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Some feedback - a bakery in Batavia

By Chelsea O'Brien

Peter and I have been discussing an idea for a few months and wanted some feedback. We're thinking about possibly opening a bakery in Batavia. We'd like for it to be on main street, so it is available to people who drive and/or walk around.


I have a few questions for all of you local Batavians and those in Genesee County:

1) Would you utilize a local bakery instead of using Walmart and Top's baked goods?

2) What kind of goods would you like to see from a local bakery?

3) What features would you want in a bakery (ex: coffee, a cafe/eating area, etc)?

4) During what hours (and times) would you most likely visit a bakery (ex: morning, afternoon/lunch, holidays, etc)?

5) Would you utilize a specialty cake service?


Thanks for your input!

Howard B. Owens

Well, you'll certainly have my support.

While there's a nice bakery in Bergen, there seems to be a need for a full-line bakery in the heart of the county.

I have no doubt a quality bakery would be well received.

Also, if you wish, I can see if my father would talk with you on the phone/e-mail to offer insight/advice. He started from scratch what became within a few years, the largest and most popular full-line retail bakery in San Diego.

Nov 16, 2009, 10:28am Permalink
Laura Russell Ricci

1. Heck yes I would...I hate going either place to get cakes!
2. Cakes, patries, breads...
3. Yes coffee, would be another great place to meet up with someone, take my girls for a treat...
4. Morning, right after work (5-6pm), holidays, birthdays...
5. Yes on the speciality cake services!

When I lived in Wurzburg, Germany, there was nothing more I loved than strolling the streets, eventually going into a bakery to purchase a pastry or sandwich...fresh is always better!

Nov 16, 2009, 11:09am Permalink
robert fazio

definetly yes. the baked goods at top and walmart all taste the same. although tops does have pretty good donuts. we need a place that makes old fashioned coffee cakes that have taste.
i believe you would do really good after people got to know you and have a good product. hope you do it and good luck.

Nov 16, 2009, 11:09am Permalink
Kelly Hansen

There have been bakeries in Batavia and there is still Cookies & Milk in the 'City Center'. They have <i>great</i> cookies and soup/sandwiches. In the not so distant past, Filomenas Bakery was in the city which closed at least a few years ago. I do not know why they closed and only purchased from the bakery a couple of times.

My brother has owned a very successful bakery in Rochester for 20 years and I know that it requires a tremendous sacrifice of time to be run properly. He also supplies local restaurants with rolls and baked goods for Strong Memorial snack shops. His menu is diverse he has always depended upon family to help run the bakery. He is at work from around 4 a.m. six days a week and works throughout the day in the kitchen. He has very little opportunity for downtime and at Christmastime, will often sleep at the bakery in order to fill cookie orders.

Bottom line, my observation over the years has shown me that if you want a bakery to be successful, you have to give 110% of yourself to the business. You have to be consistent. You cannot get a customer used to a particular product and then suddenly change it. He or she will probably not return. You have to personally staff the bakery and develop a relationship with your customers. People like to buy from someone they see working hard and remembers their name. You cannot only offer baked goods because people don't like to drive all over town to fill the food pyramid. You have to offer, at least at lunch time, a small menu of food items and beverages. You have to price well - and upon opening. Look around at what other places charge while doing your research and make sure you can pay the bills with that money. If a potential customer sees a menu with what they consider high prices, they will not even walk in the door. Lowering the prices later will not necessarily gain those folks back. People do not need glitz and a fancy place. Customers like CLEAN bakeries - no bells and whistles required. Many businesses fail because they spend a lot of money on the fancy coolers, lighting, floors, decor, window awnings, etc. and can't make enough on selling cookies to pay for them. Who cares if your kitchen racks are second-hand? They work just as well and will be a heck of a lot cheaper. 'Taj Mahal' decor requires 'Taj Mahal' pricing.

If you would like to know more info. about my brother's bakery so that you can see his menu, bakery, or whatever - just leave a comment about it and I'll give you a website link, etc.

I would love some fresh baked goods in town that aren't derived from mixes - or worse yet - come frozen and are thrown in the oven and decorated.

Nov 16, 2009, 11:13am Permalink
Dave Olsen

Bagels, Tim Horton's are OK, but there's nothing like a good, fresh, plump onion bagel
artisan style breads and of course pie, everyone likes fresh made from scratch pie.

Nov 16, 2009, 11:14am Permalink
Sheryl Smigelski

What a great idea! Do you remember Pellegrino's? We used to stop there in the morning before going to school and get a donut. I would definitely rather purchase from someone local who's trying to make it than go to Top's or Walmart.

