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Storefront Diaries - My Reasons For Opening A Storefront

Now that we’ve got the business plan out of the way, let’s move on to why I made the decision to open a storefront.

 

You might be wondering why I would make such a decision when my state already has a cottage food law in place. While I admit the cottage food law is a wonderful thing, I also realize that the proper home kitchen in which to bake is just as necessary. Other reasons include things like rules and regulations that make it difficult to maximize profitability.

 

Imagine, if you will, trying to operate a successful baking business out of your kitchen while feeding a family of five, when three out of those five are growing children with varying palates and appetites. A one-meal-fits-all approach suddenly becomes obsolete. I could no longer get away with making a plate of nachos to keep three children happy. Pretty soon it was mac 'n cheese for one, a bean burrito for another, and cereal for the third. And to make it worse, they all wanted to eat at different times of the day! It felt as though I was constantly in the kitchen making snacks and/or cleaning.

 

Now, add an order of five dozen decorated sugar cookies spread out all over the kitchen counter, and you have potential for disaster! Did I mention my youngest likes to run in the kitchen to get his glass of water? And that the water cups are conveniently placed right above where my five dozen cookies are usually resting?! The term "bull in a china shop" comes to mind. And then there was dinner time! I am still cleaning up the previous mess from breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and I’m supposed to fix dinner on top of that?! Forget it!

 

Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband who will take on the task of fixing dinner, but there was always that constant question, “Where do I put my cookies while you cook”? And don’t get me started on cross-contamination. The fear of whatever he would be cooking somehow landing on my cookies was enough to make me lose my mind. While appreciative of his efforts, I still couldn’t refrain from making comments like, “Are you really going to brown that meat in here?!” And, “Are you sure you want to cut those onions and peppers so close to MY cookies?!”

 

I even bought a bun rack with cover so I could protect my goods. But my OCD couldn’t let it go. I had fear that everything I baked in that kitchen was going to somehow be tainted. For my sanity’s sake, and everyone else’s, something needed to change, and quick!

 

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This is our kitchen. It is roughly 250 square feet, and while it has provided a wonderful environment in which to bake since 2006, the square footage has recently become problematic, as previously stated. There is simply no room left. 

 

037

 

I even decorated the kitchen to make it feel more like a boutique-style bakery, as shown above. But it still lacked the room necessary to make my bakery successful.

 

My second reason for wanting to open a storefront was to get away from the regulations that prohibited me from earning possible profit. The Arkansas cottage food law prohibits the sale of any perishable goods, such as cream cheese frostings and curds or custards, which might not be problematic to a cookier, but remember, I make cakes too. I can’t even begin to tell you how many orders I have turned down because the customer wanted some kind of perishable filling and/or frosting on or in her cake. Another Arkansas cottage food regulation states that you are only allowed to sell directly to the consumer. This means no cookies for resale. I already knew this was limiting my potential, because I had been asked several times to make cookies that would be sold in boutiques and such. And the stipulation that probably bothered me the most was the fact that I was not allowed to ship my cookies. Again, many sad conversations I have had because of declining an order due to shipping ordinances.

 

I hope I have painted a clear picture for you as to why I made this decision. It was one not taken lightly by any means. As I told my husband and children, it was time to search for the perfect place where I could bake freely - a place where I didn’t have to fight for space, and which could be used strictly for cakes and cookies; a place that would allow me to maximize profitability and sell to whomever requested my services. Can you guess who was excited the most? 

 

Please keep in mind that my state’s cottage food law. and what it allows and prohibits, will vary from yours. For those of you not wanting to open a storefront, I recommend using the Internet to search for your state’s cottage food policies and to check with your local health department. Also, there are certain cities within a participating state that DO NOT acknowledge the cottage food law, as is the case for one of my neighboring cities. So if you plan to bake for profit out of your home, actively do your homework about your state's rules, as well as those for the city in which you live.

 

For those of you who have opened a storefront or are thinking about opening one, what were the driving forces behind your decision?

 

 

Rebecca Litterell is owner of Litterelly Delicious Cakery. She started decorating cakes for family and friends in 2006 and eventually incorporated cookies into the mix in 2011. She is completely self-taught and passionate about teaching her skill and know-how to others, both online and in the cake and cookie classes that she hosts at her local community college. Before cakes and cookies, Rebecca spent most of her career in the medical field. She is a mother of three and a wife, and loves living in the country. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s riding her horses. 

 


Photo credit: Rebecca Litterell

 

NoteStorefront Diaries is a monthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Rebecca Litterell that chronicles her journey of opening up a brick-and-mortar business after years of baking out of her home. Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Rebecca's past Cookie Connection posts here.

