Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You win some, you lose some . . .

Well, I'm afraid that my brief time at the cafe has come to an end, dear readers. Business dropped off sharply during the month of October, and my business partners and I decided that it just wasn't working. I just came to the decision . . . some weeks before I could actually admit it out loud . . . that it wasn't going to be an investment of my time OR money that was going to be wise in the end.So even after all this work, all this heart and soul I've poured into this place . . . it's over.

I'm sorry if this disappoints some of you. I know that a lot of people have been looking up to me for following my dream. And it hurts to think that I might let some of those people down. But I really did give it my all, and I learned a lot from the experience. It's hard to pin-point exactly just went wrong, and I'm loathe to point fingers at anyone or anything in particular. It is what it is. I went through a few days of great sadness. And now I am moving on.

Onward and upward, as they say.

I have had an idea in my head for over a year now: selling my own home-made cake mixes to people who are too busy to bake from scratch. Even better, layer the ingredients and decorate them in a rustic mason jar, decorated in beautiful fabric and ribbons.

This idea has been on the backburner for me for quite some time now. I've had the supplies ready, the concept working, even the recipes picked out. When the Midland Cafe didn't work out, I know it was time to focus my attention, my energy, my passion on this project: my project.

One of the frustrating things I found with the cafe was trying to fit my "vision" with that of my business partners. Now, I am at the helm . . . I'm in full control of my own destiny.

Practical matters: I registered Vintage Victuals as an LLC. I got my friend Mrs. Southern Belle to modify my bread logo so that I could use it on my mason jars. I signed up for a local Holiday Market. I finalized my recipes, purchased holiday-themed fabrics and ribbons, and I searched far and wide for the perfect mason jars.

Then I went to work. I spent hours in the kitchen at the cafe assembling 70 jars. I brought them home and decorated them. I raided a VistaPrint sale for all sorts of fun promotional materials and gathered what I would need to decorate my booth at the Holiday Market.

Finally, I launched an Etsy shop on an online marketplace for handmade crafts and goods. Then, I got ready for my big debut.

It was such a success!!!

I sold 62 jars at the Holiday Market, and I got such a positive response that I have already signed up for two more craft fairs!!! I've spent the past week re-stocking my supplies as quickly as possible to keep up with the demand. I've had several online orders through my etsy shop, and hope that the response will continue to grow as I get my name out there and market my new business.

So bear with me, dear friends. I am down, but not out. As my dream continues to evolve, I hope you will stay with me and enjoy the journey as much as I am.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's a sign!

We finally have our new sign!! Thanks so much to Mrs. Southern Belle for designing the overall concept. One of our local artists here in Jefferson took her idea and added his own interpretation. Doesn't it look great?!?

The hair salon next door to us will have their sign where it says "Coffee" - hopefully within the next week or two. Here is a close-up shot of our beautiful sign.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Diving in head first . . .

Hi, friends. Long time no post.

I sort of wondered, before, about why I had such trouble finding inspiration blogs on this topic: opening your own food business. Well, I'm not wondering any more. It's so time consuming that I barely even have time to sit in front of a computer!

So much has transpired in the past month - where do I begin?

I finished my old job. It was a bittersweet time. I do miss my amazing coworkers and the work that I enjoyed. On the other hand, there was somewhat of a burden lifted: I could finally focus my attention on ONE thing, the new business.

I took a week to get things in order and to relax a little bit before I dove in at the cafe, head first. Five-AM mornings, professional mixers, meat slicers, espresso bean grinders, knives, take-out boxes, and 50-lb. bags of flour fill my days now. Even a week and a half in, it's still all so new to me - and I am loving every minute.

Stay tuned and I promise to blog more often so that I c an share this journey with you all.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Midland

We have a name!!!

We have officially decided on "The Midland Cafe" as our name.

I think it is good for a variety of reasons:

  • It's flexible enough to stay with us if we eventually expand into a full restaurant.
  • It's got a connection to our town, without being too cheesy.
  • The domain name was available, so we went ahead and reserved it.
  • It lends itself to a really cute logo, which, in turn, will lead to fun marketing merchandise (hats, aprons, t-shirts, mugs).
I'm so excited! What do y'all think?!?

PS : If any of you graphic design types out there want to try you hand at a logo for fun, then go for it! I'm envisioning some sort of logo involving a train, sort of coming at you from a distance, and "The Midland Cafe" to the side or underneath.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hi, Friends

It's Friday night again, and the house smells amazing!!!

I have to share something with you tonight: it's been a strange day.

Today, I got a phone call from my husband, who had gotten a phone call from X, who had gotten a phone call from Y, who had gotten a phone call from Z . . . who was a prominent figure in the legal world here in North Georgia and who had an opportunity that he wanted me to apply for.  

For the record, this opportunity would be very similar to what I'm currently doing, which I actually really enjoy.  And it would be on the local level, which would be even better!

So, dear friends.  It appears that I have a big decision to make.  At the moment, with the yeasty smell in the air striking my nose and going straight to my head, it feels like an easy decision.  But it's an important decision nonetheless. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Menu Planning

So . . . dear readers, dear eaters, dear friends . . . if you were a resident of my tiny North Georgia town, and you were getting a gourmet sandwich at my new café. . .

