Thursday, September 30, 2004
So, I went to the bank at lunch to get the home equity loan started. I'll need to provide the current mortgage status, which should be here soon, as I asked for it last Friday.
That's the only piece of data missing.
They'll start processing the loan based on the estimate from the annual statement, but a current one would be nice.
As soon as that loan comes through, we'll apply it to the Cracked Cauldron and try for a loan again.
One way or the other, we will be open.
It is a real pity I still haven't completely recovered from the brief time we were homeless. The only thing of value I own is the house.
And, of course, my ability to work like a dog, hours and days on end without pause.
Manager and our Queen Flour Monkey are the same way.
The Queen Flour Monkey wants me to say that she's nicknamed us: Sick (Manger), Twisted (her), and Weird (me), because only sick, twisted, and weird people would pursue this so very hard.
Of course, we all feel the outcome would be astonishingly happy for us and our stockholders, and the goal is worth the work to get there.
To celebrate the new plan in place, tonight, we'll make a new and yummy hand pie.
We know someone who's been harvesting their new crop of rabbits. How does a rabbit pie sound?
It's a myth that rabbits like carrots. BunBun, the rabbit that lives in the diningroom, doesn't like carrots, but oh, does he love lavendar and sourgrass and violets and nasturtiums.
Rabbit is a mild flavored meat, especially when it's a farmed meat, so maybe we should forgo sourgrass and nasturtiums as flavorings with it.
Lavendar, though. I think lavendar would be an amazing addition to this rabbit pie. I happen to have a huge stand of lavendar still blooming.
So, rabbit, in a light lemon sauce flavored with lavendar and roses? Yes, I think roses. I have the Tropicana still blooming. Fill it up with both wild rice and sticky short grain brown rice and peas. Rabbits love peas - if BunBun's any sampling.
So, there you have it: A flowery rabbit hand pie. I imagine it would be perfect for spring.
Now, should we encase it in a puff pastry, a phyllo pastry, or a rice pastry?
If we stick with rice as the wrapper, it will be edible by both people on a carnivorous diet and by people following a gluten-free diet. and the rest of us will like it because it's yummy.
Or it should be.
I'll let you know tomorrow.
We've been denied the loan at the bank. This time because we haven't enough cash invested in it.
They refused to accept the house as collateral, which seriously reduced what they were counting as Manager's share of the investment.
So, what I'll do is get a home equity loan (cash), and give that to Manager to try for another loan.
It would be the same as using the house as collateral, just instead of real property, they'd have cash in hand.
If that fails, well, there is always Plan Z.
The corporate seal has been completed and should be shipped soon. That will make selling stock and issuing stock certificates easier.
We've also decided upon the button making machine we want to use to make our promotional buttons, and ordered it. Soon, we will have buttons ready to hand out to our beloved guinea pigs. Even if we aren't open in time for making and selling Halloween treats, we'll still have the special Cracked Cauldron Shakespeare's witches buttons made up to hand out as a promotional item (the artwork is gorgeous - the three witches from McBeth gathered around a floating cupcake, with the words: "Look what we conjured for you at the Cracked Cauldron").
The original plan was (and it can still happen) anyone wearing that Grand Opening Halloween button or in costume would be treated to a signature Cracked Cauldron cookie. That cookie is a cauldron shaped sugar cookie with a chocolate glaze - with the crack, of course!
We also hope to have the T-shirts available for purchase. We have art and plans for T-shirts and buttons through Easter. The Cracked Cauldron calendar will be available soon, as well, through Lulu.com.
Why Lulu.com? Because they are a Print on Demand publisher with very reasonable rates. Being a small business, we can't afford the mass printings that places like Chick-Fil-A can do (great calendar - I buy theirs because, well, I'm a dork, and I love Chick-Fil-A - have ever since I worked there back in the 70's). We've checked around, and to keep the cost of the calendar under $10.00, Lulu.com seems to be the place to go. We'll order a stock of them for the store, so we can sell them without the shipping costs, but others can order them from Lulu.com at their leisure.
Once I figure it out, we'll also have a current calendar posted on our web site (It's getting closer - all I need to do for the front page is this little tricksie part with the art. Once I get that done right, we should be up and running. Maybe, maybe this weekend! Don't hold your breath, though, you'll get hurt falling out of your computer chair, and we wouldn't want that to happen.)
The calendar - the print one, not the online one - will have recipes and treat cards.
A treat card is sort of like a coupon, except instead of getting cents off, we treat you to something in the Cracked Cauldron: a bowl of soup, a handpie, a couple of cookies, a cup of coffee, a pastry, a galette, a loaf of bread, something. No purchase necessary other than the calendar itself. If people buy the calendar as a gift for others, they'll give not just the calendar, but all the treats, too. And the recipes. There'll be space to pencil in your own plans - hopefully many of which will include a trip to the Cracked Cauldron.
The web version of the calendar will get current photos, trivia bits, and last-minute specials provided by windfall purchases. It will naturally be more current than the print calendar, because fortuitous events can't be predicted far enough in advance to make it in print. The entertainment schedule will also be more precise on the web version - cancellations, snagging a hot new performer and such can happen in a matter of hours or days, so that can change rapidly.
Both, of course, will tell which continent we'll feature each month, for what holidays we'll prepare special goodies, and artwork. As a bonus, you'll also get a month by month calendar, with all the correct days for November 2004 - December 2005 - a 14 month calendar this first year, and maybe every year we do this.
It will be really, really funny if we end up opening the Cracked Cauldron from the sales of our T-shirts, calendars, and stock instead of the bank loan - and you know, that will push our opening date probably all the way back to the very first opening date we ever discussed when we started this - April of 2005.