 

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  • My Home Kitchen: Courtesy of Litterelly Delicious Cakery
  • Home Kitchen Decorated Like Boutique Bakery: Courtesy of Litterelly Delicious Cakery

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Interesting and thoughtful post, Rebecca! Thanks!

 

My story is pretty similar to yours. In my area in Missouri, it was illegal to operate a bakery in ones home, or a commercial establishment of any kind for that matter. Though I started in the house (doing wedding cakes and larger desserts, not cookies) and had a separate fridge for my cakes (so no worries about odors, etc), I quickly outgrew the space and found it started impinging negatively on personal space (boxes and supplies everywhere, husband getting frustrated, etc!)

 

But there were two other considerations that prompted me to move from home to rented space pretty quickly: (1) the customer interface and (2) the ability to advertise and grow.

 

I found customers were often surprised to be picking up at my house (perhaps this created a perception that I was less than professional, which was one I did not want to create). I also think, now based on experience in both home and storefront, that customers are much less likely to show up on time when a business is operated out of the home without clear opening/closing hours. I found I was constantly waiting on customers, and that this happened much less frequently when I finally moved into my shop.

 

I also couldn't advertise to grow, as working out of my house was not legal. I did for a while, but then someone wrote a nice piece about me for the local paper, which the Dept of Health promptly read and then served me with a warning. (Apparently, they spend time combing local papers for this sort of thing and then shutting people down.)

 

For me, the decision to rent or buy was a more difficult one than deciding to leave my house (I really had no alternative if I wanted to continue). I'd love to hear how you're addressing the rent vs. buy decision. Maybe in your next installment?? 

Last edited by Julia M. Usher

I laughed out loud at someone writing a piece in the newspaper.  Zing!  lol   I could probably open at the oldest farmer's market (in America in think?) but there are others already selling cookies, pastries, cakes - all things sweet.  So I don't think it would be successful.  Then there's the fear of others not being very clean, etc.  I make cookies (would love to sell them) and give them away or toss them.  lol 

Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

I laughed out loud at someone writing a piece in the newspaper.  Zing!  lol   I could probably open at the oldest farmer's market (in America in think?) but there are others already selling cookies, pastries, cakes - all things sweet.  So I don't think it would be successful.  Then there's the fear of others not being very clean, etc.  I make cookies (would love to sell them) and give them away or toss them.  lol 

Congratulations Rebecca!  Sending my blessings for a successful venture.  I enjoy reading about your venture...   Happy New Year. 

Rebeca,  I think you have taken the best decision, as now you would be able to let all of your Creativity get out of yourself.

Honestly, I wish you the best!!!!!  I admire all of your work, and I know how is like to start a business,  so, be strong!!!  keep moving on!!!

I wish you the best, may our Lord bless you new Enterprise.!!!!!

Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

I laughed out loud at someone writing a piece in the newspaper.  Zing!  lol   I could probably open at the oldest farmer's market (in America in think?) but there are others already selling cookies, pastries, cakes - all things sweet.  So I don't think it would be successful.  Then there's the fear of others not being very clean, etc.  I make cookies (would love to sell them) and give them away or toss them.  lol 

 No kidding. They say no advertising is bad advertising, but in this case, I really didn't want the advertising since it meant expanding much more rapidly than I had wanted.

I was not a member of Cookie Connection and just joined to be able to comment on your post (well and browse through all the fantastic cookies!).  I am mainly a cake maker at this point but also do some cookies.  I started out in my home but then as the business grew, it seemed that getting into a commercial kitchen was the next obvious step.  All the reasons you state above were part of that decision.  I have been in a commercial kitchen for the last 15 months and so I would like to share my experience of home kitchen vs. outside kitchen.  I am also a mother of three (9, 10, and 11 yrs old).  Honestly, this is the biggest issue for me.  It is VERY hard to attend to their needs and try to run a business.  All your decorating and working will now be done away from home resulting in many hours away from home.  Initially, it's not so bad but week after week it gets old (for your kids and your husband).  Fridays nights are usually spent (all night) at the shop (because most of the orders are due on Saturday) and there are numerous times my kids have called me at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. saying, "Mom, where are you? Come home!"  Not fun!  Also you will have to make the transition from custom baker to production baker -- when you have a shop and the overhead expenses that go along with it your main goal is to bring in $XX/per hour to cover all those expenses.  All the custom, cutesy stuff that we love to add to our orders goes out the window -- it's all about profit.  Now if you are lucky enough to be located in an area where you can charge high enough prices to make that kind of decorating worth it then great.  But I am in LaPorte County, Indiana and that's just not the case here.  Luckily, in my case, I have a friend who has a commercial building for sale and she has lent me use of her commercial kitchen and has been so gracious in my payments to her.  (Most months I could not afford anything!)  I am at a point right now (being the end of the year) in which I need to decide which direction to go with this whole business.   There are other issues also (finding and training employees, etc, etc.), but I don't want to go on too long nor dampen your enthusiasm.  You must follow where your path leads!    Good luck! 

