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8
January
2008

Another Year

Amai window sign

Hello again and Happy New Year! My 2 month absence from Lovescool has been due to long days spent making tea and cookies, counting cash registers and cleaning floors at the new store. I have been working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, but now that the holidays are over things have quieted down. The past few months at the store have been great. The customers are wonderful- we have many regulars, some celebrities and a few tourists (mostly from Hotel 17 down the road, which seems to attract really cool international travelers), which have made things fun. There is so much to say about the past few months, but I don’t want to bore anyone with a long essay, so I thought I would make lists. It’s a fun and simple way to start the new year, which is how I hope all of 2008 goes.

Best Things About Owning a Bakery
1. Unlimited, free warm drinks in the winter.
2. Talking to the neighborhood regulars.
Amai tshirts
3. Having a place to create anything you can imagine, and then immediately offer it to the public.
4. Feeling like you’re contributing to the world.
5. Having a staff that makes you laugh all of the time.

Most Difficult Things About Owning a Bakery
1. Working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.
2. Bills
3. Unlimited, free coffee (I can handle tea, but the coffee makes me crazy)
4. Using bleach and industrial strength soap to wash everything, which makes your hands look like sandpaper.
5. Finding enough good employees.

Best Moments at the New Store
1. Getting our new sign. I feel official now.
Sign on the door
2. Seeing all of the little, cute kids wrapped up from head to toe for winter.
3. The first time we met our daily sales goal.
4. Tasting new products Sara makes for us.
5. Hearing customer compliments, and knowing that no matter what happens, at least we opened and made something good.

Low Points at the New Store
1. Someone stealing a tea pot full of tips Christmas weekend (yes, the whole tea pot).
2. Grafitti “artists” etching into the glass in our main store window.
3. Refrigerators dying, and then having a refrigerator repair man come and charge $400 for less than 1 hour of “work”.
4. Having the oven catch on fire, then having the Bowery guys replace it with one that sounds like a lawnmower.
5. Sitting through quiet days when everyone in town is on vacation.

Amai Customer Favorites
1. Pear Ginger and SouthHampton tea blends
2. Lattes with Counter Culture Espresso Toscano
3. Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
4. Green Tea Cupcakes
5. Tea Sweet Canisters and Gift Boxes
6. Sweet Potato Conversation Tarts
7. Homemade Croissants
8. Pear Muffins
9. Steamed Green Tea & Red Bean Muffin
10. Earl Grey & Currant Scones

My Amai Favorites
1. Chocolate Pudding
2. Croissants (our baking crew makes them from scratch in the store, it’s awesome!)
3. Hot Chocolate with a shot of Espresso Toscano
4. Shisho Sencha
5. Cocoa Chestnut Cakes
cocoa chestnut cake

New NYC Bakeries I Want to Visit
1. How Sweet it Is
2. Puddin’
3. Panade
4. Treats Truck
5. Cecel Cafe Crepe

Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you for your support over these last 3 years, I couldn’t have done it without you.



22 COMMENTS SO FAR...

janet says on January 8th, 2008 at 12:48 pm:

I’ve only been able to make it out to Amai once but I thought it was just lovely!! The tea, the cosy space, the people working there (I suppose that’d be you!) and the green tea cupcake – yom. I can’t wait to go back and try the salted hot chocolate :)

Carol says on January 8th, 2008 at 1:13 pm:

Sounds just wonderful. Congratulations on getting off to wonderful start (fabulous baked goods, awesome customers, burned out oven, broken refrigerator, and all!). Not sure when I will next be in the City but I look forward to visiting you at Amai.

- Carol, the “tea cabinet” woman in Mass. :-)

Mariko says on January 8th, 2008 at 2:36 pm:

I can’t believe it’s been 3 years! What a road it’s been. I am hoping to make it out there this fall for the marathon, so save some cookies for me!

Kelli says on January 8th, 2008 at 5:41 pm:

Thanks Janet and Carol – I hope to see you next time you’re in. Mariko – I would love nothing more than to fill up a marathon runner with cookies and hot chocolate, it will be well earned! :)

Karen says on January 9th, 2008 at 9:55 am:

The only one I haven’t visited on your Must Try list is How Sweet It is — have walked past it a few times when it was either closed or empty. Not sure if you still want to visit Cecel. Queenie and I think they may have changed ownership, the hours are different now but supposedly the crepes are still the same (and even a little cheaper). You’ll have to ask my sister for more details.