What'll ya have?

I'm just finishing up a draft of our menu this week. I've got some good ideas (how about turkey with lite herbed mayo and swiss on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato?) but I wanted to throw this out there - what sandwiches would you like to see on the menu?

Here are the rules - you have to START with these ingredients!

Turkey, ham, roast beef

White bread, wheat bread, and possibly a rye or sourdough

American cheese, swiss cheese, and perhaps a third? Cheddar?

What are your favorite sandwiches with these as your base ingredients?

Leave me a comment to let me know!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Still Awake

It's after midnight, and I've just now finished baking my cinnamon rolls and sticky buns.  My loaves of buttermilk white bread have just gone into the oven, and I'm still awake.

On these pre-farmers-market evenings, when I have to tell my friends I can't socialize, I must go home to bake bread - everyone keeps telling me, 'This is how it's going to be!' 'Get used to it!' 'These are going to be your hours!'

I know that my new career is going to involve very hard work, very long hours, and a lot more physical work than I do right now.  I'm ready for the challenge.  

But doing my new job AND my old job at the same time?  Well, it pretty much sucks.   I said goodbye to my friends and their bottle of wine tonight, their light gossip, their heart-warming laughs.  My husband is tucked in and fast asleep. Even my two dogs are passed out beneath my feet as I type.  And here I am.  Still awake.

But you know what?  Those moments when I'm drizzling my icing over the pans of cinnamon rolls - the satisfaction of feeling the perfect texture of white dough going into a greased pan - the beauty of the toasted nuts on the sticky buns as I turn them out of their pans and reveal their gooey goodness - it makes me smile.  It makes my heart jump.  It makes me feel . . . alive, alert, awake.

So I'm still awake.  Smelling the scent of warm white bread wafting from the oven, feeling the tingle in my nose of the hint of cinnamon that laces the air in the house, dreaming of my new life and making it happen here, now, past midnight.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I've reach the 30-day mark at my current job. It's a sad moment as well as an exciting moment. Just one month from now, I will be diving head first into my new career. How do I feel? I really don't know. I keep trying to keep a finger on my pulse, a tab on my feelings, a monitor on my thoughts - but really, it's just a messy jumble. I think I need a mood ring or a magic eight ball to tell me what I feel, what the next month holds.

Right now, I'm sitting here listening to Corey Smith's song "I'm in Love with a Memory" as I type this, and it's really speaking to me. It rings so true. I look back now over the past 5 years of my life, and I think of how much I've enjoyed the law, enjoyed school, studying, lunch with coworkers, writing for the judge, sitting in on exciting trials, and whatnot.

It's easy to look back now and think that this life has been rosy and wonderful. It's easy to doubt my decision to make such a drastic change, to take such a monumental risk. It's easy to think about how much more stable and sure my life would be if I were following the handbook of life that my parents keep pointing me towards.

But guess what: an easy life is a boring one, an easy life is a snooze, an easy life is not what I want.

Plus, between all those wonderful parts of the past five years, there were also struggles with insomnia, bouts of depression, instances of intense disillusionment, major disappointments, unkind people, unkind words, stress that wreaked havoc on my body and my health, and an overall feeling of dissatisfaction with my life and my future.

So maybe I shouldn't be in love with a memory. I have to keep looking forward, no glances in the rearview. Onward and upward and outward I go.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Label Me

Not only am I blessed to have some extremely encouraging, supportive, and enthusiastic friends, but I also have some pretty flippin' talented ones, too. My friend Mrs. Southern Belle is all of these things - and she created a fun Vintage Victuals logo that I've started using for my start-up bread business. I got my act together for the farmers market this weekend by printing up labels for all of my breads. How cute are these!?

Most people don't like being labeled, but in this case I'm glad to be labeled. Mrs. Southern Belle, you can label me any day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Name Game

So, dear eaters, we're still trying conjure up a name for our little endeavor. 

Here are the top contenders.

1) The Red Clay Cafe - it's a nice Georgia theme, has an earthy feel to it, and lends itself well to a neat logo with marketing potential. If you've never been to Georgia, here is a photo of what our red clay looks like:

photo from jim270

2) The Good Life - which comes from the album and song title from one of our favorite local musicians, Corey Smith. This would also make for some fun promotional/marketing items, neat t-shirts and mugs, etc.

photo from

3) The Midland - our little town is home to a historic railroad line called the Gainesville Midland. I like the ideal of the railroad theme, and I'm also fond of making a connection with the history of our town. Here is a photo of the train from the early 1900s.

photo from the Gainesville Midland RR webpage

For practical purposes, we've given ourselves a deadline of Friday to finish our brainstorming and to officially select a name.

Thoughts? Ideas? Opinions?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New farmers, new friends

The Jefferson Main Street Market

This Saturday morning, at 6:43 A.M., my husband and I pulled up to the farmers market on the downtown square of our little town. With a checkered tablecloth and loaves in hand, I set up shop between two local farmers and hoped for the best.

When you spend 4 hours in the blazing Georgia heat next to someone's truck full of fresh zucchinis, onions, blueberries, and farm fresh eggs, you tend to become fast frends.