P.S.  I realize we don't know each other at all but we are fellow decorators and if I can help you with any other info, please message me and maybe we can talk.   

Originally Posted by Julia M. Usher:
 
Excellent points, Julia! Yes, I too have found that customers tend to label me as "less than professional," knowing I do this out of my home.  I tend to deliver more of my products, which helps keep judgment at bay, but still, I know what you mean!
I am also aware of situations similar to yours where the local paper will have a lovely write up on a home-based baking business (before our cottage law) and weeks later, the Health Department comes knocking. Very discouraging!
The rent vs. buy decision will definitely be coming up in the next installment

Interesting and thoughtful post, Rebecca! Thanks!

 

My story is pretty similar to yours. In my area in Missouri, it was illegal to operate a bakery in ones home, or a commercial establishment of any kind for that matter. Though I started in the house (doing wedding cakes and larger desserts, not cookies) and had a separate fridge for my cakes (so no worries about odors, etc), I quickly outgrew the space and found it started impinging negatively on personal space (boxes and supplies everywhere, husband getting frustrated, etc!)

 

But there were two other considerations that prompted me to move from home to rented space pretty quickly: (1) the customer interface and (2) the ability to advertise and grow.

 

I found customers were often surprised to be picking up at my house (perhaps this created a perception that I was less than professional, which was one I did not want to create). I also think, now based on experience in both home and storefront, that customers are much less likely to show up on time when a business is operated out of the home without clear opening/closing hours. I found I was constantly waiting on customers, and that this happened much less frequently when I finally moved into my shop.

 

I also couldn't advertise to grow, as working out of my house was not legal. I did for a while, but then someone wrote a nice piece about me for the local paper, which the Dept of Health promptly read and then served me with a warning. (Apparently, they spend time combing local papers for this sort of thing and then shutting people down.)

 

For me, the decision to rent or buy was a more difficult one than deciding to leave my house (I really had no alternative if I wanted to continue). I'd love to hear how you're addressing the rent vs. buy decision. Maybe in your next installment?? 

 

Thank you, Dona! Happy New Year to you as well!
 
 
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

I laughed out loud at someone writing a piece in the newspaper.  Zing!  lol   I could probably open at the oldest farmer's market (in America in think?) but there are others already selling cookies, pastries, cakes - all things sweet.  So I don't think it would be successful.  Then there's the fear of others not being very clean, etc.  I make cookies (would love to sell them) and give them away or toss them.  lol 

Congratulations Rebecca!  Sending my blessings for a successful venture.  I enjoy reading about your venture...   Happy New Year. 

 

Thank you for your input, Val! And I am so happy to have you here in our cookie community. All your points are valid and are things I have thought through to the point of exhaustion. Families are so important and my children are my greatest blessing of all. I hope I can manage my time efficiently enough so I can still spend that quality time with them.
You hit on an excellent point about going from a custom baker to production baker. Let's face it, you got to hit the floor running before the sun comes up and stay long after the sun goes down, just to cover overhead! All these points (and others) will be thoroughly discussed in future installments. But I am glad you brought it up!
Happy New Year!

I was not a member of Cookie Connection and just joined to be able to comment on your post (well and browse through all the fantastic cookies!).  I am mainly a cake maker at this point but also do some cookies.  I started out in my home but then as the business grew, it seemed that getting into a commercial kitchen was the next obvious step.  All the reasons you state above were part of that decision.  I have been in a commercial kitchen for the last 15 months and so I would like to share my experience of home kitchen vs. outside kitchen.  I am also a mother of three (9, 10, and 11 yrs old).  Honestly, this is the biggest issue for me.  It is VERY hard to attend to their needs and try to run a business.  All your decorating and working will now be done away from home resulting in many hours away from home.  Initially, it's not so bad but week after week it gets old (for your kids and your husband).  Fridays nights are usually spent (all night) at the shop (because most of the orders are due on Saturday) and there are numerous times my kids have called me at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. saying, "Mom, where are you? Come home!"  Not fun!  Also you will have to make the transition from custom baker to production baker -- when you have a shop and the overhead expenses that go along with it your main goal is to bring in $XX/per hour to cover all those expenses.  All the custom, cutesy stuff that we love to add to our orders goes out the window -- it's all about profit.  Now if you are lucky enough to be located in an area where you can charge high enough prices to make that kind of decorating worth it then great.  But I am in LaPorte County, Indiana and that's just not the case here.  Luckily, in my case, I have a friend who has a commercial building for sale and she has lent me use of her commercial kitchen and has been so gracious in my payments to her.  (Most months I could not afford anything!)  I am at a point right now (being the end of the year) in which I need to decide which direction to go with this whole business.   There are other issues also (finding and training employees, etc, etc.), but I don't want to go on too long nor dampen your enthusiasm.  You must follow where your path leads!    Good luck! 

