Picking up where I left off, the week featuring the launch of ice cream sandwiches and paninis was a decent one, but it ended with a very, very slow Sunday. So as we looked ahead to the following week (and the start of September), I felt that pushing my ice cream sandwich day to Sunday might help me boost sales.
Jeffrey purees the roasted strawberries for a new ice cream flavor.
Considering the sizable contingent of customers who opt for my vegan chocolate chip cookies and vegan brownies, I figured that the vegetarian (and vegan) panini would be an attractive addition to the menu. Like the chorizo sandwich, in which it’s pretty quick to put the operation together, I aimed for similar components for this panini.
It’s been about a month since my last post, and while business has been kind of slow, a lot has transpired in that time period. From a broad bakery standpoint, August-into-September was very quiet. Having never been in Antigua during this time of year, I didn’t know in advance that September is the deadest month of the year. From the boom of July, to a moderate pace in August, as I approached September, I could see what people were talking about.
So while the volume of sales wasn’t what I’d seen before, the relative quiet of the time of year allowed for us to innovate in the bakery and look ahead at expanding our menu and variety of offerings.
Close-up of the chorizo and mozzarella scone.
Readjusting to being alone again in the house took some time. But I had plenty to keep me busy, and focused on the week ahead. I was hoping that the lull from the weekend was just an aberration, and geared up for what I hoped was a return to busy days and lots of sales.
Decorations up in Parque Central for a local holiday.
Scoping out the internet situation.
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!
Sourdough in formation, resting before the final shaping.
As I write this post, I have just concluded the fourth week of the bakery’s existence. It’s been a tiring, exhilarating and delicious start. Like any retail business, it’s had its ebbs and flows. There are periods where no one comes in for an hour or two, and then we get a rush of people all at once. No way to predict it, no way to plan for it. You just have to be ready to drop whatever side project you’re doing and tend to the customers.
Between being open five days a week and using a sixth day to prep, there hasn’t been much time (or energy) for much else. I try to get outside when I can, but I’m often much more inclined to retire upstairs to the couch at the end of a long day on my feet.
Here’s a look at what weeks two, three and four brought:
Adding some herbs to my small outdoor garden.
The fact that I actually opened my own bakery last week is still very bizarre. It makes me think back to my previous career as a teacher. After volunteering in classrooms in college, and working as an assistant while getting my teaching certificate in grad school, I was always under someone else’s purview. As much free reign as I might be given, as much independence I may have earned, it was still always someone else’s classroom. When I finally became a real, honest-to-goodness teacher and had my very first class, it was unreal. “I’m the one the students go to first when they need something?” “I get to make all the decisions?” It took some getting used to.
Fast forward seventeen years, and there’s very little difference. I went to pastry school. I worked as a newbie in a bakery. I worked as a slightly more experienced baker at the next job, where I was given more respect and latitude. I got my first recipe on the menu (just like teaching my first lesson as an assistant). Eventually I even got to be part of the opening of a bakery, hiring staff, designing the schedule (just like student teaching). And now…now!…I actually have opened the doors of a bakery I created myself – although with plenty of input and assistance from others – and I still don’t quite believe it.
While Memorial Day weekend isn’t really a thing here, I kind of had an American-style celebration anyway. On Sunday, I headed out towards the area called Escuintla to a private finca (coffee plantation) called Finca El Zapote. While no longer an actual coffee plantation, it is now open to the public either by renting out one of the guest houses on site, or during their infrequent public days.
On this particular weekend, my friends Marina and Lico had arranged for one of the large guest houses for the weekend. Everyone was invited to come out Saturday and spend the night, or just visit for the day on Sunday. Due to Caoba – and lack of transportation – Saturday was out for me. But fortunately, some people heading out on Sunday morning had an extra seat in the car for me and off we went.
I had heard that it was important to have 4×4 vehicles to get there, especially during the rainy season. While the destination was only about 15 miles from Antigua, the last third of it (by distance) was over unpaved, rocky, bumpy roads. And you’d also need to cross some small rivers. It turned out that there were four rivers to cross, and we were fortunate it hadn’t been too rainy lately. Here’s our car crossing the fourth and final (and deepest) river: