How long does it take to pack up a bakery? The answer is not linear or clear cut. It all depends on what you’re packing, and what memories, thoughts and feelings each item triggers.
I am not an overly sentimental person, which doesn’t mean that I’m not emotional; it just means that for whatever reason, I have always been a forward momentum kind of person. My goals lie ahead of me and my vision is almost always focused on the horizon. I love reminiscing, but I never dwell in the memories for too long.
Today was different. Today, Eddie, my friends and I packed up our bakery in Stow, and it was almost impossible not to slip backward through time.
I’m not quite sure I have the words to describe the emotions of taking a risk and turning that vision into a reality. We did just that in 2010. The space in Stow gave us the perfect launching point. We painted the walls, fireproofed everything, filled our two shelves with ingredients and packaging, and fired up the oven. I was the only baker until Dantia bounced her way into the kitchen and announced she knew someone who would be good to hire: Dantia.
Together, we filled orders, tweaked recipes, fixed problems only to encounter new problems. We started to grow, and purchased more shelving. We moved the ingredients and the packaging out of the little kitchen & into the back room. We purchased more sheet pans and another rolling rack. Each month brought new challenges. We grew out of our 4-cup measuring cup and felt pretty cool when we added the 8-cup measuring cup to our growing arsenal of tools. Friends showed up with coffee, food, diet coke, baileys or puppies – anything to help keep us motivated and sane. We hired more employees, increased our product line, purchased another freezer and another refrigerator, more sheet pans, more rolling racks. We ran out of ribbon and had Marge and Eddie driving all over Massachusetts to try to find more. We rented more space, graduated to the 16-cup measuring cup, and used the calculator daily to double, triple or quadruple recipes. We accidentally turned the mixer on high speed with a bowl filled with cocoa powder in it, and wiped cocoa off the walls, ceiling and the equipment for weeks. The boxes in the kitchen now hold all of these memories.
Packing up the back rooms brought me further back in time. Reaching up on the top shelf, I found a few lone rolls of babycakes stickers covered with dust. On top of one freezer was marketing material Eddie had put together – a picture of rugelach with ‘babycakes’ printed along the bottom, and a small collection of my old business cards. No sense in holding onto these things, but difficult to just toss without a nod to the effort and energy that went into building that brand and the sorrow to have to leave it behind.
The refrigerators once covered with funny cards and random pictures of my family are now bare. A small box contains an absurd number of magnets, and the photos & cards, now neatly stacked and ready to move to their new home.
Perhaps the most significant moment of the day, however, was when I packed my cookbooks and binders. I have packed & unpacked my cookbooks so many times, and while the action of loading cookbooks into red milk crates is the same, each time represents a major transition in my life. Some cookbooks have traveled with me from Vermont and are so old the binders are destroyed and the pages are falling out. Others have tiny sticky notes peeking out of the top. I remember packing up my cookbook collection when I left my job in Vermont. I remember unpacking them at Nashoba Brook Bakery, and then six years later, packing them once again and bringing them home. When I moved into Stow, I honestly never expected to have to pack them again, and so the vision of the cookbooks once again in crates caught me off-guard and hit home somewhere deep in my brain. I am moving once again.
In the beginning of 2013, we had a decision to make once again. Take another risk, or play it safe. Continue to grow and expand, or not. This decision seems so simple in words. Sure – let’s grow! Let’s move! Nah…let’s just stay here. The decision was layered with issues and challenges and decisions – location, money, risk. It required an optimistic vision of the future, a raw belief deep down that if we jumped off the cliff, we would fly. Well…here we are, jumping. Here we are, about to fly.
Next post from Shirley!