P.S.  I realize we don't know each other at all but we are fellow decorators and if I can help you with any other info, please message me and maybe we can talk.   

 

Val - thanks for joining the site. I hope you enjoy it!

I also concur with all of your points. Ultimately, the reason I closed my bakery (after 7-8 good years) was because the daily production routine got monotonous (even though I did "custom" work, it's amazing how often certain designs got repeated); it was tough to handle constant weekend work (my biggest delivery days were Saturday and Sunday); and training and maintaining a skilled workforce in an industry that is notoriously transient was extremely difficult (lots of turnover = higher costs).

 

I also don't mean to dampen anyone's enthusiasm. (Those were very exciting years for me.) But it's important to inject reality - as it's often easy to think the "grass is greener" when looking at something from the outside.

 

I wish you well with your business and your upcoming decisions!

Last edited by Julia M. Usher

It is so neat to hear others' adventures in cookie business-land.  I found Maryland's Cottage Law pretty prohibitive (Farmer's Markets only) and a commercial kitchen space simply wasn't available in my area to suit my needs.  So we built a small, 16x16 commercial kitchen in our backyard.  It is not a retail space due to zoning issues, but it is a licensed and inspected kitchen.  I am able to deliver and ship my cookies without worries.  I actually did not want a storefront because of rent costs and my family.  I can walk home from "work" in about 10 seconds when my family needs me.  I completely agree with you, Rebecca, regarding "doing your homework".  There are SO many hoops to jump through, and the smallest things can stand in your way.  I was lucky- my hubby did all the homework for me!

I am heading into a very similar venture in 2015. My husband built a separate baking kitchen onto our home and after turning down orders for 2 years because i was so busy I was able to rent a very small retail space to sell out of. I worked with our local DEC (health dept) and we worked out a system where I was able to bake in my separate kitchen, package everything and bring down to the store to sell. I was incredibly busy, barely able to keep up with demand. Unfortunately for me our state passed the Cottage Food law that year and immediately several bakers started selling from their homes. I ended up closing the retail storefront and going back to the baking kitchen. Fast forward 3 years and this December a building came up for sale that used to be an espresso stand. It is large enough to hold my baking kitchen and I am going to keep the drive thru feature to sell baked goods. The good part about having done this business from so many angles is I have pretty much figured out how to be profitable. I will no longer be specializing in only decorated cakes and cookies. The time that custom baked goods take is not profitable enough for me with several other bakers in town now running the same business from their homes with less overhead. I will now be concentrating on production baking, entirely from scratch and raising my minimum order amount on decorated cakes and cookies. With so many people competing for a set amount of customers, it is essential to find a niche and fill it if you intend to be in business long term. The other bakers in my town are not as skilled as I am with intricate piping and using buttercream, so those are the specialties that I emphasize whenever I advertise. I am not the least expensive, in fact my prices are higher than my competition. But I consistently work very hard to offer a high quality product that they cannot get anywhere else. Good luck in your venture and here's to hoping you figure out ways to keep your time spent in the storefront under control. That's one of the most difficult things to manage!

All of these comments are extremely enlightening.  Thanks to Rebecca for giving this group a wonderful springboard and for sharing her experiences so honestly.  Having worked in all kinds of bakeries and baking "situations" myself, I am looking forward to following the rest of your journey.  

Originally Posted by thefancyladygourmet:

are there any articles on here about experiences after opening a storefront i would love to read that 

Not yet - except for the pricing series under the "From Dough To Dollars" area of our blog. Rebecca will be tracking her progress as she opens her storefront, so if you stay tuned, she'll be addressing post-opening issues in the near future!

What a great article and thread. Rebecca, I wish you all the luck in your brave new adventure.

