I was feeling rather low at the time. Feeling dull. Feeling long term, low grade sad, grateful, but trudging.
I sat down, made my list, some rather practical things, like being able to have enough money to pay the bills. Some family related, like more consistent family, sit around the table dinner times.
At the bottom of the list, my heart let out a little sigh. I missed my creative joyful spark. I felt her absence deeply. For over twelve months I have cried out for that spark to return. I know it is part of my essence, my being, and I want to offer my children, my family and sure, why not? The whole world deserves my whole self, not just the shadowy, leftover bits.
Sometime early this spring, maybe March? Rose and I were sitting at the table chatting over coffee. I don't even quite remember what brought about the conversation. Perhaps I mentioned how I was tired of baking out of our home. At any rate, Rose, who had not been terribly sparkly herself, lit up from within. With a smile I had not seen in some time, she suggested I should open a french bakery. She pulled up some images on google, and something lit up inside me. We smiled, we dreamed, we gave way to the luxury of fantasy for a few minutes.
It was a moment I will treasure. Memories are fuzzy, I can't remember exactly, but Nora got engaged in the daydream, and they reminded me how Dad wished for me to grow and expand. How he was a firm believer that my freshly milled ancient grain and sophisticated real food was something the world would enjoy. We fantasized about recipes. Expanded offerings. A charming, lovely, European place, sophisticated, yet warm. Light,
and airy, with room to hang my mom's fine art to display. How fun it would be for my dad to grow my greens in his garden and have meaning and purpose that would feed our community.
We got so excited about the idea, I immediately grabbed Nora and we went driving around Alpine seeking the perfect spot.
It was a whim. A way to spend a gloomy Sunday afternoon.Nora saw the Hudson Event center downtown, a recently renovated building, just the right size, just the right place.
"Oh, wouldn't that be perfect?" we cried. We drove on, saw another building, owned by some customers and acquaintances.
I don't know what got into me, but for the first time in a long time, I felt a little spark kindle. I went to speak with Loretta at the Small Business Development Center. One of my friend, customers, Martha, had been encouraging me for ages to go. I kept putting it off, saying I had no time to grow, no time to think about boring business stuff.
Well. All of a sudden, I decided to invest three months into doing the hard work of determining feasibility regarding expanding the bakery.
I started sketching drawings, seeking estimates, coming up with business plans. I went to walk around the building on fifth street, turned circles, called my best business advisor big brothers and sisters, listened to their advice, shared them my vulnerable dreams.
It surprised me how scary it was to open up my little dream. Business had grown, actually had significantly outgrown my facility some time ago. I had grown tired of working in my home. Having home and family and work overlap on a regular basis. The system worked really well for many years. The kids were little and I was home. Busy, but home! Now my kids spend a great deal of their time and money hanging out in the cool coffee shops in town. School, friends, sports and work keep them far from home nowadays.
I wondered if it were possible to expand in a way that would benefit me, benefit my kids and parents. I wondered if there were a way to increase my profit margin in a way that could make this operation more sustainable.
Loretta took me through my paces. We spent hours each week, working through elements of a business plan and loan application process through the SBA. For the first time ever, I counted the cost of a loaf of bread, a detailed cost, not just the spiral notebook accounting that got us by the past twenty years. I wrote a business narrative. A resume. An assets and liabilities paper. A projected profit and loss deal.
Wow. After writing about the past 30 years, even my childhood was spent writing recipes, cooking, feeding and teaching people. Hmm. Maybe not such a reach to think that food is my thing?
My business plan for the purchase of a building, renovating it to have two apartments in the back and bakery gallery up front got more detailed. Renovation costs escalated. I realized that this was too ambitious a plan for me, being a single mom, knowing that I needed to work in some margin for family issues. Property and bakery asset rich, cash poor.
I decided one evening that I needed to set the dream aside. I was proud of myself for being willing to dream, but needed to get back to reality.
Something in my heart felt rather sad.
A still, small voice said to keep doing my homework. And I decided to go to Montana to get a load of grain. I couldn't imagine not baking anymore. Perhaps I should just rearrange things at home? Put in a commercial sink in the laundry room? And I kept meeting with Loretta, figuring I should see things through and get an accurate picture of my financials.
Then, out of the clear blue, my realtor called me on a Saturday. I was working at the vineyard and happened to be grabbing a drink of water at the owner's home when the call came through. "You have got to come see this place, it's perfect for your bakery!!!" she exclaimed enthusiastically. Too expensive, I said. But why not?
I went home, asked the girls to join me as consultants. We drove over, walked in, and saw the front room, creamy, dark trim, just like my bakery. Clean. Big.
Great light. We chatted a few minutes with the building owner and she made me an offer I couldn't refuse. We both shook our heads, feeling like this was a match made in heaven.
I took the new info to my advisors. We hammered out a few details. It felt too good to be true, but thoroughly grounded in reality.
And now we have a lease. I am sitting at my desk, listening to beautiful music on the surround sound, 4650 lbs of grain in a storage room, my mom's art work lined up, ready to be hung next week. A kitchen in the works, a plan for an artist friend to paint Taste and See Bakery on the downtown storefront. I have schedules, a skeleton crew, menus, tables and chairs on the way, financing in the works (Oh, Please God! let it close soon!) and an opening date.
Soon I will write about the spiritual journey to Montana. But for now, let me say I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I have felt more creative spark and joy these past six months than in I don't know when. A vision is coming true. It is scary. I am terrified. Support is overwhelmingly beautiful. A vision that enables each of us in our family to shine. A financially stable plan that will not only pay my bills, but also pay my employees a fair wage. A gorgeous setting for my mom's art work. A venue for my dad's vegetable garden. Work for my kids and a sweet place for them to hang out.
It could fail spectacularly. I have decided to take the risk.