Nov 16, 2009, 11:16am Permalink
Bea McManis

Kelly just gave you a short course on Bakery 101.
Howard's father can fill in the rest.
A good product paired with reasonable prices and good service are key.
The people behind the counter make or break a business.
Good luck on your enterprise. I hope you succeed.

Nov 16, 2009, 11:51am Permalink
Lori Silvernail

Heck yeah! If you close your eyes, every roll from the grocery stores taste pretty much the same, IMO.
I think the only drawback with putting it on Main Street, is that the parking is very limited.

Nov 16, 2009, 11:56am Permalink
Lori Ann Santini

I think one of the areas that goes over well is pies. All too often they are missed. I know that people pay a large ransom for a homemade pie especially around the holidays. There used to be a bakery in town that would bake the pie in your own pie plate. That was a concept I appreciated.

It was mentioned in an earlier post that cookies go over well too. I love Cookies and Milk and do go there as often as I can afford. Another bakery in town used to bake cut out cookies that you decorated at home. Once again this was a huge time saver.

The ideas are endless. I hope that you do well in the Bakery arena if you get into it. My only concern is that Walmart and Tops are a rather large obstacle for you. Both have entered into the arena with a larger than normal variety of products. Often Walmart has a large surplus that they must sell at 40% off the next day.

If you need helping hands, let us know. There are lots of us that are bakers at heart who could lend a hand.

Nov 16, 2009, 12:00pm Permalink
Chelsea O'Brien

As a bit of background of Peter and I: both of our fathers have been in the restaurant/food business for most of their lives. My uncle owned a bakery in Rochester for many years, and sold it when someone offered him the right price.

Right now, I'm looking mainly for feedback to make sure that this idea is viable in this community before investing a significant amount of time and money. Without your feedback and patronage, a bakery and other opportunities will never really take hold here. Your advice is appreciated (and awesome), but before I even get into contact with other people or invest a huge amount of my time, I just wanna make sure people are going to come see me :)

Nov 16, 2009, 12:34pm Permalink
Mark Janofsky

I would think everyone who responds to your call would be in favor of you opening a bakery in Batavia, including myself. The answers to the rest of your questions would most likely be answered by researching all the past and present bakeries within 30 miles. Try to find out why they’re successful or why they failed. You could always start at home (now) and sell your product at open markets and online (maybe through the Batavian). Good luck!

Nov 16, 2009, 1:03pm Permalink
Joni Licata

I think it is a great idea! We desperately need a bakery here in Batavia ~ a few things that would be desirable in my opinion ~ make sure there is plenty of staff on hand during peak hours ~ especially first thing in the morning when people would like to stop but have to get to work on time! Also ~ not sure of what kind of location you are looking at, but a drive thru would be awesome (again ~ time constraint ~ and parking on Main Street is not always easy ~ it might discourage people if they can't get in and out quickly) and last but not least - GOOD COFFEE!! I don't know about anyone else, but that is what gets me to wait in that long line at Tim Horton's every morning! Good luck and hope to see you opening up in the near future.

Nov 16, 2009, 1:07pm Permalink
Steve Ognibene

Doug has the key. Lots of parking space. Does not have to be big or too fancy but variety of choices are always good. Cake ordering for homemade wedding or birthdays would be something that is not offered in town much. Other than Walmart and Tops. Sometimes trial and error will have to come into play for the hours you want to work. Find a location that has the traffic and not just people but being in a visible, noticeable area with many cars and vehicles going by. Take Clor's Meat Market as an example. They were located on Pearl St. in a building that people would drive by and was not noticed, they may have closed if they had not moved. When they moved to the old George's Ice Cream corner of Rt5 and 63 across from Tops their business quadrupled when they moved in. Also if you are near a successful business already you might drive in the customers. Also when starting business look into the for money assistance getting started. They can help!

Nov 16, 2009, 1:14pm Permalink
Kimberly Ziccardi

Great idea. I was sad to see Pellegrino's close. A nice local bakery would get my business for sure. There used to be one on Liberty Street when I was a kid,they had good donuts! Would love to have it on the southside, though.

Nov 16, 2009, 1:37pm Permalink
Sean Valdes

Hi Chelsea,

Everything everyone has said is true. From a financial stand point, bakeries need a high product turnover since your semi-variable costs (namely labor) is so high relative to your item's selling price. If you're serious about this venture, I would suggest you join (I think the membership is $50 or so). You'll find some start up worksheets there that will allow you to plug in numbers to assist you in determining a break-even point. Also, if you decide this is something that you're really passionate about and you may be ready to move on to the next step, let me know, maybe we can help each other.