We pursue the bank loan so we can open sooner. Still hoping for 5 weeks from now: October 29th. We can still do it if the money comes quickly enough.
So, keep coming by to see how things go, and if you can start hanging out at the Cracked Cauldron really soon, or if you have to hold on to that feeling of anticipation.
Don't worry. However long it takes, we'll keep posting.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
As we wait for word on the loan, we are polishing up the employee training manuals for our coffee and flour monkeys.
We're also putting our special recipes into a laminated format so we can use them in the bakery without getting them all covered in flour and sugar and butter and such.
And the third thing we're doing is running everything through a nutritional analysis so we can properly label them once we're open.
The Employee Training manual comes in several parts: the usual company propoganda about how great the Cracked Cauldron is and how elite they are to be chosen to work for us. This part is pretty true even if it is propoganda. The Cracked Cauldron is great and unique and wonderful and yummy. And if we invited them to work for us, they have something we think our customers will like. We think they are loyal, dedicated, industrious, intelligent, kind, and helpful - or we wouldn't have hired them. So the propoganda part is just a bit of ego-boost for them.
Then we get to Company Policy. This is the line they don't cross. Ever. This details what will get them fired for sure beyond any doubt. Job descriptions, what we expect their duties to entail. This also tells them what we can and cannot do for our customers. Yes, yes, that old saw about the customer always being right. However, in this litigious time, the customer isn't always right, and in food service there are some things we absolutely positively cannot do no matter how demanding the customer may be. This tells our employees what those are and how to inform the customer politely that we can't cross that line (accommodations we could offer, alternatives, and when to call Manager in). after all, if it reaches this point, most times the customer is just angry, and if we satisfy the anger, we don't have to consider performing illegal actions. We'll give the employees a lot of discretion in customer service, but we'll also provide back-up when it gets to this point. How to make things right when things go wrong. Emergency procedures (fire, getting burned, broken glass, customer having a heart attack...) And other necessary things employees need to know about how the Cracked Cauldron is run.
Last we get to the fun part - the How Tos. How to make the drinks. How to stock the cases. How to package up to go orders. How to take orders. How to clean things. How to care for the equipment. How to handle the sound system. How to open and close. All that wonderful fun stuff.
Because Coffee Monkeys and Flour Monkeys will be responsible for entirely different things, we'll have different books for them. Coffee Monkeys will be out front, meeting the customers and helping them, so their portion concerns that. Flour Monkeys are in back, baking up the yummies, and they get all the low-down on bakery procedures and precautions and recipes and pretties.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
A lot of people have been saying kind things about this blog, and I'd like to take the time to say thank you to them.
And the same Jackie, at The Big Blog Company, said very good things about us on her commercial blog, as well.
All y'all - thank you for your kind words!
And y'all reading this - go read their blogs. I've learned a lot from them, and had a very fine read, too.
We haven't heard back from any of the people to whom we've sent stock purchase proposals, so we're preparing a second batch of letters.
As the holiday season begins, with Oktoberfest, Halloween, the Elections, and Thanksgiving jam-packed into two months, we have been asked if we can provide treats for this event or that one. Most of the Oktoberfest and Halloween parties will happen before we open, and we'd hoped to have our "soft opening" by this Friday to accommodate these requests.
Since we don't have a signed lease, or the big ovens, we're having to be very selective about which requests we can fill right now.
Remember, no matter how clean and sterile my home kitchen is, it will not pass the local health inspections because I have inadequate plumbing, drainage, sinks - and indoor pets. The Health Department would have conniption fits over the fact that we have cats roaming freely.
True, only 2 cats. Still, they have access to the kitchen - not sanitary at all.
Anyone for whom we cater at this time will have to be friends first. If we don't know you and haven't known you for quite a while, and you haven't visited our home, we won't cater for you. It's nothing personal, just that we know the conditions under which we are currently operating, and we wouldn't want you to be misled, nor would we want to get in trouble before we open our doors. As soon as we can get those lovely doors open, we will gladly fulfill your requests for meeting rooms and party yummies.
Unfortunately, this involves finding more money than is currently in my bank account.
Even with the mega-savings that new store will provide us, we need what Donald Trump would call "chump change" and we'd call "the Cracked Cauldron".
Yes, there are many people who would spend what we need to open the Cracked Cauldron on a weekend in a nice hotel, that's how little we need. Yet, for some reason, the banks all act as if we're asking for a fortune, a huge amount. They see the asking amount, they aren't looking at the growth that amount will bring.
I guess it's the nature of banks to be Scrooges with money, and I can't say as I blame them. They are banks precisely because they invest wisely and take few risks.
Sometimes, though, a risk is well worth the investment.
The Cracked Cauldron has a lot of positive things going for it: a young, ambitious, and healthy CEO; a wise and experienced baker; a group of callow but willing high school and college kids to be the "coffee monkeys" (hey - they picked the name); a Board of Directors that can offer a combined 50 years of education and experience; a group of unique recipes that people really want to buy prepared for them; a supportive group of suppliers; and a steadily growing group of customers (350 at last count, with virtually no advertising, imagine what it will be like once we start advertising?).
This year, though, it looks like people will have to party without the Cracked Cauldron.
I'm really sorry for depriving all y'all, anad we're working hard to change that.
Monday, September 27, 2004
There's a new supplier who just opened their doors - and they have some real bargains in equipment we'll need. We can easily save several thousand dollars - if only we had the bank loan already.
