at two farmers' markets per week, one of them is a morning market, one is in the evening.  The Saturday morning market is by far the busiest where we sell about 150 loaves of bread and 400 individual pastries.  Everything is baked and packaged the morning of the market (between 2:00am and 7:00am) so timing is critical.  We sell 6 different types of breads ranging from soft rolls to baguettes and 11 different pastries, from croissants and palmiers to peach turnovers and sticky buns.

If you've seen our '5 minutes at the Back Home Bakery' video featuring Paul, Sharon and I, you'll have an idea of what the end of our first farmers' market season looked like.  Three years later, production has increased 60% without increasing the work hours (believe it or not, they've actually decreased as compared to year number 1 and 2).

As you can see in the schedule below, the income for the bakery comes from both wholesale accounts and selling directly to customers.  Wholesale accounts consist of either stores/restaurants that buy my products directly or those that provide a space for me to sell my goods.  The ones that buy directly from me receive a larger discount since I don't have to label their packaging and they provide consistent business.  In the other stores that provide space for me, I choose the amount and type of bread that I will sell and hope that customers buy it.  If the bread doesn't sell, I am stuck with old bread, if it sells, they pay the retailer and the retailer pays me pocketing some money for themselves.  After a few years this has become very predictable and there is very little waste. 

I sell directly to customers through farmers' markets (basically a six-month season) and special orders (holidays, parties...).  Another option I offer year-round is Friday deliveries.  I require a $10 minimum and the delivery must be 'en-route', plus it must fit my baking schedule.  I have quite a few customers that take advantage of this in the off-season.

Here's an outline of how my 2012 work schedule goes for the year and from week to week. 

The year is divided into 'the busy season' and 'the off season'. 

The Busy Season runs from mid April to mid October.  During the summertime, Sharon or an intern helps out:  this is a typical work week
Sunday:  9:00am to 6:00pm  pastries and prep for the week
Monday:  3:30am to 6:00pm wholesale breads, deliveries, pastries and prep
Tuesday:  3:30am to 8:00pm breads, pastries, and sales for night time farmers' market
Wednesday:  same as Monday
Thursday:  3:30am to 6:00pm laminating dough, more pastry prep
Friday:  3:00am to 6:00pm wholesale breads, deliveries, and prep for Saturday
Saturday:  1:00am to 1:00pm farmers' market production and sales
                    5:00pm to 6:30pm clean-up and pastries prep

*on early morning wake-up days, I have a 1 hour nap after lunch

The Off-Season runs from mid-October to mid-April with of course holidays scattered here and there.  For the last few years we've taken a one or two week vacation during spring break time.  During that time, the bakery closes.  This is a typical work week during the off-season.
Sunday: off
Monday:  3:30-1:30  wholesale breads, deliveries, and prep
Tuesday:  off
Wednesday:  same as Monday
Thursday: off or laminated doughs as necessary
Friday:  same as Monday
Saturday:  off

During my off days I get a chance to do fun stuff like work on the house, try new recipes out, catch up on my emails, make videos, and plow the driveway of snow.  Some things are more fun than others. 

Anyway, that's about it from the Back Home Bakery in Kalispell, MT.  Happy baking to everybody.

-Mark
http://TheBackHomeBakery.com

Grenage's picture
Grenage

What a brutal work schedule, you have my respect!

mcs's picture
mcs

Sometimes people say to me, "Wow I could never get up that early, I'm not a morning person."

My reply is, "Neither am I, but people want fresh bread in the morning."

-Mark

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

"That must be great."

Do you hear this from folks and just smile and nod through the thick fog of sleep deprevation?

mcs's picture
mcs

Last week one of the other vendors at the evening market commented to me, "Hey Mark, you look a little tired today.  Had a rough day?"

Of course my response was, "This is how I always look."

-Mark

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Mark,

Thanks for a post that is, once again,  so informative and indicitive of your willingness to share valuable  information.  This is THE post that anyone wishing to open a bakery should see. 

Many people looking at this schedule would think that you are a bit nutty and of course they would be correct!!! ....that is a quality that is likely necessary to owning and operating a bakery.

Jeff

mcs's picture
mcs

Well, my philosophy about the killer schedule is the following:  If you really like baking, then doing more of it should be even better, right?  Did Picasso complain about 'having to spend all of that time painting'?  Possibly, but I'd like to think not.  And yes I'm more than 'a bit' nutty. 

-Mark

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

is never done with no rest for the weary!  The hearty Montanan's make multi-grain bread their favorite too! Would bear claws be the favorite for pastries?

Congratulation on your anniversary.  The hard work has paid off.

mcs's picture
mcs

Actually, I think the favorite pastry for the locals here are the ham and cheese croissants.  Meat.  Cheese.  Butter.  Who would've figured? I think if they were made with elk meat they would be even more popular.