On my right was a sweet family of four, soon to be five. The kids were so excited to be there with their parents selling produce, and the mom was due to deliver her baby the next day! What a trooper!

On my left was a man who seemed to be a jack of all trades. He had everything from potted flowers to local honey to peaches and plums. When one of his watermelons fell on the ground and broke in two, he cut off pieces for all of us to try - it was delicious!

As for me, I played it conservative this week and only made three things - small loaves of banana nut bread, pans of cinnamon buns, and white refrigerator rolls. I opened up one of my pans of cinnamon rolls and tore it up into bite-sized samples. Those were the first to sell out! The banana bread was also popular, while the white rolls were the last to sell out. I didn't get a chance to take a photo until most of my stuff was gone, but here I am!

Not only did I make back more than enough to pay for my ingredients, I also traded a few items for some produce from my farming neighbors. I got some beautiful, big zucchinis from the cute family to make zucchini bread for the next market. And from the man on the other side, I bought a bunch of peaches to make some Georgia peach bread. I also traded some banana nut bread with a corn farmer so that my husband and I could enjoy some with our meals this week.

All in all it was a great experience, and I'm anxiously looking forward to next week's market. I'm making a wider selection of breads this week and focusing more on loaves, so we will see what response I get on Saturday morning. I'm also excited about continuing to work on my cinnamon bun recipe to get it JUST right! So far, this little piggy really likes to bring her bread to market!!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Putting it all on the line

So, I think this goes without saying, but I feel the need to go ahead an put this out there:  my decision to change my life like this has created a lot of waves.  And not gentle little waves with a soft warm breeze.  Think, crashing Pacific water on huge rocky boulders. 

At first, I could barely admit to myself that I was actually considering such a drastic change.  Sure, I've always been the kind of person who thrives on change.  A summer during college in a remote Montana town as a bartender, traveling abroad on my own, going to a university in a city where I didn't know a single soul.  I like to challenge myself, to stretch my limits, knead my will, my nerve into something new and shiny and strong.

But here I was, finally settling down into a promising career when I realized: I am not happy.

Don't get me wrong, I was happy at first.  I've always loved school, loved learning, loved writing, reading, philosophizing.  Law school was a great fit.  I've always been an idealist, always desired to have a positive impact on the world.  What better way to achieve this goal than to study law, which touches every person's life in one way or another?  The perfect way to make a difference, to help people in need - how idealistic, how naive, right? But that's what I thought, so that's what I did.

Well, I loved law school.  And I've loved my job working for a judge for the past 2 years.  But big law firm life?  Not for me.  Wearing a formal business suit Also not for me.  Hanging my own shingle and starting my own one-woman practice?  Yep, not for me either.

Several months ago, I came to the stark realization that law school had sapped the creative life out of me.  The river had run dry.  I've been trained to think like a lawyer, to think like all lawyers, to groupthink.

So I started getting back to my roots - to what I truly love, what I'm truly passionate about, what makes me tick.  Writing, friendships, food, and family.  Chocolate, cheese, flour, and fruit.  So I started a little food blog of family recipes.  And my little food blog grew and grew.  And the creativity inside me started to grow, too.

And with this growth came change.  Change of heart.  And now my heart is on my sleeve for all to judge and see, for all to watch as I succeed or as I fail.

But at least I'm here, I'm heart, I'm happy.

There is something exhilarating about putting it all on the line.

To market, to market . . .

This Saturday marks the first week of our local farmer's market on the downtown square. This is going to be the first time that I am officially attempting to sell, market, produce my bread for profit.

Tonight, I planned to prepare some of the dough so that it could ferment or retard overnight and be ready to bake tomorrow.

Right before I walked into the kitchen, though, a tsunami of self-doubt crashed ashore in my mind. What on earth am I thinking, throwing my life upside down based on the delusion that people would actually pay money to buy my bread?!

What if I fail? What if my dough doesn't rise? What if I end up with a bunch of half-baked ideas that I am too embarrassed to sell? What on earth am I doing?!?

Deeeeep breaths. A moment to focus. And a supportive husband. These are what got me into the kitchen to bake tonight.

Much to my delight, my dough rose perfectly, doubling in bulk, pulling together, kneading into beautifully elastic hunks of goodness. My banana bread came out beautifully crisp on top, nicely domed and cracked, decadently moist on the inside. My house smelled like heaven, and I felt like myself again.

I think I'm going to be okay. I really can do this. By the end of the evening, I was prancing happily around the kitchen calling myself "The Master Baker." For now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's in a name?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet, dear readers?

I'm really just not sure.

Which is why it's been so difficult these past few days to muster up a name for the deli-cafe-bakery-coffee-shop that my friends and I are about to open on the downtown square of my little town.

Brainstorming feels like thunder in my head, rolling and rolling. Word associations, idea webs, puns, quips, idioms, similes, metaphors, literary genius . . . all leading towards, well, me having to reign myself back in, come back down to earth, and come up with something that small-town folks are going to actually *get* *remember* *relate to* *jive with* - hurm.

That said, ideas are welcome.