They have the reach in refrigerator we've been eyeing for almost a thousand less than anywhere else. They have the mixer we've been drooling over for almost two thousand less than we could find it used. They have an icemaker for $800 less, and a dishwasher for almost a thousand less. They have the triple sinks we'll need for $400.00 less. Pan and bun racks for $200.00 less. They install the vent system we need for $8,000.00 less than anyone else we talked to.
Their furniture and small wares are pricey, but that doesn't matter, because we know where to get those for a reasonable price.
That's almost a $13,000.00 savings. It would be positively criminal if we can't save that to spend on ingredients and employees instead of equipment.
Oh, please let us get that loan quickly so we can snap these things up for the Cracked Cauldron.
We have 5 weeks before our preferred Opening Date.
Can we do it?
I'm not sure.
If we get the bank loan in the next few days, yes, no problem.
Without the bank loan, we'll try a mortgage equity loan or a second mortgage on the house, and we'll still (barely) manage opening by the end of the month.
Manager and I spent the weekend reworking our basic needs, to see just how cheaply we can pull this off. With the money we still have in the bank, we need only add another $70,000.00 and we can operate with minimal income for 6 months. Drop it $20,000.00, and we can keep our doors open for 3 months with a trickle of income.
But you know, when we open our doors for real business, it's not going to be a trickle of income, it's going to be a flood. We have addicted people to our version of cake, cookies, and coffee. We can't go anywhere anymore without people asking when we'll open, and how soon can they get (take your choice:) Bacon Bread, Mediterannean Olive Bread, King's Cookies, Hot Drops, Pumpkin Cookies, Chicken Aloute, Nutmeg Angel Cake, Chocolate Chai Roses, a daily cup of the Cauldron Brew...and more.
Our Marketing Calendar is full for the coming year, our Bake Schedule is packed with delicious surprises as well as the daily offerings.
Just Five Weeks until we want our doors open and our ovens hot.
Can we do it?
Stay tuned to see.
Friday, September 24, 2004
Granted, these aren't additions for which we'd charge extra to our customers dining in, still, they would be available inside the Cracked Cauldron and for a small additional charge as carry out.
Dipping oils: We offer a savory variety of freshly made dipping oils and sauces for your ciabbattas, foccaccias, and rolls.
Bread Spreads: Plain and flavored, we offer a tasty selection of butters, cream cheeses, margarines, yogurt/butter blends, pestos, and herb and fruit spreads to enjoy on your breads and roll.
Expansion would include offering aline of take-home jars and packages of the oils, butters, spreads, jams, and jellies, many of which we plan to make ourselves with local fruits and such. Sandbeach plum butter. Pawpaw jam. Serviceberry jelly. Sumac jelly. That sort of thing.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
OK, in preparation, I spoke to my bank about a home equity loan. It looks like it will be quick and somewhat easy.
It was a surprise to see a section titled "Government Monitoring", where we'd have to explain exactly for what we want to use the money so they can determine if it meets government expectations.
I didn't know we couldn't spend our money as we pleased. What if our government doesn't like the idea that we're spending the money to open a bakery? Would some government agency step in and stop us?
What if I wanted to get this loan just to spend at a casino or to get cosmetic surgery? Would that fall outside of the allowable uses of my money?
Is a bakery really so subversive?
Even though the temperatures are still in the 90's, we've been working on perfecting the soups and savories we hope to offer when we open.
We have 2 menus ready: one for the bank financed Grand Opening, and one for the mortgaged Grand Opening.
Just because that's the way I am, I will offer you the financed Grand Opening, and let you drool over what you'll have to delay enjoying if we have to rely on the mortgaged Grand Opening.
For your delectation:
~ ~~Cracked Cauldron Menu~~ ~
Cuppa Joe (7 oz cup endless refills in store, Cauldron Brew or Columbian Decaf)
Big Joe (no refills, 16 oz, choice of Cauldron Brew, Kaldi's, Stellar Brew, Zen Blend, Wicked Wolf, Deadman's Reach, Ethiopian Mokka Harrar, Sulawesi Toraja, Yemeni Moka, or Sumatra Mandheling, or decafs of Columbian, Sumatran, or Peruvian)
Espressos, Blends, and Special Coffees
Cafe con Leche
Iced Tea, Sweetened or unsweetened
Hot Black Tea
Snow Monkey Plum Tea, hot or cold
Jasmine Tea hot or cold
Spiderleg Green Tea, hot or cold
Apricot Tea, hot or cold
Peppermint Tea hot or cold,
Chamomile Tea hot or cold
Herbal Tea Blends hot or cold
Sodas (Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Root Beer, Sprite, Mountain Dew...)
Flavorings - may be added to any coffee, tea, soda, or milk
Chocolate, Vanilla, Coconut, Strawberry, Cherry, Orange, Pineapple, Coffee, Mint, Apple, Cinnamon, Almond, Caramel, Butterscotch, Apricot, Banana, Rose, Lemon, Lime, Ginger, Grape, Hazelnut, Pecan, pomogranate, Raspberry, Creme, Cranberry, Blackberry, Chestnut, Guava, Sarsaparilla, Blueberry, Papaya, Peanut, Marshmallow, Pear, Lavendar, Violet, Jasmine, Indian Spice, Chinese Spice, Scandinavian Spice
That's the Coffeehouse part of the Cracked Cauldron. Now for the yummy part: food!
Bread and Rolls
Bacon Bread This bread is made from 12 full ounces of bacon, delicately seasoned, and delicious as a snack bread, as a sandwich bun, toasted for a BLT, or fried with an egg in the middle. It makes a great grilled cheese sandwich, too. Use the rolls as soup bowls for chowder.
Mediterannean Olive Bread Made with three delicious olives, this savory bread goes with practically any sandwich filling, or as a snack with a light spreading of pesto.