-Mark

proth5's picture
proth5

Four years?  Seems like yesterday when you first announced the opening of the bakery.  Congratulations.

I don't see "Coupe practice" during that off season.  And you really should think about it, you know....:>)

Love to hear about the productivity increases - new equipment or just better organization (although you were always pretty good....)

Say "Hi" to the sheeter for me!

Pat

mcs's picture
mcs

No, not any Coupe practice in the schedule.  I think those in charge of the team would put me in the category of 'those who need an attitude adjustment'  :)   It's mostly the same equipment although there is a new full size-proofer that I made and put in the corner by the left freezer.  Basically it's much better organization and efficiency, plus I work faster.  As the only intern (Thomas) from the first year to return said last year, "It seems like I'm always opening new bags of flour.  But other than that I believe we worked harder last time..."

Happy baking and I will say hi to the sheeter for you.

-Mark

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Or, my preferred view, "inspired laziness".  It sounds like you have made a number of incremental adjustments that, together, yield a significant improvement.  And, yes, practice improves skills and improved skills (often) lead to greater speed.

That's a lot better than my first impression from reading the schedule that you were getting softer as the years advance!  ;-)

Maybe I should come back next year and work on my own skills some more.

Congratulations on your thriving business.

Paul

 

proth5's picture
proth5

Mass insanity strikes again!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Is the sheeter calling your name?

Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

that sweet siren song always...

mcs's picture
mcs

No, I'm not getting softer as I get older, just perhaps more crotchety.  Although I suppose some of that had set in already when you and Deb were here.  Thanks for the congrats and if you and your better half are planning another long drive up to the Northwest, look me up.

-Mark

proth5's picture
proth5

sometimes its just a matter of geting those hand skills to the point where they work fast and the mind skills to the point where the hands work smart.

I'm reminded of a (not ready for prime time) recent incident (involving "you know who" and a benchmate who felt that working slowly was a virtue) I had on that very topic.

Again, congratulations.

I must be taking leave of my senses because I'm experiencing a desire to fly to Montana and do volunteer work (only kidding!)

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Hard work.

Congrats on hitting the four year mark, Mark.  You have my deepest respect.

-Floyd

mcs's picture
mcs

Thanks for the congratulations, and thank you most of all for The Fresh Loaf.  I appreciate the work you do to keep this place alive and brimming with enthusiasm for the craft of bread baking.

-Mark

Crider's picture
Crider

I've been wondering how you handle your sourdough starter when you go on vacation. Do you refrigerate it for the duration, or do you get a helper to refresh it each day?

Congratulations on your bakery.

mcs's picture
mcs

I normally refrigerate my starter and during the off-season only build/feed it once or twice a week, depending on how much it's being used.  For the past few vacations we've been fortunate enough to have past interns Greg, May, and Patrick house-sit while we were gone and they took care of the starter building for me. 

-Mark

CJtheDeuce's picture
CJtheDeuce

Aah I remember  5:30am fondly the coffee is ready, the ugly baguette gets slobbered with real butter, the music gets turned on & for a few moments bakery bliss. Then mean old Mark snaps you back to reality & sends you into do the dishes.

A successful bakery, a successful baker & a great teacher. Congratulations.

Charlie

mcs's picture
mcs

It's only fair that the baker gets the ugliest baguette of the bunch right?  It just wouldn't be right to sell that one to the customer, now would it? 

Besides that, mean old me has to keep you humble by pointing out your worst work, cutting it open to point out evident mistakes, and then making you eat your ugly baguette just to drive the point home.  Sound about right?

Thanks Charlie and now get back to work.

-Mark

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Accolades to you Mark, on doing what you love and making such a success of it.

Happy Fourth Birthday!

Lindy

mcs's picture
mcs

Thanks for the Birthday wishes and for keeping this forum going with your experience and input!

-Mark

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Mark,

Thanks for the update.  I have always enjoyed what you have shared here as well as on your site - especially your videos on shaping.  I am so glad that your bakery is doing well.  Sounds like a well oiled machine :-)  Only thing I couldn't help but wonder about in your schedule was when doing dishes fits in......Are there magic gnomes in Kalispell that make them magically disappear  If so, please send one this way. The pile of dishes that faces me at the end of my day in daunting :-O.

Congratulations on year 4 and continued success.  

Take Care,

Janet

PeterS's picture
PeterS

on your accomplishments and success. I, too, greatly enjoy reading about your experiences. 

Regards,

Peter

mcs's picture
mcs

I'm glad you enjoy the shaping videos.  Those are the ones I'm particularly proud of.

As far as I know, there are no magic gnomes in the area, especially those willing to do dishes.  It might have something to do with the plethora of rednecks (myself not excluded) in the area.  The dishes unfortunately are done whenever they can be done by either yours truly or my slave dujour.

-Mark

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

And thanks for taking the time to update us.

