Today marks the 3 week anniversary of our store opening at 560 Columbus Avenue. We have been testing out the new oven (hate it!), figuring out the neighborhood (everyone is so nice!!!), and trying to just get the flow down.
In some ways, opening this new store has been easier. We have Nicole, our new store manager, helping us hold down the fort. She has been beyond amazing with her cheerful personality, and more importantly - strong organizational skills. This opening could not have been as smooth without her. I cannot even imagine what would have happened without someone like her to lead our great team. Now that we have two stores, we can't devote our entire energy to the new location. Simon and I are splitting our time between the stores. I start uptown to bake at 6 am and then make my way downtown to our kitchen in order to help with our regular production. Simon spends half of the day driving back and forth between the two locations while trying to tackle every challenge one step at a time. The three of us are exhausted, but so pleased with the outcome. Today is the first day that Simon and I have had off since we opened and I'm really happy that we managed a day off before the 1 month anniversary.
Expanding is a very scary thing to do. On one hand, we took the scariest plunge of actually opening a business. We've made it this far, but we could still fail. We're not made of money...we took what we could from the first store to invest into opening a second because we believed that it would be worth it. We reached out to our fans and asked them believe in us enough to donate to our Kickstarter (we got the espresso machine!!). If the UWS doesn't work out, then we're out a lot of money and time. People assume that it's easy to expand once you have one location down, but every additional location is another risk. We're obviously in the very early stages, but I have a good feeling. We have a really nice landlord and while we're a little north of the regular beaten path of the Upper West Side, people have been bursting into our store to let us know that we're a welcome addition. The funny part is that they do this without actually tasting a single thing. I guess we picked a good spot if people are so excited that they'll declare their love without actually testing it out first!
For me, the most stressful part has been the menu. It's hard to guess what people want and I have to hope that they eat like I do. I love my food rich and with a lot of texture. I want my brownies to taste like deep chocolate and my croissants to have a crunch to it. We had to add many new items to the menu to accommodate an earlier schedule and while a lot of it was fairly easy, part of me knew that adding more savory additions would be a wise choice. I eat a lot, but I don't have a savory background and I don't cook. We have a few pieces up there like a pesto pretzel, chipotle scone, and morning bun. Our neighbors have asked us to make more, but it's a tough thing to do right now. I still schedule myself into our kitchen production for 6 days a week so it's hard for me to pull away to test new things out. I feel like I'm burdening the team if I don't put in my share of the daily tasks so I tend to do my other duties like paperwork and recipe testing either really early in the morning or after everyone leaves. With the long days we already have, I don't really want to stay too long in the kitchen. I know it takes me a while to unwind when I get home before I can go to sleep and sleep is precious. The good thing about a menu is that it's always a work in progress. It's never done. We just have to keep going, keep doing, and see what makes sense for us. I like the idea that this is an open-ended task that everyone participates in. I got the hard task of coming up with an opening menu down so once we figure a few more things out, I think I'll have the time to keep testing and tasting.
No one ever asked us why we opened another shop. Only our attorney asked us if we still liked each other enough to do this. Simon thinks we're crazy that we opened another shop without ever setting ourselves up to have at least 2 days off a week. My parents keep calling to tell me that they think it's exciting that we're taking risks because they were always too timid to do so in their own careers. His parents are still reeling from the risk we took by getting such a large original space, but still incredibly supportive when we told them of our wishes to open another. My original business plan said that we did not want more than one store. It just happened organically. Obviously, it's a scary thing to do when you don't have everything figured out perfectly, but who ever does? It's like saying that you're not going to have a second kid until the first one turns 18 and you've already learned what you need to do in order to get that child through to adulthood. We had a good feeling about our business and the direction of our company and we went for it. I wrote a new business plan and we all agreed that it made sense. I think that we were starting to get really comfortable with our first store now that a lot of the kinks have been worked out and we needed more challenges to keep us at the top of our game. We're certainly pretty tired from all of this, but I think it'll all be worth it in the end.