Art Mart + Our First Anniversary
A lot has happened in one years time. This time one year ago we were anxiously hustling around trying to get everything ready for the soft opening that turned out more grand than planned. Art Mart had been planning for their new location at 1705 S. Prospect for going on two years at this point. Meticulously going over where bathrooms would go, how the store would be laid out and what would be in each section. Sometimes you can be so immersed in something that you forget how foreign it is to someone else. That's how I feel now with our new building and I imagine how Brian + Courtney felt then. I had only been in the store a few times and wasn't really in the know on most things since Hopscotch was a small detail in a vast land of important pressing matters. The tiniest details seemed so big to me then. Making sure I had the correct amount of laminated tags and the perfectly placed plates and special Windex. I think I rearranged the shelves 4 times before we opened, and it was no small feat, requiring at least a Philips head screwdriver and a small hammer. Little did I know I would soon be working 14 hour shifts for 11 days straight just to keep afloat, much less prepped for the next big thing: Valentine's Day. We had so much product in the case I never believed that it would all sell before it went stale. It barely lasted the first day.
Over the next twelve months I would come to learn how to juggle my time between working the front case, baking, and being home. What does and does not sell, what takes up too much space, and how to accept custom orders in the most efficient way possible. That lead to more things, like meeting a TON of customers, a lot of whom have become good friends. It's very easy to meet people over food, I think. It's something you can each have an admiration for and it can be shared and enjoyed by almost everyone. That is initially what drew me to the culinary world, and I'm happy to say it's playing out wonderfully. That blue cake, fourth from the left, was a centerpiece for an engagement that took place later that night. Almost nothing is better than that. We've done wedding cakes, birthday, engagement, gender reveal parties, baby showers, and retirement cakes since then. Sometimes it can be a little crazy to think how many life celebrations we have been a part of in some small way. And at this point, we had no idea all of that would be coming.
Since then, because we bake in the evenings, accommodating custom or last minute orders can be tough/impossible. Our baking schedule is from 3pm-8pm week nights, and at first that seemed like plenty since I work pretty quickly. Our first week open also coincided with our friends over at Watson's Shack + Rail opening their location, and a LOT of pies went their way. Shades did the math and it was somewhere around 500 pies or something insane sounding. Once things started to even out, graduation month came, along with it Mother's Day and Father's Day, and then wedding season hit us hard. All the while we had our Art Theatre orders, Tuesday Market, and V.Picasso desserts. Something had to give. As much as we loved Art Theatre, it was such a small account that we just couldn't continue making a tiny amount of items that were completely different from the items we were already making. They were graciously understanding about our other commitments, and so we put a pause on our work with them. The same had to happen with V.Picasso, sadly, since we just didn't have the kitchen time or space to accommodate, as did Tuesday Market. We just couldn't give up that one day to not bake in order to sell items at another location. They understood.
Our need to expand did not come in an immediate AHA! moment, but slow, and sometimes painful moments. Going to the purveyors directly each Monday morning to pick up provisions and load them in my car in the sweaty summer and icy winter? Yeah, I could do away with that. Our purchase orders never met the minimums of delivery, so that meant among other things, I would add delivery person to my duties. Having to turn down opportunities due to space or time, was another red flag we needed to expand. After about the 100th time, you start to realize, OHHhhh! Maybe we CAN do something about that? The hunt for a brick and mortar had seemed like it was always happening (I was obsessed with a green building on Market Street that used to be a saloon and cigar factory, among other cool things, but turned out to be condemned) but never quite felt right, or was way out of price range. I'm a sucker for architecture, history, and feelings, and those don't come cheap.
After some searching, a lot of showings, and an offer put in at a location I didn't love, my friend Erin texted me about a little building on John Street. 3 weeks later, the lease was signed. In a strange way, I have the same feelings I did at this exact time last year. Anticipation, worry, excitement, over-preparedness, impatience, all those super calm and comforting feelings (NOT) but this time it's a little different. All those laminated tags, perfectly sized plates and special windex have become HVAC systems, plumbing, and flooring choices. It can sometimes feel overwhelming like there's a million moving parts, but then I realize, we've done this before.