Is D.c. About To See A Bakery Boom? (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Is D.C. About To See A Bakery Boom?

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We'll head upstairs from Capital Kombucha now and head to Union Kitchen's second floor. That's where you'll find the bustling kitchen of Whisked, a 3-year-old baking company run by Jenna Hunstberger.

MS. JENNA HUNSTBERGER

00:00:13
So we're just trying to, like, get everything into the oven so we can get it out and cooled and packaged so I can make deliveries in the afternoon and not be late.

SHEIR

00:00:20
As Emily Berman tells us, Hunstberger is among many up and comers creating a bakery boom in the nation's capital.

MS. EMILY BERMAN

00:00:27
The sun is barely up and already the cookies are cooling, quiches are in the oven and pies are getting their finishing touch.

HUNSTBERGER

00:00:34
We're doing crumble topping on blueberry pies right now.

BERMAN

00:00:37
Fridays are the culmination of the entire week.

HUNSTBERGER

00:00:41
Pretty much it's like prep, prep all week and then this is our big baking day for the three farmers' markets that I do so it's 14th and U, Bloomingdale and Glover Park.

BERMAN

00:00:50
Whisked also runs a pie CSA where customers can order a sweet or savory pie once a month, or even each week. To keep it all straight, Jenna Hunstberger prints detailed plans.

HUNSTBERGER

00:01:02
So we bake 203 6-inch pies today and then the cookies we're doing about, like 600 or so.

BERMAN

00:01:10
It's a lot of products and it isn't even her busy season. But when I ask if she feels ready to open her own store...

HUNSTBERGER

00:01:16
So I have been kind of intimidated about going that route because it is so much money to raise and it's like a huge financial investment. If you are going to have a $5.00 average ticket, you need to sell so many cookies or, like, so many scones in order to make your rent.

BERMAN

00:01:35
Beth Kanter, author of the book "Washington, D.C.: Chef's Table," says she's seeing many bakers take up this low-risk business model.

MS. BETH KANTER

00:01:43
You don't just jump in and lease a space for a year on a crowded street but instead you take the time and maybe rent space in a community kitchen and then you kind of experiment and then there you slowly grow and see what the market wants.

BERMAN

00:02:00
Kanter grew up in Queens, New York and laments our lack of what she calls those red and white string bakeries. But there's no need to skip town because D.C.'s bakery boom is just getting started.

KANTER

00:02:12
I think it makes sense that the food scene would come first and then the cocktails would follow and just like the progression of a good meal, that bakeries are following suit.

BERMAN

00:02:23
The opening bell rings at the H Street farmers' market signaling it's okay to shop. And at Frenchies Artisan Pastries and Desserts, the customers are already lining up.

MS. ERICA SKOLNIK

00:02:33
There's a lot of people when they come here they ask, "where's your shop?" and I'm like, "this is my shop." You know, it's hard to explain it really.

BERMAN

00:02:41
Erica Skolnik studied hospitality in college, went to culinary school and worked in kitchens her entire adult life. She can make anything but she loves to bake croissants, chocolate, almond, plain, raspberry. She also makes pistachio morning buns and vegetable tarts.

SKOLNIK

00:02:58
I mean, when we first started the market we did like 50 and we sold out, like in a half hour and that was, it was great but it was just, like, I've got to do more, you know, and I was never used to doing more than that. So just kind of a matter of like making more dough, getting up earlier and I think today we had about 100 pieces.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1

00:03:16
Hi, can I get one of the ham and cheese croissants.

BERMAN

00:03:19
She sells throughout the week at Seasonal Pantry in Shaw but it's her Saturday morning croissants that have brought on the buzz. After just a few months at the market she's bringing in a steady $500.00 a week and often more which allowed the company to buy its first cargo van and hire a part-time assistant. Skolnik expects to sign a lease on her own bakery by the end of this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1

00:03:41
Carrot bread with pecans and a ginger orange scone please.

BERMAN

00:03:48
A few blocks north in Bloomingdale, nestled in a strip of new restaurants and bars, one bakery has already set up shop.

MS. JAMILYA SMITH-CANNS

00:03:54
Your total is $5.19.

BERMAN

00:03:57
Jamilya Smith-Canns and Sara Fatell are co-owners of Grassroots Gourmet. They've been growing the business since 2009 and about a year ago they got serious about opening a storefront.

SMITH-CANNS

00:04:08
We spent over $150,000.

MS. SARA FATELL

00:04:10
We thought it was going to be $75,000.

SMITH-CANNS

00:04:11
We thought it was going to be $75,000. We, like, did the research and added the things and put it together and thought about paying, you know, all the people and we were, like, okay so like $75,000. And we were, like, well $150,000 great.

BERMAN

00:04:23
They took out a bank loan and asked family for help but from the beginning Sara Fatell says she knew walk-ins wouldn't pay the rent.

FATELL

00:04:30
We have orders, we have weddings, we have whole-sale to other restaurants and things and then we have our walk-ins which are, you know, the bread and butter of our daily work but that alone wouldn't pay the bills unless we were in a different place.

BERMAN

00:04:43
Fatell uses leftover batter from her custom cakes, cookies and pies to fill the display case. She also bakes throughout the day and is getting better at guessing how many of each item to make.

FATELL

00:04:54
I mean it's definitely a risk. We opened this big shop with lots of bill and lots of debt and thought "God I hope we make it" you know.

BERMAN

00:05:03
They have the neighborhood bakery they always dreamed of and are making it easier than ever for Washingtonians to add a little sweetness to their lives. I'm Emily Berman.

SHEIR

00:05:12
We're putting together a map of our region's bakeries. You can find it at metroconnection.org and you can share your favorite place to grab sweet stuff, we'll add it to the site. Just send a note to metro@wamu.org.
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