Monday, January 05, 2004

More on Catalogs 

I don't know if it's because we're getting the wrong type of catalogs, or if these are the real prices, but it's distinctly odd when catalogs marked "Wholesale" carry higher prices than I will spend on the same product retail.

Here's an example: The Nordicware Bundt Rose Pan. In retail catalogs, it sells for $29.95. In the wholesale catalogs we've received, it ranges from $21.95 to $24.95. In the retail baker's supply store here in town, I can buy that same pan, same quality, for $13.95. And I don't have to pay shipping and handling charges.

What it works out to is that I can buy twice as much retail here locally than I can wholesale via catalog.

Is this crazy? Or is this really the way wholesale works?

We've been buying the smaller dollar items for the bakery as we go along - baking pans and sheets, stock pots, utensils, "ove gloves" (which, by the way are great if you have big hands, but I slip and slide around inside them so much I'd rather stick with regular mitts - the long armed barbecue style mitts), and teapots, cups, mugs and bowls.

Some people think we should wait until we're ready to buy the big ticket itmes, and buy the dishes all matching at the same time.

Part of the charm and ambiance of the Cracked Cauldron will be its eclecticism. The pots are charming character pots, larger ones for table use, and smaller ones with matching cups for individuals. The coffee mugs have slogans and pictures on them, and the soup bowls are all different as well. I know we aren't open for business yet, but we do occassionally cater (for cost only, no profit just yet) for friends and co-workers and classmates and professors, and the reaction to the mismatched tableware has been an actual increase in demand - people want us to provide "their cup" when we cater, and are more likely to ask us to cater for them if we provide "their cup". It's better than wine charms!

When we do open the Cracked Cauldron, I know we'll have customers who return to us simply because we'll provide their favorite beverage in "their cup", a touch of gemuetlicjheit in an otherwise stressful world.

It's really fascinating to see people's reactions when we tell them about the bakery we're opening. At a local drugstore, they were having a clearance on holiday ornaments, and one was of a bakery - the store manager, in exchange for an invitation to the Pre-Opening Party, gave the bakery the ornament (OK, it was marked down to 75¢, so it wasn't a huge expense), and the antique shop where we've been buying the teapots is now actively searching for them and keeping the best ones back just for us. As a thank-you, we brought her an entire batch of plum yeast cakes (we have to find a nicer name for these little coffee cakes!), and now she really can't wait until we open. She said the cakes were just like her grandmother made when she was little.

Nostalgia, it is our friend.

And have you seen the new carb-blocker chewtabs on the market? Talk about a baker's booster! Not only can we offer low-carb breads, but with customers willing to take these carb-blockers, they will be able to buy a wider range of our goodies.

I'm not terribly sure about the carb-blocker chewtabs - do they really work, what are their side-effects? - but if they are as advertised, then it will be a boon for those who love carbs but are restricting them.

People are pushing us to open sooner, but I really think our slower approach will be better in the long run for the business. We can shake down any problems before they come up and have an action plan to deal with it. We can build good will and trust in the business community and most especially among the financiers upon whom we will depend to provide the large opening costs. And we'll have a stability and momentum going in that will allow us to carry through and make the profits we'll need to stay in business. We also have a growing, dedicated customer base.

Not bad, for two people who didn't know we were doing this a year ago.

It's all coming together like a good bread dough, and you don't rush bread dough. If you do, you get a soggy brick no one wants.

And may I say the Indian spice blend Garam Masala is a great addition to chocolate cake? It gives it a lush, mysterious flavor that keeps people guessing and eating.

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