Pepperoni Bread Made with frshly sliced pepperonis and garlic, this bread pairs up with tomato soup, or dips well in marinara sauce or flavored oils.
Landbrot A sourdough recipe using the Sigfried Starter brought back from a small German village, this light rye is the perfect smorgasbord bread. Try it the way the village children loved it best - lightly buttered with colorful sugar sprinkles dashed across it. Rolls of this bread make wonderful soup bowl for any stew. Try it with a German Hunter's Stew!
Sourdough White Made with the Penelope Starter, this sourdough is light and sassy. Sliced or as rolls, it carries any topping or soup well.
Gluten-free Corn Bread This bread has no wheat, oats, rye, barley, or durham, but instead is made from corm meal, rice and potato flour.
Gluten-free Wild Rice Bread This bread is made with wild rice, rice flour, and potato flour, contains no wheat, barley, oats, durham, or rye.
In addition to these breads, which we carry daily, we also offer weekly and monthly specialty breads from a featured continent, pairing them with coffees, teas, and pastries from the same country, so you may experience the world in flavor.
We offer 2 styles of cakes: Bundts and multi-layered tortes. The bundt cakes are glazed, and the tortes are layered with whipped buttercream frostings.
Chocolate Chai Rose a rich chocolate cake spiced with cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, anise, with a mint or coffee glaze.
Lemon Spice Bundt A luscious lemon cake subtly spiced with cardamom, cumin, white pepper, anise, and more lemon, glazed in vanilla or chocolate.
Cream Cheese Pound Cake a densely rich pound cake perfect for coffee or cocoa, lightly glazed with cinnamon.
Black Forest Kirsch Torte Layers of rich German Chocolate cake, cherries, whipped coffee cream, topped with shaved chocolate.
Italian Creme Torte Layers of pistachio cream white cake, whipped delicate orange cream, topped with powdered cocoa and pistachios.
Raspberry Almond Torte Layers of moist golden cake, raspberries and sauce, whipped almond creme, topped with toasted almonds.
Gluten-free Torte Layers of gluten-free chocolate cake, hazelnut cream, coffee cream, topped with toasted hazelnuts.
Banana Nut Torte Layers of rich vanilla genoise, bananas, raisins, whipped rum creme, topped with toasted pecans.
Butter Pecan Torte Layers of rich pecan genoise, crushed pecans, brown sugar cinnamon buttercream, topped with pecans and a dusting of cinnamon.
Carrot Cake Layers of dense and moist carrot cake alternating with whipped cream cheese frosting, topped with walnuts.
Nutmeg Angel Food Cake A light and airy confection with an exotic flavor.
Sweet Pies - Yes, we have to specify, because we also make savory pies. These pies are made in individual galettes and 9" family pie sizes.
Seasonal Fruit Pies The fruits are locally grown, and purchased at the peak of ripeness to be made into pies just for you: Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Apple, Pear, Peach, Plum, Sandplum, Passionfruit, Raspberry, Grape.
Trans-Seasonal Fruit Pies These fruit pies are made from fruits imported from outside of Oklahoma, and so transcend the seasons: Apple, Peach, Pear, Pumpkin, Cranberry-Cherry.
Chocolate Silk Pie
Pastries These are the treats that don't fit under other categories.
Eclairs Offered in 2 sizes: bite sized morsels and the standard length, filled with Bavarian cream and topped with a dark chocolate glaze.
Cream Puffs Airy pockets of pastry filled with creams and/or fruits, dusted with powdered sugar.
Danishes Flaky pastries filled with fruits or cheese, and lightly glazed.
Croissants Plain or filled with chocolate, buttery rich and flaky.
Celtic Knot Fruit Rolls Twisted as only a Celt can, these fruity sweet rolls are delicious with coffee or cocoa.
Orange Cinnamon Rolls
Three Graces - A fortuitious blend of Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, and Oatmeal into one glorious cookie.
King's Cookies The Queen may have her tarts, but the King has this melt-in-your-mouth pecan filled cookie.
Billy Goats - This cookie is practically a meal in itself, packed with fruits, nuts, oats, and carrots.
Gingerbread - assorted kinds - thick chewy bars, gingerbread people and pets, or lightly glazed cake-like fingers.
Frosty Pumpkin - Soft and fragrant, these orange or lemon frosted cookies are perfect all year round.
Dragon Eyes A chocolate cookie with a creamy chocolate pupil, perfect for Game Night Snacks.
Biscottis A flavorful variety of biscottis to enjoy with your coffee, tea, or cocoa.
Savoury Pies These are hand held dinner-type pies, crusty, savoury, filling.
Pot Roast Pie A crusty pie filled with roast beef, carrots, potatoes, peas, and corn in a flavorful sauce.
Chicken inna Crust Chunks of chicken, carrots, celery, and corn in a creamy sauce tucked into a holdable crust.
Koulibiaca Rice and vegetables in a flaky crust - butter sauce available. Take the sauce, you won't regret it!
Calzone Marinara sauce, cheese, pepperonis, tucked into a chewy fold-over crust.
Spanakopita Spinach and cheese filled hand pie, with little chunks of potato.
Chicken Aloute a breast of chicken, wrapped in herbs and 4 cheeses inside a flaky crust and topped with sesame seeds.
Soups If you'd rather have your meal in a cup than a crust, these soups will satisfy you.
Classic Chicken Noodle This classic soup of noodles, chicken, and carrots in a rich broth will comfort you all year round. In the summer, we lighten it with a dash of lemon.
Pease Porridge Hot Green and rich with the flavor of split peas, potatoes, onions, and carrots, you won't miss meat with this soup.