I’m sad you still haven’t hit the Treats Truck or Panade yet! :-) Maybe I will have to bring you more samples from them to make you finally go on your own!

(And they stole the teapot too? That’s so desparate of them.)

McAuliflower says on January 10th, 2008 at 1:00 am:

so glad to see you surface. What a year!
The thought of salted caramel hot chocolate makes my toes curl into a happy dance.

Laurie says on January 10th, 2008 at 2:48 pm:

Glad to see you have had some time to update Lovescool! I have been anxiously waiting to hear what’s new. You really have some creative recipes. Did I tell you how much I love puddings?!? :-) Loved the “Good Things” list…sad to hear about the “Icky Things” list. Full speed ahead! It sounds like you are off to a great start!

Ray says on January 12th, 2008 at 1:10 pm:

You forgot one important thing for your “best” list. Making your parents very proud! You’ve done a great job, Kel!

shuna fish lydon says on January 13th, 2008 at 2:38 am:

So nice to hear from you again! Yes, I’m glad the holidays are over too.

Please please do not use bleach with your bare hands! Have you tried any of Method’s products? You can get them at Whole Foods but they’re a lot cheaper at Target. I use them in my pastry kitchen at work and they’re great. There are a few “Green” products out there that you can use instead of poison.

If I get to NYC this year, even for a minute, I am going to come in and stock up.

Congratulations on living your dreams.

Laurie says on January 14th, 2008 at 8:18 pm:

I’m with Ray…add making me very proud to that “Best Things” list too!!! :-)

Sharon says on January 14th, 2008 at 10:50 pm:

I made it there mid December and its a welcoming place on a rainy day. Love the brick wall! The pear muffin was delish and I am looking forward to the sweet potato treat on my next visit. :)

dbdtron says on January 16th, 2008 at 3:27 pm:

Welcome back, Kelli! You are living the dream!

Keep on bakin’!

dbdtron

emily says on January 17th, 2008 at 6:13 pm:

My name is Emily & I am writing to you on behalf of Wheeler’s Black Label Frozen Desserts. We are holding a very special “chocoholic” ice cream tasting with Little Cakes in NYC this weekend and would love it if you could attend!

There will be several different varieties of vegan chocolate ice cream (including Wheeler’s favorite, chocolate chocolate chip, and some vanilla and pumpkin flavors for those who aren’t quite chocolate enthusiasts) all put together in a lovely little tasting party held at Little Cakes art gallery.

Here is all of the details:

WHERE?
Little Cakes Art Gallery
625 East 6th Street, #1B
New York, N.Y. 10009

WHEN?
This Sunday, January 20th from 1-3PM

Thanks, hope to see you there!
Emily @ Wheeler’s Black Label Frozen Desserts

Pete says on January 24th, 2008 at 12:40 pm:

As a librarian and a foodie blog reader, I have to admit that I love your use of the card catalog for your tea collection. A couple entries ago I loved it so much that I sent one of the pictures on to our whole staff list…. Cheers!

latifa says on January 24th, 2008 at 4:58 pm:

if i get a chance in the future to visit new york, your bakery will be my first step.

happy baking

cathy says on January 30th, 2008 at 9:32 pm:

Congratulations and goodluck on your bakery.

Maya says on January 31st, 2008 at 5:28 pm:

We made a special trip from Westchester just to have tea at Amai. I adore the Earl Grey cookies – I may just have to make my own. It won’t be as good as yours. All the best for 08!!

CinCin says on February 1st, 2008 at 1:00 pm:

I just went to Amai yesterday morning for the first time. I tried the Earl Grey & currant scone together w/ the Strawberry Blossom tea…wow, that was a great combo. It made me feel relaxed after a hectic night as a nurse. Keep up the good work!