I think that it is difficult not to follow one's dreams even if it turns out not to be the panacea we thought it would be; regardless of the vocation. I think it is better to have tried than not. I think you can find a balance with your family with the right help. I am excited to follow your journey! I am sure your energy and enthusiasm will get you through and you will be wonderful! And when and if it ever becomes tiresome you can always walk away. Children are resilient- not to worry too much about them or hubby. Seems like you have a lot of positive support going in this this! Best of luck! T

 

That is an ideal setup, Amy!! So glad to hear that worked out for you!
 
Originally Posted by Amy Clough'D 9:

It is so neat to hear others' adventures in cookie business-land.  I found Maryland's Cottage Law pretty prohibitive (Farmer's Markets only) and a commercial kitchen space simply wasn't available in my area to suit my needs.  So we built a small, 16x16 commercial kitchen in our backyard.  It is not a retail space due to zoning issues, but it is a licensed and inspected kitchen.  I am able to deliver and ship my cookies without worries.  I actually did not want a storefront because of rent costs and my family.  I can walk home from "work" in about 10 seconds when my family needs me.  I completely agree with you, Rebecca, regarding "doing your homework".  There are SO many hoops to jump through, and the smallest things can stand in your way.  I was lucky- my hubby did all the homework for me!

 

None of my installments talk about this issue yet, as I am sharing my adventures in chronological order, but I am not sure about previous contributors articles. Julia would be the best person to answer this question.
 
Originally Posted by thefancyladygourmet:

are there any articles on here about experiences after opening a storefront i would love to read that 

 

First of all excuse my English(I always try to do my best but not always came good). I am in California which CFO law allows us to have a class B permit that have the posibility to resell our products, it is a more expensive permit than class A one but, you know it opens our possibilities to sell our products. There are some places that rent small places or booths in their retail space, it was a wonderful discover for me because I have a space in which I can exhibit my cookies, but also is a wonderful place in which people can pick up the cookies and you conserve credibility since they don't have to make the pick ups at your home. 

I do not recomend the industrial kitchen for cookies because it is expensive and make the cookies expensive as well (many times you have to end the work at your own home.) But for some it works (not for me!)

My mother experience thought me that storefront requires some sacrifice of weekends, because as Julia's wrote mostly of orders must be ready to go on saturdays and sundays.

After all, I think each decision has good and bad things so, you have to messure your necessities, priorities, and time to make the correct decision.

Margarita.

 

Grandma Tillies Bakery -- I SO agree with your comments as this mirrors my experience in my location.  High quality delicious cakes/cupcakes made from scratch are hard to come by and people WILL pay more once they have tasted the difference.  Not only that but the decorating time is 1/10th (or less!) what the 'custom & novelty' cakes require.  Also your statements "you have to find a niche in your area and fill it" -- so true!  and that "managing your time spent in the storefront is once of the most difficult things to manage" -- so true!  Another point to ponder that my dad said to me after he had spent a week with me and saw the hours I was putting into custom cakes.  "Val, there's a saying, "Serve the class's (meaning the people who can afford $200 birthday/shower cakes), live with the masses: Serve the masses, live with the class's."   

Very well said, cookiely! I wish my state gave me the option to purchase a permit so I could offer my cookies for resale! That would solve a big chunk of my problems right there. It is true that owning a storefront would mean no more free weekends, but the truth is, I haven't had a free weekend in years, so that won't change much for me. And I see your point about overhead being too expensive, just for cookies, however I offer more than just the decorated cookies to cover the expense, including artisian caramels, French Macarons, cinnamon rolls, muffins, etc...AND, probably what I am most excited about is offering cake and cookie decorating classes at the shop (more on that subject later)!
 
Originally Posted by cookiely:

First of all excuse my English(I always try to do my best but not always came good). I am in California which CFO law allows us to have a class B permit that have the posibility to resell our products, it is a more expensive permit than class A one but, you know it opens our possibilities to sell our products. There are some places that rent small places or booths in their retail space, it was a wonderful discover for me because I have a space in which I can exhibit my cookies, but also is a wonderful place in which people can pick up the cookies and you conserve credibility since they don't have to make the pick ups at your home. 

I do not recomend the industrial kitchen for cookies because it is expensive and make the cookies expensive as well (many times you have to end the work at your own home.) But for some it works (not for me!)

My mother experience thought me that storefront requires some sacrifice of weekends, because as Julia's wrote mostly of orders must be ready to go on saturdays and sundays.

After all, I think each decision has good and bad things so, you have to messure your necessities, priorities, and time to make the correct decision.

Margarita.

 

 

Hi LDcakery:

I think that next step for me probably is to open a storefront (may be it will happen in 2016) so I cant wait to know more about your experience this year. 

So, I wish you the best in your new store!

Congratulations

Margarita

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