Wednesday, September 23, 2015

And that is how we accidentally became bakers

Last March I briefly alluded to a project in the works but still under wraps because we weren't sure it was going to go through.
And that was just about the last in-depth blog post because we've been so insanely focused on getting this project up and running.
Now finally is 5 minutes (or more) to catch up on sharing what we've been up to.

We decided to bite the bullet and just do whatever it took to get the creamery built because we've been dragging our feet on cheese-infrastructure-building, always uncertain of what the best thing to do would be, and where the money was coming from to make possibly-not-the-best-infrastructure-choices.
So we called our local independent home center and had them deliver trusses. The plan was to create the creamery over an existing slab that was installed by a previous owner with the intent of building a garage ... which didn't happen when the previous owner died days after the slab was poured.
It already has the required drain in the floor and we "just" need to put up walls and a roof.
On a Wednesday the trusses were delivered.
It was freezing (you may remember?) and we were excited to be able to get started ... but the cold deterred us from doing more than clearing space near the slab for the delivery of the trusses.
The next day, owners of a nearby restaurant called.
Their building had been for sale for over a year and they heard we had expressed interest back in the fall (are you following this timeline?). At that time there was another interested party and they were looking like they were going to buy the building. But that had fallen through.
Were we still interested?

This was February.
I told Ren Man I was pregnant and couldn't make the decision.
But it wouldn't hurt to go look (keep in mind, this was half way through a pregnancy and at the start of the girls we were fostering starting to transition home - not that there was a lot of emotions going on in general).
So we went to look.
And it looked better inside than out, in my opinion.
And the sellers were motivated.
And the building already had the walls and roof - we would just need to install a floor and we'd have our creamery!
And it's on a main road (unlike our farm), so we could have the farm store there.
Actually, what if we had a farm store with a viewing window to see the cheese-making?
And not just a farm store with our products - but what if we brought in as many local sustainable farm goods?
And there's high speed internet (which we can't get at home) so my dad could telecommute from there instead.
And since we have the space, maybe we should do a coffee shop too - my parents have wanted to do a coffee shop f.o.r.e.v.e.r!
And Ren Man could bake - pies, breads, cookies, pastries ... oooh! And what if we did pizza and local beer on tap too?!!?
And there's nothing in our town currently, apart from a gas station which doubles as a mini-grocery store/pizza joint.
This could be perfect!

We roped my parents in quick and they jumped right in, adding their own enthusiasm to the mix.
We told the owners - YES! - and then contacted a lawyer to get the ball rolling.
We waited months.
And months.
We felt like we couldn't go too public about our intentions because we'd heard rumors that this property had fallen through before a closing happened with other prospective buyers.
Meanwhile, we have trusses sitting in the driveway that can't be returned.
Until finally the closing happened.
We closed at the beginning of May.
We assumed we'd be open by July 15th - after all, we were expecting a baby in the next few months - the middle of July would give us plenty of time to get the building up and ready, birth a baby, and recover from birth.
I remember ripping out three horizontal barn boards that formed part of a half wall we wanted to open up. That exhausted me in my nearly-done-being-pregnant state. So I laid down on a bean bag that had been brought down to the store, specifically for this purpose.
I napped for an hour.
Less than a week later, and when Rye was two days old, I walked into the store and saw the missing barn boards and the bean bag. I laughed at how little I'd done but how big an accomplishment it felt at the time. I also had a huge feeling of dread - what had we done in taking on this project?!

After much structural work, extensive cleaning, and an impressive amount of painting (that I didn't do, because - pregnant), and debating a new business name and agonizing over a logo ...we opened with great anticipation in early September.

:: This is a very quick version of our life this summer to catch you up to speed. This was all very stressful, feeling we were maxing ourselves out and scared out of our minds in terms of not knowing when we could open or how long it would take to feel somewhat comfortable financially again. All this while I was trying desperately to be in baby lala land and Ren Man was desperately trying to get the building ready for opening and my mom (who thankfully has a very light work schedule in the summer) doing a ton of the farm work including milking and momming me, and my dad was trying to juggle the desire to help get the business open as well as his full time job.
We are doing much better now that we're open because all that work is finally being rewarded - but it was intense for several months after Rye's birth.::

And in the end it's kind of perfect. We're having so much fun. Farmhouse Pantry has been open 2 weeks. And yes. It's exhausting. But it's also so so satisfying. And it's getting easier every day.
It's like our whole adulthood we've been trying to create community. And we do. We do it really well. We bring together awesome people and tribes are born. It's a beautiful thing.
But it doesn't pay bills. And yet it's what we spend so much energy doing, unintentionally, because we find it so satisfying. We love seeing people make deep authentic connections with each other. So we foster that. It's amazing stuff.
And now we've figured out how to make it pay bills.
A store.
A cool hippy store that attracts an amazing community.

More than once we've had friends and acquaintances stop in - people we haven't seen for days or months. They would never randomly stop by our house (you usually have to be intentional about coming up to our house because it's off the beaten path). But because we're on the main road and we're "open" - people come. And obviously not just people we know. Lots and lots of really cool people we've never even met before. Our community is growing exponentially.

They come for the amazing coffee, the delicious baked goodness, the authentic farm products - and maybe just for the free wifi, because believe it or not, that's not a common offering in our area.

The creamery is coming too. It's closer to being a reality today than it was yesterday or last week or definitely last year. It's all coming together - even better and richer and fuller than we could have predicted.
Oh, and the trusses are up and the garage framed. So the would-be-creamery at the house is now actually turning into a garage ... without walls or a roof - but that will come too. In time.
That's what this whole process has taught us. It all takes longer than you think. But through that process you appreciate the result

And there's coffee. Really really good coffee.

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