Buffalo Breath Chili Filled with meat, beans, garlic, onions, and spices, this chili will ward off the winter blues.
Bruno's Beef Stew Good enough to bring a bear out of hibernation, this stew is jammed with beef, carrots, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes in a savory sauce.
Other soups and stews will appear as weekly or monthly specials, gleaned from all around the world.
Remember, this is our full opening menu. If we have to duck to Plan Z, it will be much abbreviated, and will expand to this more slowly.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Or it is 99?
Things change rapidly when starting a new business, what with barriers and opposition and all. Like a river, we've had to be constantly thinking far ahead, and plotting and planning alternatives in case we hit a sandbar or a fallen tree or a beaver dam.
Flexibility has been our only name so far.
Yes, yes, I know we incorporated under the name Cracked Cauldron, and boy, are we cracked! But we're not broken, and that's the whole point.
The bank rejected the loan application because Manager has no fungible assets, not enough years' experience, and this is a start-up.
However, the loan officer wished us good luck, because she was looking forward to patronizing the bakery - we had a good marketable product.
I think the sticking point is Manager's age. She is young. You can't get 15 years' experience as a baker when you're 22.
And while she appears to have a net worth of zero (or maybe a negative worth, what with her small outstanding college loan), she owns the recipes for the Cracked Cauldron, valuable in themselves. She owns the Cracked Cauldron, all but the few shares sold. She owns the logo, another asset that has some value. While she doesn't own my house, I have given her access to all of its equity.
She's not exactly without tangible value.
So, even though we've applied through a different bank, we have a back-up plan in reserve. We have several in reserve, actually.
But the most attractive one is to get a second mortgage, open up in the desired property as a coffeehouse by Halloween, and work our way up from there.
We will be able to immediately offer the consignment art and performance space to draw in customers in addition to the outstanding coffees. Our pastry, cookies, and cake selection will be smaller than we'd like, but much more varied than other coffee houses offer. We can still have our Menu Decision Night. Marketing will have to be more aggressively guerilla style than paid for.
After we're open, we can arrange to lease/purchase or finance out the larger equipment we'll need for the expansion into the handpies and breads: the ovens, the storage containers, the mixers, the walk-in refrigerator and freezer.
I figure we'll have the customer base to seek a consolidation loan within 2-3 months, and we should be back on our preferred expansion plan track by February.
It'll be tight, it'll be harder work, longer hours, and no financial cushion, so we can't screw anything up.
But we can do it.
Know anyone who wants to buy stock in a really good bakery?
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
There's a new dairy farm - well, OK, it's not new, but it started making a new product: a yogurt soft cheese. This cheese tastes great in cheesecake and is a tasty substitute for cream cheese in some recipes. It's a bit thinner than regular cream cheese, so it would make an excellent flavored cheese spread.
Best news is they're local, just up the road a piece, and they're looking for places to whom to sell the cheese.
I think we could easily be one of their consumers, we need a good local soft cheese for our baked goods and bread spreads.
Besides, I know the owner and his kids, and I can easily go out and meet his cows, who graze free range and look very content, by the way.
So, yay, that's 2 local small dairies we'll help support through buying their product to make our products to fill our customers' tummies.
We now have Sigfried - a sweet sourdough starter.
He's used for sweet rolls, cakes (have you ever had a sourdough cake?), and for yeast pastries. He's a shy thing, needs a little coaxing, works best in soft sweet eggy doughs, just a little tangy.
He'll get along well with our other sourdoughs, filling a much needed place the girls leave empty.
I know, I know, it was supposed to be up 2 weeks ago.
It's all my fault.
Well, and the fact that we didn't get the codes to actually use the web publishing tool we bought until day before yesterday. And we still don't have the address and permissions to use the hosting domain we paid for or confirmation of the domain name, yet - but that's coming!
But, you know, I can't really blame it all on those factors, because if we had them in place, the web pages would still not be up.
I'll tell you why.
I am a total computer ditz.
Yes, yes, I know, I worked for more than 3 years as a computer tech, phone help - and I was very good at my job, had one of the highest first time fix rates, and had the fewest call-backs for repairing the same problem. That's because I was so computer stupid, I didn't know the proper techie terms for everything, and I spoke the same "you know, the TV screen thingie" language my callers spoke. They understood me because I wasn't computer literate. I knew how to fix their problems, because I had really good training, and I was given really good tools to help me.
Problem is - none of that training or work or experience had anything to do with building web pages.
I used a wonderful "baby" tool called Hot Dog Junior. And if you ever want to build a web page all quick and pretty without learning a single HTML, XHTML, DTML, or CSS code or Java Script or flash or such, this is the tool to use. It makes good looking web pages, allows you to put in pictures and music and links and all really simply.
Soooo, I've been teaching myself HTML, XHTML, DTML, and CSS code inorder to use this much bigger tool. (I am not Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, nor do I have scriptwriters so I can play one on TV, so it's not coming easy for me.)
Our site will have an index/site front page that links in to the 13 other pages within it, and I'm thinking internal frames or a frame-look so we can keep the navigation sidebar on each page will work best. Two local artists are working on creating some of the art, although we'll use photos for the most of the graphics - new ones, frequently updated.
One of the vertical divider lines is really great, though - it's anchored by a loaf of bread or bowl of soup, and the rising steam is Celtic style knotwork. With DTML, I think I can make the steam pulse slowly so it really looks as if it's rising, and it doesn't take any time at all to load. Right now, it pulses too fast, and looks like steam on steroids. I want it slow and lazy.
The horizontal dividers are more varied, usually rows of cookies or pastries.
