Mother’s Visit Breaks All Sales Records!

Running a bakery basically means two things to me right now: working and sleeping. That’s it. Left to my own devices, that’s all I would do. Fortunately, I have friends in town and guests visiting who have allowed/prodded/cajoled me to get out and do more. And because of how exhausted I am at the end of each day and week, the blog has fallen by the wayside. However, I’ve managed to muster the energy to bring you all an update on what recent events at Canela Antigua have been like!

WEEK FIVE

Sourdough in formation, resting before the final shaping.

The fifth week of the bakery kicked off with an average Wednesday – literally middle of the road, placing it #3 in sales out of the five total Wednesdays. The previous Wednesday had been the best one since opening day and I had been hoping to replicate that success. As well, the previous weekend had been very strong and was anticipating carryover from that, as well. But retail and food are both tricky businesses, with hard-to-predict flows.

Treats on sale at Impact Hub on Thursday afternoon.

The slower Wednesday ended up not being predictive of what was to come, because Thursday ended up as my best weekday ever, and the second-best day ever in the store. (First place was the previous Saturday, so I was on a roll.) The sales that day were boosted by my now-weekly appearances at Impact Hub on Thursday afternoons.

First challah Friday, beginning with a sourdough version.

The Crazy Cookie makes its debut.

Friday was the one-month anniversary of the store’s opening, and I celebrated by unveiling a new cookie – the Crazy Cookie. It is filled with walnuts, oats, chocolate, toasted coconut and corn flakes. Plus, on anniversary day, I sold it for only Q5 – half the price of normal cookies. We sold over two dozen of them and it lifted the store to its best-ever day of sales! The introduction of challah to my bread selection probably helped as well. I went with a sourdough challah for the first round, and planned to do a traditional challah the next week. Then, based on customer feedback, I’d stick with whichever one customers preferred.

Cranberry walnut sourdough makes its debut on Saturday.

The growth continued on Saturday, perhaps boosted by my first fruit-and-nut sourdough, featuring cranberries and walnuts. Saturday was a super-busy day, and it finished as the brand-new #2 day in sales. We were selling babka super fast – so much so that we were baking big batches in the morning (eight loaves) and having little to none left by closing. It was crazy!

Waiting at the airport for Mom to emerge.

Sunday morning, Raul picked me up at 5 am so that we could head to the airport. My very first visitor to Antigua was on her way….my mom! I had posted on the Canela page that we might be opening late that day, because I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to get back to Antigua and for me to then get everything baked for the morning.

However, Mom made it through customs and baggage very quickly, and it was so much fun to finally see her after four months away. Not seeing each other for four months wasn’t out of the ordinary during the twenty-one years I spent in Chicago. However, after returning to the West Coast for the previous two-plus years – first to San Francisco, where we saw each other at least every six weeks; then Los Angeles, where at least once a week was the norm – the expectations had changed.

We made it back to Antigua with plenty of time to get the bakery ready for opening. Mom unpacked and got acclimated, while I did my stuff in the bakery. I was very excited to receive the bounty of supplies she brought down for me too!

Supplies from California.

We got the bakery open on time, and it was really the perfect first day for Mom to be here. Sundays are the lightest days in terms of work, because there’s no bread dough to prepare for the next day, and much of the prep for the next week is done on Tuesdays. So we could relax and enjoy ourselves, and deal with customers. And boy were there customers! Despite having had my two best days ever on Friday and Saturday, we broke all the records on Sunday. We were constantly reloading the cookie case, the bread sold out well before noon, and by the time we closed the doors at 4 pm, we were down to just a few cookies.

All that remained on Sunday afternoon.

It was a busy, exhausting and exciting day in the bakery and a great first one for my mom to see. As it’s the one day the bakery is open in which Lucia doesn’t come to clean, the two of us tidied up a bit and then collapsed on the couches upstairs. I don’t remember if we even had dinner. Mom was tired after her red-eye flight, and I was tired because…that’s what I do! We were both looking forward to a relaxing Monday.

Mom excited to see one of my sister’s brands represented here in Antigua.

On my one true day off, our only daytime venture out – if I recall correctly – was a trip to the mercado and La Bodegona. I did my weekly shopping for both our personal use (fruits, veggies) and bakery uses (limes, peanuts, avocados), and then went to Bodegona for some additional purchases. I offered the use of a tuk-tuk to take us back, but Mom was determined to walk home. By the time we returned, loaded down with groceries and other items, we were hot and sweaty and hungry. So I made us some (late) breakfast and then we retired upstairs for most of the rest of the day.