The community there is really lucky to have you baking for them. I'm glad they appreciate you, as evidenced by your success.

David

mcs's picture
mcs

Thanks for the congrats and for keeping everyone in line here.

-Mark

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

for sharing with us the real-life particulars on running a successful bakery.  Your schedule compares only with that of new parents, and maybe your enterprise isn't so different from theirs.

With all due respect,

Joy 

mcs's picture
mcs

Like you said, for the first year the bakery consumed my thoughts day and night for the entire year.  I worked every single day and thought about my mistakes, ways to improve, and things I had done right.  Now a few years later, I've become accustomed to the routine and am able to enjoy the customers, bread, and work schedule much more. 
Thanks for the congratulations.

-Mark

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'm thinking your first videos... Who was that hansome guy with the great looking kitchen making everything look so easy!  

4 years!  my goodness!  

So...  what have you come up with for an anniv. bread or pastry?

mcs's picture
mcs

Yes, that seems like many years ago since I made those first videos.  I can see exactly what stage of the construction of our house we were in each one...let's see, in this video I avoid showing the unfinished floor... in that video zoom in really close to the mixer so you can't see that it's on the workbench next to my miter saw...

For our anniversary we had huckleberry cheesecake danishes at the farmers' market.  Thanks for the congrats.

-Mark

calliekoch's picture
calliekoch

The run-down of the business was very insightful for me, even after having done one of your internships. I didn't realize that you do more in sales from pastries than from loaves.

For my business, even after just a year and a half, I too have noticed that I have a higher production but am working fewer hours, which really speaks to what experience can do for efficiency.

I get plenty of 'you're-a-bit-nutty-aren't-you?' looks when people find out how early I get up and the hours that I put in, so I think a bit of nuttiness is a pre-requisite for bakery work. I like the Picasso comparison you made and I think I'll use that in future explanations of why I work the way I do.

I can only hope that if/when my bakery reaches the 4 year point, it has come as far as yours has in the time. And that I have learned how to fit in daily naps by then.

Callie

mcs's picture
mcs

It is kind of odd isn't it, that the question I am asked more than any other isn't actually bread related but instead, "What TIME do you have to get up in the morning?"  When I spoke at a couple of high school career day presentations a few years ago one girl asked, "Do you have to get up at, like, 6 o'clock in the morning?"  I thought that was quite funny. 

I'm glad to hear that your baking is going along so well also.  Some day when we make it down to Fort Collins we will definitely check it out your bakery.

Take it easy and happy baking to you.

-Mark

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Hay Mark,

Just a quick hello and congratulations. What an accomplishment and making it through the first few years is a real milestone. Hopefully one day I can say the same you are such an inspiration. Thanks and happy 4th birthday.
Faith

mcs's picture
mcs

Thanks for the birthday wishes and I hope your baking and work are both doing well!

-Mark

wally's picture
wally

Mark-

Like you, I bake for a living.  And I love it.  But man, those are some daunting hours you put in.  So congratulations and I wish you a lot more success and equal amounts of happiness and satisfaction in what your hands produce and others relish and enjoy.

Jeff Hamelman has said that being a baker is hard work that provides not so much financial success (compared to other professions) but other rewards for those looking beyond the almighty dollar.  You're the proof of the pudding!

All the best,

Larry

mcs's picture
mcs

As you know being a baker is more than a profession, it's a way of life.  It's pretty difficult at times but as they say, 'It's an honest living.'  Keep up the good work Larry and happy baking to you.

-Mark

M2's picture
M2

Happy 4th year anniversary and keep going strong!  Who would expect to have such high quality baguette and croissants at a local farmers market!  (I know, you've mentioned that ham and cheese is the best seller but I can't stop praising your baguette).  Your passion and work ethics have my utmost respect.  Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge.

Michelle

mcs's picture
mcs

It's good to hear from you Michelle, and I hope you're keeping busy baking and making your soaps too.  The baguettes are still my favorite too and of course as a result are my daily bread.  Happy Baking.

-Mark

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Congratulations Mark! My hat is off to you for doing what it takes to get a new bakery started and running. Your products are beautiful and you remain one of the most talented guys I know. Great job.

Eric

mcs's picture
mcs

Yes Eric, it's really 4 years.  I'm not sure if it seems like yesterday or a very long time ago that I made my first appearance on TFL.  Back then you, David, and MiniO and a few others were running the show and made it a comfortable place to chat about breads.  Thanks for the support and for being one of those people that I could always bounce ideas off of whenever I had a question.  Take it easy and take care.

-Mark

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

You know that little voice in the back of my mind?  You know, the one that whispers softly when I bake a very nice loaf, that possibly, maybe, one day, I could open a small, successful bakery?  You know, the little voice that I barely listen to but sometimes I want to engage into a conversation with about quitting my current stressful business and going off into baking bread for a living?

Well, I just punched that little freak in the face and shut him up.

:)