I may also have to learn and buy Adobe so I can create downloadable documents for the Homeless Resource Center. That is going to be put on hold for a while.
The information for that web section is scantier than I'd like for many valid reasons. Much of the information will be available inside the Cracked Cauldron but permission to post a lot of it on the web has not been granted.
I can understand that. Both the people who offer resources for the local homeless and the local homeless themselves feel the information is best kept on a local level and I agree with them.
What good does it do to inform people in Los Angeles that this apartment complex will waive deposits and offer a discount if recommended by us in Oklahoma City? What good will it provide people in Nashville to know that homeless hungry people can redeem coupons for a substantial meal at the Cracked Cauldron? The homeless Los Angeline will not be able to get to that apartment, the hungry Nashvillan will still be hungry.
So, we post general information, statistics, useful tips, government and general resources, and so forth.
The physical Homeless Resource Center will be inside the Cracked Cauldron.
Having been homeless, we understand what it can sometimes take to overcome that. Not all homeless people are drug addicts or mental patients or criminals. Some of us were recently divorced moms with small children, or families who suddenly lost homes in a disaster. Remember the May 3 tornado? Many people were left homeless from that, and not just short term homeless, either. Some people took years to recover from that loss.
Not all disasters are weather-related. Some disasters come in the form of a catastrophic illness: cancer or heart disease or diabetes. The need to pay for the expensive medicine can put a family on the street very fast - and they don't qualify for welfare assistance because often, both parents are working and earn too much to get help.
That isn't the end of the disasters that can strike a family and leave them homeless. The economy and downsizing in it can either lower one's salary or take jobs from a once hard-working family and leave them desperate for work. Minimum wage cannot support a single person, let alone a family. I know this from personal experience.
And wait - it doesn't stop there! A large number of homeless people have work, they are employed. They either have too much debt to be able to afford a place to live (for divorced people, this is sometimes caused by too much debt coupled with child support payments - they'd rather go homeless than deprive their children by having the child support payments re-adjusted to reflect their new circumstances), or they lost a former well-paying job through downsizing, and took any job they could find. At their new lower income, they couldn't afford the payments on their original home, and slowly lost it all. Now, they can't afford the deposits to get into even a cheap place.
These people are called the Working Poor. Many are homeless, not in the on-the-street kind of desparation, but close. They are living with relatives, or rooming with other equally poor families, and all are living on the edge; one argument or one paycheck away from being on the streets.
Because they are working, they often don't qualify for most assistance, either because they make "too much money" (that was my personal downfall - "if you quit your job, you'll qualify for housing assistance and food stamps and utility assistance" ...I don't think so, I'd rather be homeless and employed than unemployed and on welfare, thankyouverymuch!) or because they haven't the flexibility to take off the hours and hours of time it takes to apply for and stay on assorted help programs such as food stamps.
Our welfare system isn't designed for the working poor.
The Cracked Cauldron's Homeless Resource Center focuses on these "working poor" people, offering resources and connections that make life easier for them, and maybe helps them get ahead a bit.
Life isn't fair. But we can be.
Being in that class of "working poor" ourselves, we haven't the funds to just set up this Homeless Resource Center and support it in the style it needs. And because the people we want to help fall between the cracks (part of the reason for our name!), funding for this sort of thing also falls between the cracks. We had to find a way to fund it ourselves.
Manager and I both can bake really well. When I was much younger, I apprenticed with a baker before I apprenticed with an apothecary, and I kept the recipes and methods learned in those fragrant, floury days, sharing them with Manager.
It was the frequent requests to cater this party or to provide treats for that birthday or event that led Manager to thinking along the lines of opening a bakery.
Several years and much research (and many satisfied guinea pigs)later, that's what we're doing.
The Cracked Cauldron is a bakery and coffeehouse that has delicious and unique breads and pastries and soups to please the palate of our discriminating customers, and each purchase will help someone live a better life.
We are baking memories in layers: yummy memories for our customers that make for happier memories for the working poor who benefit from the sales of those baked treats.
It's layered, like our web pages will be. The surface is simple and easy and fun, but the more you dig into it, the more goodness you'll find of a different sort.
You'll find stories in the web site: stories about our local artists and performers, stories about our local farmers and ranchers who supply the ingredients to the foods we prepare and sell, stories about our customers who enjoy our baked goodies, stories about the people whose lives were changed by the existence of the Cracked Cauldron.
You'll find pictures. Lots of pictures. Collages of customers.
And you'll find fun things like games and trivia and helpful things like bread history and recipes and resources.
So, that's why the web page isn't up yet, but will be soon.
Monday, September 20, 2004
Penelope, for example, is pert and quick starting, only slightly sour, perfect for the lighter ryes and heavier organic grains.
Madeline, however, is tart and sassy, just the starter for a classic white sourdough.
And Ingeborg has an earthy twang that complements vegetable doughs like tomato and squashes and potato; strong enough to raise those doughs and keep them firm.
As we develope new breads, we'll likely be employing new starters to handle the new types of breads.
Of course, sourdough isn't the only ingredient with which we'll get up close and personal. Many of our suppliers are local people - the Mushroom Man in Tulsa, the beeves from a rancher just south of here, cheese and butter from a ranch just east, and eggs and chickens from another ranch further east, herbs from farms near Piedmont and Shawnee, veggies and fruits from as many local farmers as we can get, honey and pecans will definitely be from locals. We'd like to get flours locally, too, but many of the flours we use aren't grown in Oklahoma, so we'll get what we can locally, and the rest where we must.