Jason Licker says on February 12th, 2008 at 4:49 pm:

CONGRATS!!! The shop looks amazing and you have accomplished so much since I first met you! Next time I pass through NYC I am shopping by to say hi and eat all of good stuff!!! I am getting hungry already thinking about it!

Cheers,
Jason Licker

Alicia says on February 12th, 2008 at 7:15 pm:

I just surfed onto your blog from Cupcake Bakeshop and I am so excited because of this entry. I keep going back and forth between wanting to become a a baker.
I’m a sophomore at CUNY Hunter (in the UES), and at first I was thinking that after I graduate, I’ll go to the CIA for the associates degree. Then I decided that perhaps baking wasn’t for me and looked at other things. Just the other day I decided it would be a better, less risky idea if I went to the French Culinary after I graduate, which will only take 6 months and I won’t have to relocate just yet (mind you, if I do ever open a bakery it will NOT be in NYC).
Well anyway that’s me and I just wanted to let you know that PLEASE DO bore us with the stories and info about opening a bakery. I cannot imagine an 18 hour day. I can’t even imagine a 12 hour day because I’ve never needed to work for that long. Do you think it’ll die down eventually and if so, how many hours a day do you think you’ll work? Are you ever going to hire a head baker instead of you?
Anyway I do hope you post more information about ownership and as a note I haven’t even read any other entries, so maybe there’s some of that further back.
Also I don’t live so far away so I’ll stop by sometime.

Congrats, you have no idea how much I admire what you did and how I wish I could do that someday, too.

PS I think that though NY has so many people for hire, it’s the worst for getting good employees who stick around, which really stinks. =(

Kelli Bernard says on February 16th, 2008 at 12:34 am:

Hi Everyone- thanks for your support and stopping in!

Shuna- yeah, bleach on bare hands is not a good thing. We only use it as part of the solution required to clean tables by the health department and I use gloves. Method products are a good recommendation. I need to switch to that. Thank you for bringing it up.

Alicia – I have so much to say in response to your comment that this should probably be it’s own post! (but since i have such limited time lately, i’ll try to fit in as much as I can now) Here goes…

*French Culinary seems to turn out very well trained chefs. All of my staff is currently from there (although we did just hire one from ICE and have had some of their graduates in the past which have also done very well). I personally didn’t go to culinary school, but I do see value in it. It’s quite expensive, but gives you the fundamentals.

*I really do work 18 hours a day at times, but it is getting more and more rare. The average day is at least 12, and I’m thinking about it 24/7 so it’s never really relaxing. If you have a lot of money perhaps you can hire a huge team and work less, but that’s not my situation (and I’m not sure I’d be able to stay away even if that was the case!)

*I do have a head baker and her name is Sara. I don’t bake every day. Sara has been working with me since the store opening, and has really led the development of a lot of our new recipes. Unfortunately she is leaving New York City soon, so I will need to find someone else (I will again be taking on more until we find someone else great). I couldn’t do everything I need to do to run the business and be in the kitchen every day. I actually like it this way. I still have the creative vision for the direction of the kitchen, contribute ideas, work on new recipes and I do bake whenever we have a big order or the team just needs a hand.

*Hiring is a tricky thing. The food business, customer service, etc. is filled with a mix of people – great people on their way to other things, great people who enjoy the job and plan to stay and a bunch of terrible people who landed there by default and really shouldn’t be there. Great people who plan to stay are the rare ones. The ones on their way to something else (i.e. college students) are also fantastic, but I have to expect that they will move on quickly and keep them as interested as possible in the meantime. When I said it’s hard to find enough good people, I meant to emphasize “enough”. The people we have right now are AWESOME. Many of our fantastic baristas have been with us since the beginning – Helen, Alyssa, Erin, Hiroko- and our newer crew are so smart and nice I’m amazed. Jen, our baking assistant since the beginning, has also done an amazing job and is becoming a superstar chef. It’s just that we could use 10 more of all of them :)

Good luck with your ventures! It’s tough, but if you really want it you can find a way to make it happen.

Lobby says on January 22nd, 2009 at 9:13 am:

such a real story..



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ABOUT LOVESCOOL

Lovescool is the documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new.

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AMAI TEA & BAKE HOUSE

An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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