The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Two Years and Running

mcs's picture

Two Years and Running

Hey there Freshloafers,
I thought I'd poke my head out of the dough and cloud of flour to update you on the bakery's progress.

A few weeks ago I noticed that we had our two year bakery anniversary.  I think it went like this:
Me:  "Last week was two years for the bakery."
Sharon:  "Really?  When?"
Me:  "I don't know, some time last week, I think."

It wasn't exactly a 'stop the mixers and break out the champagne' type of celebration, but it was pretty cool to think of the progress we've made in such a short time.  Rather than summarizing the last two years, I thought I'd let you know what's happened in the past 12 months or so.  (Here's the post I did on our opening day two years ago; This is the post I did on our first year strategy)

During the slow months last year (November through April), I continued the baking for my wholesale accounts while working to finish the construction on the upstairs of our house.  Sharon had been patiently looking at sheetrock screw heads for the past couple of years.


the loft

I also put in a new floor downstairs, which I completed just hours before our first farmers' market in the spring.

bamboo floor

The other goal during the off-season was to take my first days-off with the wife in two years.  If you missed that post, here's the link to my entry about our trip to Vancouver Island.

As far as the Baking Business goes, I continued the first year plan while making a few adjustments like:
1.  Cutting back on wholesale deliveries.  Thursdays is now my prep day which comes in awful handy now that the busy season is here.  It's now my laminating day since the place stays nice and cool without the ovens on.
2.  More special orders and special deliveries.  Last winter I used Friday as my 'home delivery' day to extend my farmers' market season a little bit longer.  I'll continue it this winter as I offer everything that I do at the market for home or workplace delivery ($10 minimum).  The new customers are very excited about this deal.
3.  DVD sales.  Last winter I started selling some baking technique DVDs, and that's definitely helped to supplement the long and slow winter.  Here's my post on them.  The next one will be on croissants.

Other than that, it seems that it's mostly business as usual.  There have been a lot of improvements as far as efficiency goes which have added up to 'a little less work making a little more product'.  I sleep in an hour later each day, but mornings are absolutely filled with baking and/or pastry prep for the busier days.  This leaves my afternoons a little more relaxed.  Funny thing, but the difference between waking up 1 hour later each day and sleeping in on Sundays is a big deal.  Ask any of the interns if they could've used an extra hour of sleep each day!  Plus sometimes we even get to eat dinner before 7.  Hey, not all the time, but every once in a while.

Anyway, that's about it.  I'll leave you with a few pictures of some of the special orders that I've worked on this past summer and spring.

Happy Baking.


mini croissants

mini croissants baked

hot cross buns

burger buns




proth5's picture

1 hour extra sleep?  We don't need no stinkin' sleep.  That's one hour to knock out a decorative piece.  (I'll never let up...)

Nice special orders.  Are you considering those for the farmer's market? There was always someone asking for a burger bun.  Are they the Portuguese sweet bread as a base? And I don't know - those mini croissants look like they'd sell pretty good.

Nice job on the loft, too.

I was going to contact you about coming up to Montana to be slave labor - I mean a repeating intern - but this wasn't the year (and you didn't seem to to need the "help").  As you may be able to tell from my weird posting hour, my time in Okinawa sort of morphed and I stayed on a little longer that I had planned. (Shredded my life a bit, by the way, but I can knit up my life - would not have traded the experience for anything.)

But I do miss that sheeter.  I do.  Maybe if you put it in the DVD...

Maybe next year.  Making it through the first two is a big deal and just rewards for all your  (and Sharon's) hard work.

My heartfelt wishes for continued success.

(former intern) Pat

dmsnyder's picture

It's wonderful to see and hear about your bakery's anniversary.

Here's to many happy and prosperous years to come!


arlo's picture

I wish you luck for all the years to come down the road!


tssaweber's picture

Congrats Mark!

Good to see that you are doing OK. (I'm still rotting in the corporate world)


PS: I assume the loft is for the interns to enjoy the hour more sleep and sleeping in on Sunday even more.......


pmccool's picture

The finishes look lovely and I'm sure Sharon likes the look.  The photos show your usual attention to detail.

That's a pretty pathetic celebration, though.  I'll try to remember to bring a bottle of South African bubbly back with me on my next trip to the States, unless you'd rather have something different.  It will be a few months but by then you will probably need to be reminded, again, that you do have something to celebrate.  ;-)

There are a lot of businesses that don't live to see their second anniversary.  That yours has, and is still growing, means that you are doing a number of things right.  One of them is identifying niches, whether the custom baking or the DVD production, where you can provide something (profitably) that competitors do not, cannot, or will not provide.  It is gratifying to see your hard work and careful planning paying off.