We've visited the home territory of many of our suppliers. We've seen with our very own eyes just where many of our ingredients are grown and/or raised. That means we can assure you, our guinea pigs and customers, of their origins and conditions. And because we buy local, we can also keep an eye on them to be sure the quality remains as high as you expect.
The Cracked Cauldron is owned by a native Okie, uses as many locally grown by Okies ingredients as possible, and provides yummy goodies to Okies. The Cracked Cauldron is by, for, and with Okies.
Or rather, it will be, as soon as the equipment loan for buying the ovens and such comes through.
Then, before you know it, we'll be baking up yummy memories, showing off the talents of local artists - both musically and graphically, and helping the homeless make it through another day.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
To hear back from the bank on the loan progress.
We shaved $70,000.00 off the projected budget for the start-up and first 6 month's expenses, and it looks as if we could shave off another $30,000.00.
Problem with that, of course, is if we do, we might be able to succeed, but we'd have no financial cushion in case something unexpected pops up.
And when has something unexpected not popped up at the least convenient time?
Leaving the budget as is means we have that cushion that will save us in a disaster, allow us to open up to 7 days much faster, and guarantees we won't fail due to underfunding.
In the scheme of things, we aren't asking for a large loan - and perhaps that could be a problem. Maybe we aren't asking for enough.
We are acustomed to using innovation and guerilla tactics to accomplish our goals - nothing in life has been easy, but we've always gotten there. Through a back door, by a fortuitous circumstance, by taking a risk and having it pay off, by the help of friends, by any number of converging circumstances.
The Cracked Cauldron will be no different, we expect. Success will come, and it will alwys be through the cooperation and support of people.
Our mailing list of customers is growing, every time we go somewhere, and all are chomping at the bit to see the doors open up.
In addition to the Three Graces Cookie (a raging success among our Official Guinea Pigs), we've developed a Rice krispy Treat/S'mores type cookie. We haven't fed this to our taste testers yet, but it has the graham cracker taste, the chunks of chocolate, and the puffs of marshmallow. It's a no-bake cookie, because baking it would cause the marshmallow to melt, defeating the textural needs of this cookie.
We do have a finalized Opening Menu of 6 breads, 10 rolls, 5 muffins, 8 pastries, 20 cookies, 3 basic soups (and a couple of dozen variants), 7 cakes, 8 hand pies, and 12 dessert pies, in addition to our coffees, teas, Italian sodas, sodas, milks, and cocoas. That gives lots of choices for our Menu Decision Team to make in future months, lots of room for additions and expansions, for customizations, and for holiday additions and specials.
What is angsty-causing is that our Grand Opening (the first one, the main one, the one we want to have happen on schedule) is set for 6 weeks from now, and we still don't have the bank loan approval.
We have some stock sold, and that helps, and we sent out stock purchase proposals to potential investors, but that's not enough without the loan.
Not in time to open in six weeks.
Opening in time for Thanksgiving is a possibility, it would still fit with our marketing plan. Hampered, but possible. We really want and need the build up to the Yule baking season to begin with Halloween, so when the baking "slump" of summer is reached, we'll have enough loyal customers to see us through.
We've begun the initial marketing plans anyway - with deliveries of sample baskets to the radio station DJs, and with small caterings.
We really want to be able to place our address on our business cards instead of the "Coming Soon" plastered across the middle.
We want to be able to tell our suppliers to "Start shipping!"
We want our customers to have a location they can visit, and ovens large enough to handle the load, so we can bake the goodies they are demanding from us in the quantities they want, not the trickles we currently offer.
It's all about our hungry customers.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
In the meantime, Manager blew a heating hose on her car, and since it is an elderly car (as old as she is), replacement parts were a challenge to locate. However, as of 2:00 this afternoon, she was mobile again. Pity she won't drive stick, there are several such vehicles in the family from which she could have chosen.
We are now experiencing a mail deluge of the catalogs and specs she requested from the vendors at the Trade Shows. Most of the equipment has been picked out, all we need now is for the bank to complete the processing of the loan - the loan officer chose to take an extended vacation, and there's only one at the bank who processes SBA loans.
The loan officer is back, and we should be hearing about the loan very soon.
All our customers are jumping up and down eager for the opening. They are pestering not only us, but places where we frequent and one another for the latest news. We have people planning parties they want to hold there, and others who have relatives coming for the holidays whom they plan to treat there.
We've hired most of our employees, and they are anxious to start "real work", rather than these stop-gap caterings we've been doing.
We need to get our doors open. People want to spend money there.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
There's a bakery we visited that had a cookie that had the potential to be a great cookie. As presented, it was a vegan cookie: dense, chewy and a bit on the dry side. For vegan, it was very delicious.
So, yesterday, we experimented around, and created a non-vegan version that truly is yummy: chewy, with a hint of crispness, and packed with flavor.
Because it is a blend of three popular cookies, we're calling it the Three Sisters Cookie. On a peanut butter base, we added the molasses, honey, spices and oats of oatmeal cookies, and then the brown sugar, spices and chocolate chips of the chocolate chip cookie. We put honey roasted peanuts in it. We would have put raisins and pecans in it, too, but discovered too late we'd used them all up in a previous dish. The next batch will include them, and we'll see if that improves them any. The eggs, chocolate chips, and honey take them far out of the vegan realm.
We shaped them in both domes and flattened, and I think the flattened version is better.
They are excellent with chai, black teas, coffee, milks, and most juices. The flavor of the cookie makes most vegetable juices taste "off", but a mild tomato juice is surprisingly good.
Since we changed the cookie substantially from it's origins, and since a friend suggested a better name, we may call this cookie the Three Graces Cookie. Very Grecian. Fits the symbology of the store. Continues our story.