Nov 16, 2009, 1:59pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

You guys are welcome to come see me if you're serious about doing this. I don't charge for basic consulting (unless you need drawings or build specs.)

I'll give you an idea of what you need for start-up capital, I can go through the pros and cons of buying/leasing space, and I can get you up to date with health/building code requirements.

Nov 16, 2009, 2:00pm Permalink
Thomas Mooney

Pellegrino's tried to make a come back a few years back after being closed for sometime . They went to fancy with a new building (now ficarella's)and to much overhead . My suggestion would be to make it simple , don't offer to many things that will bring your overhead up . When the bakery takes hold then try to branch out with other offerings . Offer something everyone needs but can't find else where .

Nov 16, 2009, 2:21pm Permalink
Susan Kennelly

1) Would you utilize a local bakery instead of using Walmart and Top's baked goods?

Yes yes yes...I don't want to say bad things about Tops or Walmarts bakeries but how can you call them "fresh baked" bake goods when they come in frozen...Yuck

2) What kind of goods would you like to see from a local bakery?

cookies pastries cakes bagels etc... my favorite is the bread...mmmm nothing better then fresh baked bread ...

3) What features would you want in a bakery (ex: coffee, a cafe/eating area, etc)?

Coffee, tea and dessert and a little bit of a seating area. would be awesome

4) During what hours (and times) would you most likely visit a bakery (ex: morning, afternoon/lunch, holidays, etc)?

Early morning any time during the day... maybe a coffee place for early evening to meet up with friends.
special orders taken for holidays.

5) Would you utilize a specialty cake service?

Yes it would be nice to have a place to order a nice cake that's local. I don't like the cakes at Walmart or Tops. Same reason as before. how can they call it fresh if it comes in frozen...

Nov 16, 2009, 3:34pm Permalink
Bob Price

Don't forget Stomper's Bakery on corner of Swan and Ellicott years ago.A good location,good prices,and pleasant staff are what I look for.Right now we have(or will have) 4 coffee shops witin 1/2-3/4 mile of each other on Main between Court St. and River St.Most offer baked goods.You need to have a specialty-something that will bring the people in.A special pie,maybe a special bread......I wish someone around here would have grape pies.....if it is a block or so off Main it wouldn't be bad.I would definitely give it a try-first impressions are everything! Keep us posted on your efforts!

Nov 16, 2009, 5:52pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Main thing I want is good, fresh bread.

My dad's bakery did a booming business in decorated cakes, and that seems to be a hole in the market in GC.

Nov 16, 2009, 6:00pm Permalink
Ken Rumble

Stompers was the best! They had a wonderful round rye but you had to get there by 8:30am on a saturday morning or they were sold out of them. But I still bought the normal rye loaf if they were sold out of the round. I went there many times, a round rye and fresh cold cuts from Wandryks! What a sandwich! I miss all the old bakeries and meat markets that Batavia had, all gone. Tops has a decent rye but it's not the same. Mr. Stomper with his flour marked smock would come out when the outer door opened to wait on you, priceless! Didn't they have a bell or something on the door?

Nov 16, 2009, 6:11pm Permalink
Maureen Davis

I would love and support a bakery downtown if it had Sunday morning hours for the Sunday morning walks, cinnamon rolls, danishes and maybe a walk up window. I work 10pm to 6:30m am. Any chance of late hours? Maybe a few days a week to see if their more people that would welcome late hours? Maybe a short story contest each week to bring in the customers?

Nov 16, 2009, 6:43pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

Hey, this'll excite Howard, you could bake pies using local ingredients. Orleans county has apples, Cherries, Strawberries grown just up the road. Grapes from Westfield...... I'm sure there's more.

Nov 16, 2009, 7:09pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Her and I are both from Parma, we know where to find fine produce pretty easily.

We have been experimenting on our friends from our home kitchen and so far have a great dutch apple pie recipe that comes in personal and normal size, a few different cookies and a couple of recipes for italian bread (both are mine and both are too dense to me but are tasty). Not too mention pizza bread, zucchini bread, and banana bread.

Just a note we are in the very early stages of this. And we have gotten nothing but positive responses.

Parking on Main Street isn't as bad as many think. Theres a small lot behind Main Street Pizza and the mall lot isn't too bad.

A drive through may be a bit much. 7-11 in Henrietta doesn't have one and they have a booming morning coffee business right between a Bruggers and a Tim Horton's

Nov 16, 2009, 7:28pm Permalink
Daniel Jones

Peter-I don't think that you would need a drive thru. I get my morning coffee from Dunkin Donuts and have never had a problem without having a drive-thru there.

