Opening the Bakehouse has not been without its challenges (or “opportunities for growth”). It seems like there is something new every week. We haven’t been quite sure which parts of our journey to share. In thinking about our current challenge, we realized that we really should be open about the ups and downs of moving to Red Oak to open this bakery.
A big part of running this bakery is our inventory control. In short, how much flour do we keep on hand at any point in time. In the beginning, we placed a few HUGE orders to make sure we didn’t run low and to make sure that our shipping costs didn’t exceed the cost of flour. This ended up hurting our cash flow because we had to have a much bigger chunk of change in order to place orders. We scaled down the order size with our original mill but then freight costs and lead times were hurting us. At one point, the cost of freight was an additional 60% mark up!
Changing to our new mill here in Iowa has freed us up a bit to place orders in a way that works well for the business. We can order more reasonable amounts of flour that leave us A BIT of money in the bank. More than that, we can place orders when we need and the lead times and freight costs are such that we can rely on orders coming faster and more cost effectively.
From a baking perspective, this means you are ALWAYS getting bread from us with fresh flour. The flour we use is milled to order and we consume what we order within two weeks max.
During the last few months we’ve greatly scaled back what we’ve been ordering and are really running as lean as possible. Our current problem is that all of the new weekly markets we’ve added have really been taking off but we did not adjust our flour purchasing fast enough. As of this morning we don’t have enough flour in the bakery to make it through the weekend. We placed an order this week and will place another next week. This should have us better prepared to keep up with the amount we’re currently involved in.
Without enough flour to make it through the next few days we faced a few different options for what to do.
Try to make it through and hope for a “loaves and fishes” type miracle.
Figure out which day is quietest.
Buy commercial flour from the store and hope no one notices.
Option 1 seemed a bit presumptuous. Option 3 isn’t really an option (more on that in a minute). We decided that option 2 was the best way forward this weekend.
Fridays have been the quietest day of the week at the Bakehouse for some time now. That being the case, we’ve decided to take a furlough day tomorrow and open back up on Saturday.
As to running to the Restaurant Depot and buying a big sack of commercial flour, that really isn’t an option. We stand behind the quality of our ingredients and are much happier to close rather than compromise on that. The heritage and ancient grains that we use in EVERYTHING that comes out of the ovens here make a huge difference in favor and nutrition. There really is no substitute that is readily available at the store. We currently use 5 varieties of wheat (White Sonora, Red Fife, Yecora Rojo, Spelt, Rye) to produce all the breads, cookies and baked goods we produce every day. Different breads have different blends of each of these to bring you the best and most diverse flavors in each of our breads. Within the heritage grains, there is sometimes a necessary substitution. For example, we won’t have any more Red Fife for the next few weeks as they are about to harvest. In the interim we are using Turkey Red. This is a different variety of hard winter red wheat. The flavor profile is a bit different (Red Fife has a subtle note of cinnamon that is really lovely) but the QUALITY of the flour is still the same.
When the Red Fife is available again we’ll have a tasting day. We’ll have 2 versions of our baguette: one with Red Fife, one with Turkey Red. You’ll notice the difference comparing them back to back even with the Red flour making up just 1/3 of the flour in that particular bread.
Thanks everyone for your patience, understanding and continual support! We’ll see you on Saturday.