Funny, I was just thinking of you and the bakery a week or two ago while baking up some Sour Rye and some Portugese Sweet Bread.  It's almost the anniversary of my own apprenticeship and I'm happy to say that the things I learned then still serve me well.  Are you taking on apprentices this year, as you did last year?  Or are you going in the direction of working with young people from the local community, as you had been considering?  

Getting an extra hour of sleep each night has to be a welcome change.  Working smarter beats working harder just about any day.

All the best to you and Sharon, and for your respective passions.


wally's picture

Two years is a big milestone.  A lot of small businesses never make that mark.  The work you've done on the house looks great as well.

Best of luck moving forward!


mcs's picture

Pat- Did I mention that the extra hour of sleep is from 2-3AM, just when you need it most? The burger buns were a whole wheat deal that I just made for a party/BBQ.  I've also made some white burger buns that are kind of a PSB recipe without the honey.  Sort of a milk bread/Parker House type of roll.  Thanks for the congrats and keep dreaming about that sheeter.

David- Thanks and nice job keeping this place going with your compliments, comments, and encouragement.

arlo- I've been told that the harder you work, the better your luck becomes, so I think I'm on the right track.  Thanks.

Thomas- Yes, you're correct about the loft.  Hey, don't forget to shed that corporate tie every once in a while and spend some quality hillbilly time fishing and hunting in the great outdoors.

Paul- I'll have to pass on the bubbly, but I'm sure we can find another way to celebrate.  Yesterday was our first 'cold' farmers' market since spring, and I reminded Sharon that last year when you and Deb were here was also a chilly farmers' market.  I haven't taken any apprentices this year, just been soloing.  I tend to get a little lazy when I have help available so I figured I'd see how it'd go by myself.  Maybe next year.  Sharon still helps though on Saturdays, so that makes it easier. 

Larry- Thanks. I'm happy that at least most of the painting and sheetrock in the house is finished.


proth5's picture

don't need no stinkin' sleep! (Perhaps you can tell that I've spent the last so many months with Marines?)

Ok, 2-3 AM would be a nice time to get that extra hour, I must admit.

Again, my wishes for your continued success.

Take care!

ehanner's picture

I've been thinking about you recently, wondering how the season was going. Glad to hear things are going well for both of you. Congratulations Mark.


mcs's picture

Yes, the season is going well- a good amount of busy-ness.  I think the off-season will also go well since we had quite a few of the "What am I going to do when the farmers' markets are over-with?" questions recently and people are quite receptive to the whole bakery/delivery idea.
Take it easy.


LindyD's picture

Congrats on your success, Mark.

Your expertise is evident in both your bakery and your home.  Well done!

EvaB's picture

About sleep and not sleep, my husband works from 6 am to close to 7 every day, when the job is going, so he gets up at 4:30 am, and I wind up getting up at 5:30 to make his lunch. We rarely eat before seven at night (only when the job closes down for rain or forest fire problems) so as I can't seem to go back to sleep, I put in a long day, reading on TFL and working on my basement room.

I am hoping to lay laminate flooring this weekend, (which he works so it will be me and me alone) and that means we have to move everything in the room, (mostly me) and a heavy cast iron wood stove! So have to quit lingering on the net, and get to clearing and moving and slaving away.

This winter though after I get the room finished, I'm going to spend the days playing in my library sewing room and enjoy the furits of my long hard fall of work!

Oh yeah, will also spend time baking the nice recipes I've been collecting from here and dreaming about a sheeter so I can make croissants, have to keep the house warm somehow right! We get the winters from hell at times, cold and colder and tons of snow.

calliekoch's picture

Congratulations, Mark! You are one of the hardest working people I know. The house looks beautiful (even more so) and so does the bread. Hot Cross Buns - be still my heart, I love those things.

I am a bit sad to hear that you didn't take on any apprentices this year only because you are such a great teacher and I know how much I and the other apprentices got out of just one week spent at your bakery. But well done for taking on the whole load yourself.

Apart from the special orders like the hamburger buns, have you added any new products to the menu or is it essentially the same?

I have been thinking about you and your bakery recently as it is nearly September and it was just about one year ago that I was up there in Montana at the bakery.

I really miss those bear claws,


mcs's picture

Thanks for the compliments.  I'm thinking about apprentices for next year, but we'll see when next year rolls around. 

Our weekly menu is basically the same as last year with only 'spinach artichoke puffs' being added to the farmers' market selection.  They're made the same as the little cherry turnovers, but with puff pastry dough and a filling developed by intern Thomas when he was here.  They're a nice savory addition to the line-up and we sell a couple dozen each Saturday alongside the regular croissants and ham/cheese croissants.

I'm also making loaves of bread for the soup/sandwich restaurant (the one we made the focaccia for) which they use for grilled cheese sandwiches.  It's sort of a white 'milk bread', or like PSB without the honey. 

There have been other special order things, but those are the regulars. 

Take it easy.  I guess you're going to have to get out the ol' rolling pin and make some bearclaws.