Although I disagree vehemently with your political views, I think it would be great if another local business opened downtown and I would be a loyal costumer. Sounds like you have some very tasty ideas!

Best of luck in what you decide to do. I look forward to the Italian bread.

Nov 16, 2009, 8:26pm Permalink
Tony Ferrando

"Posted by Peter O'Brien on November 16, 2009 - 7:28pm

We have been experimenting on our friends from our home kitchen and so far have a great dutch apple pie recipe that comes in personal and normal size, a few different cookies and a couple of recipes for italian bread (both are mine and both are too dense to me but are tasty). Not too mention pizza bread, zucchini bread, and banana bread."

You charged your friends for the food, I trust?

Nov 16, 2009, 8:57pm Permalink

1) Yes.

2) Pastries, bagels, pie. Seasonal things too, like pumpkin pie and apple cider in October.

3) Coffee/hot chocolate. One of those coffee cards (buy 10 drinks, get the 11th free) would be great.

4) Occasionally in the morning for coffee and maybe a bagel. Sometimes in the afternoon with friends. More likely in the evening.

5) If I had the need for a cake, yeah.

On a slightly different note, offering and advertising free Wi-Fi would certainly attract customers. Probably a handful of suits getting off the Thruway to get a bite to eat in the morning. I'd even freely donate some of my own equipment, set up an access point, and maintain it.

Nov 16, 2009, 10:59pm Permalink
Amy Davis

Ficarella's is making pizzas in the place where my old residence stood, which originally was the Liberty Street Lumber Yard offices before being converted into apartments. It burned in 95 and was torn down. Pellegrino's (the new place) was at the corner of Liberty, across from the Pok-a-Dot, a new building. It's an office building now. I miss their wonderful "peanut donuts" and "leftover pizza". Anyone else remember the "cold pizza"?? It was awesome. Ficarella's was on Liberty on the South side of Ellicott in the building that burned(was at that time "Pauly's) and was torn down, before they built the new place at Liberty & School St. where I "lived". It was "Jeno's" back in the day...
Maybe you kids can get Jack Stomper to give up the recipe for the best loved bread in Batavia! Good Luck with that one! Won't happen...

Whatever happens, I'll be there if you decide to take on this venture.

Thanks to Howard & The Batavian for bringing the chance to weigh your options and get feedback before you do it...

Nov 17, 2009, 12:31am Permalink
Thomas Mooney

Amy , I might be mistaken , but I am pretty sure that the (new pellegrino's )was at the building that Ficarella's is now . The Pellegrino's had that building built specifically for Pelligrino's .Then when the bakery closed , Ficarella's moved from where the original Gino's was to the current location . After Ficerella's moved it went to Express New York Pizza , then Pauly's , and then it burned .

Nov 17, 2009, 6:58am Permalink
Jerry Buckman

Very nice idea, but I feel it'll be a tough go. You'll likely lose out to the convenience and prices of WalMart, Tops, etc. Notice the other bakeries mentioned are long gone. Unless you come up with some radically different motivation for folks to stop downtown, I think the few loyal customers you earn will not be enough to justify the effort long term.

Nov 17, 2009, 6:58am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Jerry, there are plenty of examples around the country of independent bakeries. They have can have significant advantages in quality and service. The big boxes haven't driven them all out of business. Even though my dad no longer owns his bakery, it's still in business.

Any independent business can compete with the big boxes if it finds the right niche, has the right location for the type of business and the owners work hard.

A bakery can be a tough way to go. The start up costs are significant (the equipment, even used, is pretty pricey, and then you've got to have help and supplies), and the margins are low, so you need volume. Volume takes time to build. It probably takes three to five years to recover start-up costs, but by then, business should have picked up quite a bit (if you're good) and profits should be strong. My dad did very well for himself.

Nov 17, 2009, 7:45am Permalink
Lucille Van Son

I agree with Tom. But you are also correct, they did build across from Polk-a-dot first. A few years after that one closed, they built the one where Ficarella's is now. I remember stopping at the drive thru on my way to work.

