ALBANY'S FARM TO BAKERY/CAFE
Clean, Fresh, Local Foods. Affordable, Seasonal Breakfasts & Lunches, Artisanal Loaves made with NY flours, From-Scratch Baked Goods and Desserts, all prepared in-house from responsibly grown, primarily local ingredients.
540 Delaware Avenue
Albany, NY 12209
Wed: 6 & 8pm Farm to Chef Dinners (reservation only)
(kitchen open from 11 to 5, limited sandwich menu available between 5 and 7pm)
Loaves, Baked Goods, Sandwiches!
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Why Aren't We Open More Hours? Special Late Night Post
1) When we were looking for a kitchen to rent to bake for our Community Supported Bakery members in the fall of 2010, we found almost zero affordable, leasable real-estate or rent-by-the-hour kitchen relatively close to our home near Delaware Ave. We lucked into finding our spot on Quail St. through an unlikely source: the Albany Health Department. The main go-to person for restaurant permitting at the AHD is Maryanne Stone - she was helpful and patient with our repeated phone calls & questions, AND she ultimately recommended Mark Guido (of Guido's Frozen Desserts, a mobile Italian Ice truck in businesses in Albany for more than 15 years) who had a 495 foot kitchen/retail space to rent on Quail St. (tiny: yes; about 3 miles from our home & affordable for 24 hour-access: boons!).
We chose to build our business with cash (no debt), so taking on the additional overhead was a daunting prospect. We happened to know another small producer from the Delmar Farmers Market (Gatherer's Granola, Sandro Gerbini) who had grown out of his current production situation at Java Jazz Cafe in Delmar (recently closed, have you heard a new vegan restaurant has opened there?). AGB & Gatherer's, recognizing and suffering from the severe lack of affordable commercial kitchen space available in Albany for small-food producers to grow, decided to secure the space together. Combining this partnership with the investment of our shareholders through our CSB, AGB was able to put down a deposit, pay the first month's rent and purchase a used 20 qt. Hobart mixer (with the rest of the capital going to ingredients, permits & providing for our family through the winter). Sandro invested in an oven and huge refigerator, we all navigated the City of Albany/Health Dept./Ag & Markets permitting processes (+ building, electrical, planning dept, City Clerk, the list goes on...NOT simple), and whoopdidoo! Whaddya know? We're in business! The headiness of that idea still smacks Nick & I in the face sometimes when we arrive at the bakery early morning, or are about to open our doors. We OWN our own bakery! Thrilling stuff.
Going through the experience of trying like hell, for months, to find affordable kitchen space to rent in Albany-proper led us to the idea of starting a Bakers Co-op. Gatherer's & AGB are growing, so together we are currently occupying the kitchen for the majority of hours, but Fluffalicious Cupcakes rents our space on Mondays while they complete their new bakery in Cohoes, and we have other prospects clamoring to get in. Together, we have the fortunate (unfortunate for prospectors) situation of needing the kitchen for most of the hours available. In the long term, we hope to gather other local, stellar bakers with philosophies similar to ours (and complimentary products) to bring Albany a group of "All Good Bakers" who can help staff the shop full time, offer their wares and make a living. For now, our partnership with Gatherer's Granola and other small-producers keeps our head above water.
B: Nick and I have a 4 year old daughter (when she was in the womb, we affectionately called her "The Kid"). Running a small business, even "part-time", based on the rigorous standards we have for the absolute freshness of our products, requires sometimes 20 hours a day (or more) when we're open from Nick, who prepares & bakes almost everything. Days "off" are spent handling accounting; marketing; researching ingredients; developing relationships with suppliers, wholesale clients & event coordinators; ordering materials; driving to our farmers to pick up fresh produce, and handling various other bakery errands. Wedged in there, we have to carve out quality time & meals with The Kid, who is suffering from our change in schedule & lifestyle at the moment. We're finding ways to handle that challenge.
And #3: We are growing slowly on purpose! Everything we do is "bootstrapped". While Nick & I have both worked in restaurants & customer service most of our adult lives, we don't have accounting, business, marketing or food-service degrees. We're learning as we go. I'm a research fiend, so we make up the difference that way (+ through building community relationships). We bake as much as we can handle with the part-time help of a couple of friends, and take care of the remainder of requirements ourselves when not at the shop. We're small and will remain that way. We don't intend to become the next Panera Bread - you won't see our wares doctored & carelessly mass-produced at any point in the future. We believe in supporting our neighbors and their creative talents (just as we are supported). The integrity of the quality and personality of our business is of the utmost importance to us to maintain. There's something intuitive about our feelings on this subject - we're not thinking analytically & strategically like a large chain might. Our business decisions are based on our intimate knowledge of what's going on in our community, and what we perceive people (including ourselves) really caring about.
Healthy balance, and a positive, manageable quality of life are among our goals. So is following our dream of bringing our breads, baked goods & healthy lunches, that encompass our philosophy, passion & talents, to our community based on one main tenant: REAL FOOD. No preservatives, no chemicals, no antibiotics, hormones or GMO. No Greenwashing. No Bullshit (sorry for the expletive, but that particular word sums things up nicely in this case, and it's late after a long day - that's my excuse for lack of more appropriate language).
So, that's the long answer. The short answer is: We'll open for more hours when we can handle it and the universe aligns with our talents, available time & goals.
All in good time, friends, all in good time. Rest assured we'll keep you posted and we will work towards these goals (almost) tirelessly. Rest....rest is important. Think I'll get some now...12:05 pm. Have to be up in 5 hours for the farmers market. Nick will be up in an hour. Sympathize!
Britin (& Nick) Foster