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A Dozen Hot Tips for Starting a Bakery

Buy used. A bakery requires a lot of equipment, like commercial-size mixers, ovens, racks, sheets and refrigerator, just to name a few. Keep start-up costs under control by buying as much used as you can.

Feng Shui it. You don't have to hire a feng shui expert, but you should consult a spacial planner when designing your bakery. Experts say flow is important, from the moment your customer opens the door, looks at the case of goodies, orders and pays. There should be no traffic jams. Grove is spending $15,000 to create his new flagship shop.

Kitchen organization is also essential as it affects production. "People sometimes don't leave enough space for proper storage," explains Casaceli, who is also owner of Manhattan's Milk & Cookies Bakery. "Storage is very important because inventory is important. People waste a lot of money on inventory because things are not stored properly, or they don't know where it is. If you don't make it obvious for employees, they are not going to go the extra mile to look for it. They'll simply order more; it's not their money."

Government issued. Like all food businesses, bakeries must have permits and subject themselves to health department inspections. And in the case of New York City, someone in a kitchen needs a food handlers license. "That license has to hang in the kitchen," says Connolly, "and if that person is not present when that inspector comes, they will shut you down."

How much will it cost? Starting a bakery is no cakewalk. It can run you up to $200,000. Rent, labor and ingredients are expensive. Not surprisingly, upscale is the way most bakeries are going. But given the current economic slowdown, price can be an issue. "When the money is flowing, if it costs 50% more, it's OK because it's organic," says Kalupa. But now when it's a matter of gas for their car vs. organic, customers will opt for gas. "If Starbucks and Whole Foods is off 20% -- and that's the number we've been off too this year -- we're starting to see the effects of a bad economy on the organic market."

So open a bakery only if you will not let anything stand in your way. "There are many road blocks," says Alan Furman. "But you can't let yourself consider the possibility that it is not going to work. If that is not your personal characteristic, then I am not sure if it's the right thing for you to do. There is so much competition. You have to believe in yourself."

Got a story idea? Email Lan.thestreet@hotmail.com.
Lan Nguyen is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has written for the New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, Worth magazine and Star magazine.
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