Nov 17, 2009, 8:21am Permalink
David Christian Hamblin

There is a need for a good bakery with hang-out appeal....check out DiCammillo's in Williamsville...a perfect set up for a sit-in coffee and donut space and the retail area is exciting....
Batavia needs a place where pricing is good with customer service that is upbeat- offering fresh good baked goods....there is an upscale demo here that is NOT being serviced....The cultural creative demographic is alive and well in Batavia and we need to have shops and services that appeal to this group as well....I will drive to Williamsville for a donut and coffee so that I can sit in a warm cozy comfortable place with a friend for a chat....I always leave with several bake good items bringing them home to neighbors and friends since our area doesn't fill this GREAT need. Location is vital...good parking easy access...and where people can hang for a while would be ideal....this kind of business could be a village square of sorts if topped off the right way...mixing items for sale- organic goods- upscale desserts and breads, newspapers and well as your everyday freshly baked goods...of course, owning and opening any kind of business is tuff... long hours required....but it is thrilling to fill a need in a community....create a vision and hold to it....and don't let anyone bring it down...just DO IT!....Currently the "BIG BOXES" are not catering to an upscale groovey client...and their 'goods' are basic and not very good. For weeks now I stop in Harrington's to pick up baked goods from Bergen...I am paying a higher price but it is an easy stop in and out place...
Location downtown would be great to help keep a healthy heartbeat on Main Street...there has to have ease to it for those of us passing by...or an environment that we can not wait to get in and and hang out it right and mix it with interesting products and we will come....Good LUCK....naysaysers begone!!!

Nov 17, 2009, 8:45am Permalink
Jerry Buckman

Fully agree with you, Howard. I think we said the same thing, but your words are better than mine.

I also suggest that an almost certain way to lose a lot of money is to start a business in Batavia catering to an upscale clientele. Count how many of them exist today.

Really, it comes down to those who are optimistic that success can come from a downtown bakery should fork out the investment and go for it.

Nov 17, 2009, 9:39am Permalink
Tom Gilliatt

Mother Chicken and Fish location seems OK they have there own parking now to were before others that were there didn't have a parking lot. Besides I live just up the street and I would like to have a place like that replace Mothers :)

Nov 17, 2009, 10:18am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Mother's is definitely a location we are looking at. One of the benefits is that is is mostly modernized. I just wonder if its too far from main street, bu Ellicott gets a ton of traffic too. Sitting at the light there and smelling the bread may be too much to dismiss though and we could get alot of impulse buyers.

Nov 17, 2009, 11:30am Permalink
Daniel Jones

Peter and Chelsea-Democratic Party Headquarters was at the Mother's location in 2004, I remember thinking that a bakery was meant to be there. Not sure if their still there, but there was a display counter already set up that could have pies and cakes displayed in, there's not much but still some room for tables to be set up for people to have a cup of coffee or surf the net (Chris is right, seriously, offer wifi with a cup of coffee or have it free).

Nov 17, 2009, 11:52am Permalink
Lorie Longhany

I have a very good friend, Mary Margaret, that has a home bakery -- Scratch Baking. She bakes for other local businesses in LeRoy -- Java's on Main and The Farm Market to name a few and also takes orders. Her business model is based on local sustainability with many of her ingredients coming from other local businesses and from her own backyard garden. Just ordered my husband's birthday cake from her -- white cake with a lemon filling. She has her license to bake in her own kitchen where she's adding equipment as her business grows.
The overhead is what would scare me. I have had my own art business for almost 20 years and many people have encouraged me to quit the nomadic daily routine of traveling across the countryside with my paints in tow and settle down in one central location. Rent and utilities have stopped me cold.
I love Cookies and Milk and try to patronize that business as often as possible. Her location sucks, but her baked goods are out of this world!

Nov 17, 2009, 12:25pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

David wrote, "The cultural creative demographic is alive and well in Batavia and we need to have shops and services that appeal to this group as well ... "

That's something I've always sensed, but never said because there's no data to empirically back it up.

I think if you look at some of the fine restaurants in the county, you can see a model for that -- modestly upscale, but not outrageously expensive. You can get a hell of a great dining experience in Batavia for a fraction of what you would spend elsewhere.

Being affordable is important to reaching a broad range of people, but a good environment would help create loyal customers.

That said, you don't want to overspend on ambiance. Not in a start up.

Nov 17, 2009, 12:25pm Permalink
Lucille Van Son

If I am not mistaken, there was a bakery there for awhile, Willie McGill had baked goods along with his BBQ chicken. I can't remember the name of it tho.

Nov 17, 2009, 1:08pm Permalink
David Christian Hamblin

Oh Howard....AMBIANCE is what is missing in must have a plan for it...not that you have to spend millions...but IT is VERY important- to draw people in....I would love to shop the MALL in Batavia...but it is awful inside...dark and dismal....a renovation done right would make it a great gathering place...and perhaps more business' would move in.....just a thought....

Nov 17, 2009, 7:19pm Permalink

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