So, Three Graces it is, with a tip of the hat to J.
Friday, September 10, 2004
We are back from the bakery trip. It was 5,000 miles of driving and many bakeries visited, both planned and unplanned.
Wolf's Bakery, in Antrim PA, has an interesting set up, one which we may partially emulate. They made rows of work tables for each type - I liked that. We might do something similar: rows of workstations for nut-free, meat-free, and anything goes, with their own sinks; ovens along one wall; heavy equipment along another; ingredients through a third, with the customer area taking up the rest. Very nicely done at Wolf's, and hopefully well done at the Cracked Cauldron when we're done.
They also had really good soft pretzels, the salt pretzels were dipped in melted butter after being cooled, then sprinkled with coarse kosher salt. I think the butter is what made them fabulous.
Wolf's Bakery didn't have a dining area for customers to eat on the premises. Instead, the dining area was filled with local crafts and products to sell, fresh produce (insanely cheap pumpkins and tomatoes and fresh corn), and locally canned jellies and vegetables.
The Keltic Krust Bakery and Deli kept some really odd hours - open from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., then from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and we arrived at precisely the wrong time with to little time to wait, so we peered into the windows. Their set-up was very similar to the village bakery where I grew up - the display counters of bread and rolls and pastry with a central cash register, and the decor was very Celtic - knotwork borders and Celticish banners on the walls. There was no seating, and they sold a variety of jams and jellies and bakery accessories.
Sonsie's was much more a deli and bistro than a bakery, offering sandwiches and wine. Expecting a bakery, we were a bit disappointed to discover it was actually an upscale restaurant. This isn't the first time we've been taken in that way, either - remember the "bakery" in Texas that had valet parking and nary an edible baked good in sight? Sonsie's at least had baked goods listed on the menu. Having bakery treats on the menu didn't make them a bakery, though, so we skipped Sonsie's.
Au Bon Pain (a chain - we encountered more than one of them, and they were all pretty similar) was more a deli than a bakery, in my opinion, as they focused on specialty sandwiches, much like Schlotszky's or City Bites, although they did have self-serve shelves of breads and rolls, as well as self serve refrigerators of milks and juices.
Their decor was stark and efficient, and the seating arranged for maximum turn-over. They, alone of all the bakeries, sold only food and drink.
Paradise Bakery (another chain, we saw more than one of them) was another mostly sandwich shop - a recurring theme for bakeries we found on the East Coast. Bakery seemed interchangeable with Sandwiches in Connecticut, Massachusets, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.
The best bakeries, the ones which came closest to what we are seeking to do here, were found in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In Ohio, we visited Benevolence, Omega, Mozart's, Gaelic Imports, and Fidoul's. They were all under one roof in the North Market Mall, along with many other food related places.
Except for Gaelic Imports, they all had their bakeries set up inside the mall, the largest (Fidoul's) took up less than 2,000 square feet, and that only because Fidoul's also offered take-out meals of Middle Eastern cuisine. Fidoul's had many different kinds of baklavas. We watched the gentleman layer together and bake a few, all within less space than my bathroom. That was an impressive display of compactness and efficiency.
Benevolence was a vegan bakery, displaying their wares from tables, and their ovens and work tables would not pass the local health department requirements. They were scrupulously and obsessively clean, but we have requirements on placement and number of washing sinks and prep sinks and surfaces that they ignored in order to fit it all in. Ohio has different standards, and to me, at least, their standards are more workable.
Omega's displays were in the baskets we'd been looking at from several difference manufacturers, and a tiny cold case for the chilled pastries they offered. We arrived just as their first loaves of the day were coming out of the ovens.
Like Fidoul's, they made effcient use of the tight space they had. Again, they had only a single basin sink for food prep and clean-up - something that would have the OK Health Dept. screaming in horror - they require a triple sink for clean-up and separate sinks for food preparation - one for meat based foods, and for other foods, and we'll add in a nut-free sink as well, even though that's not required simply because we want to reduce even further any allergy contamination.
We spoke with the head baker (a charming flirt) and the bakery owner. Like Manager, she's a young woman. The bakery has been open less than a year, and she said it was more successful than she'd hoped for. That was encouraging, since she had 4 competitors under the same roof, a challenge we won't be facing.
Mozart's was all desserts, Viennese pastries and tortes. The baker spent much of his time constructing the tortes, and again, had a very effcient use of the small space alloted to him. His wares were displayed in a single small cold case.
Gaelic Imports wasn't really a bakery, but a distributor of frozen goods imported from the British Isles, so there was no kitchen to see. However, they carried a few classic British baked goods, like bakewell tarts and Empire Biscuits. They suffered severely from the freezing and thawing, however, fresh, they must have been quite good. I like the concept of lining a muffin tin with a pastry crust, dolloping in some jam or fruit curds, topping that with cake batter, and baking, then frosting it. It makes an interesting contrast in crisp crust and soft cake with a sweet fruit burst.
We stopped at several roadside Amish stores in Indiana, all of which contained cheeses, freshly churned butters, and freshly baked breads.
From several, we acquired Amish recipes for cherry butter, strawberry butter, and apricot butter, as well as their soft molasses cookies, and several hearty meat pies. These stores were not bakeries - all the foods were prepared off-site, but the foods themselves gave us good ideas.
The bakeries in Illinois were similar to the ones we encountered on the East Coast - more deli and sandwich shop than bakery.
We didn't find any bakeries in Missouri, but then, we didn't make prior arrangements to visit any there. We'd heard of a few, but since we didn't make prior contact and didn't want to take the time to seek any out, we just drove straight through Missouri and on home.