Interior of Ni Fu Ni Fa steakhouse.

My entraña (skirt steak). Best steak I’ve had in Guatemala.

We rallied ourselves to head out to an early dinner on Monday evening, heading to an Argentinian steakhouse that I’d never been to before (but had heard great things about). We were the only people there in this big, open, floral space and it was a lovely dinner. We munched on the salad bar, enjoyed our steaks and then headed home to get to bed early. The next day was going to be a big prep day and we needed our rest and energy. After the blockbuster sales of the past week, there was more to prep than normal.

WEEK SIX

I got the bread started early, and told Mom not to worry about racing to get ready. By the time I was working on other projects – which she could help with – she was ready to go. It was a long morning and early afternoon of making cookie dough, rolling out babka, prepping sourdough bread, making blondies and brownies and more. It was hot and sweaty in the kitchen as we raced around, doing everything, but Mom was a trouper.

Tuesday’s work cools on the racks.

I always aim to be wrapped up by 1 pm on Tuesdays, so that I can have the afternoon to relax. Even with the extra workload, we finished just a little after my deadline. As a reward, we went out to lunch at my favorite pupusa place. Mom hadn’t had pupusas before and so she wisely started with one. However, she enjoyed it and ended up getting another!

Pupusas for a late lunch/reward.

Our second reward, when back at the house, was to cut the blondies up. Now that they were cool, we could trim the edges (and eat them!) and put the double-batch of blondies away for the week’s use. After some additional tasks, we retired upstairs to relax some more. We then headed into town for a little bit of errand-running before meeting our crew at trivia night. We ended up with a big group of eight or nine people, and had a lot of fun playing. But with the clock ticking, and a long day on our feet behind us, Mom and I headed out right after trivia wrapped up and went straight to bed!

And wouldn’t you know it…Wednesday picked up right where Sunday left off, with a brand-new sales record! Mom was some good luck charm! She worked hard, she was great with the customers, she practiced using her long-dormant Spanish, and we all had fun. Over the course of her trip, she did a lot of dishes, which I did (and still do) feel bad about. But she said she didn’t mind at all, and it was an enormous help. Just the two of us in the bakery, managing everything in the front and the back!

Traditional challah, braided and ready to rise on Thursday afternoon.

Components of another round of crazy cookies.

Me and my babka.

Thursday was a busy day, but it didn’t continue the run of record sales. It still managed to be a top-ten day overall, and was buoyed once again by a successful trip to Impact Hub after the shop closed. With Mom’s week already (sadly) drawing near its completion, we had our farewell dinner out on Thursday night, as Friday night was going to be a busy one. So we headed to the lovely terrace at Tartines, one of my long-time, all-time favorite restaurants here. And it was my first time eating there since moving back! I couldn’t have chosen a better occasion.

The view from the terrace at Tartines.

Mother-and-son selfie at Tartines.

It was sad to wake up on Friday morning and know it was Mom’s last day in the bakery. I think she would have stayed if she could have, but there were obligations back in LA (not to mention Michael, who was undoubtedly missing her as much as I was about to).

Friday morning’s bread spread.

A devilish amount of butter.

Building cookie boxes.

Mom’s final day in the bakery ended up being another super busy one, falling just a little bit short of setting a new record for sales. It ended up in second place, which meant that of the four days that the bakery was open during my mom’s visit, three of them were (and still are) the top three days ever! Pretty good track record.

Our final dinner: a Shabbat meal.

With an even earlier departure on Saturday morning, to get Mom to the airport, we had an early dinner as I tried to get as much ready for Saturday morning as I could. Then Mom packed and I cleaned up, and before you knew it, we were in bed, not excited about the 4 am arrival of Raul and his car.

Nevertheless, we were ready for him when he arrived and the ride to the airport was a quick one. I walked Mom inside and made sure she knew exactly where to check in. Luckily, she had Sky Priority and was able to head to a much shorter line. She was through security before I made it back to Antigua. It was weird to walk back into the bakery and not have her be there. I’ll be honest…it was a very hard day for me. Luckily, Seidi was working that day and was able to help shoulder the burden.

Not surprisingly, the void left behind by mom’s departure carried over into the sales for the day. With her aura back in the States (or on its way), the bakery had its worst sales day in over three weeks! And Sunday was even worse. On the plus side, the volume of sales I’d been doing with Mom in town, and right before she arrived, had been at a breakneck pace. The slower weekend – while not what I would have chosen – did at least allow me to take a deep breath and catch up. The combination of physical and emotional exhaustion meant that the Monday ahead, a day of relaxation, couldn’t have come at a better time.

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