We really came to the decision not to open a storefront while walking on the NCR Trail in Monkton, MD.
Until then, conversations regarding the ‘Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery and Cafe’ had rested entirely on sums and figures, dollars and extrapolations. Could we make it work? How long would we be operating at a loss? Just how aggressively would we have to expand wholesale and market presence? The question of whether or not we actually wanted to do it hadn’t come up before.
“Just go for it!”
“If you don’t do it you’ll regret it!”
“You’re young: why not? I mean, what else are you doing?”
Pronouncements from well-meaning friends and relatives were ghosts that walked our reasoning and found their way across our own lips. We traded these unintentionally borrowed sentiments one-for-one and wondered why we couldn’t just commit to moving forward.
It was Wednesday and just warm enough for short sleeves. We walked about a half-mile, turned around, walked back, and chose an unoccupied bench near the ranger station to sit down.
There was a laundry list of reasons why we shouldn’t pay $xxxx per month for this particular storefront: the building was old, prone to power failure, and could only handle a really small oven, too small for even our presently modest needs; there was no hood system and therefore frying doughnuts and cronuts would have to be done on the sly; the landlords were nice, were vegan, and truly accommodating, but seemed more disorganized than we were comfortable with; there were vending machines carrying non-vegan items that couldn’t be removed from the space; and the location was, to understate the fact, “a little out of the way”. And there was the money. Always the money. 2 people working FT on Sweet Dukes = ~1 person working FT elsewhere. It didn’t look good.
But! If we didn’t do it we’d regret it! We’d look back from our deathbeds, gnash our teeth and cry, “Oh, but we should have! Oh, but we could have!”
Then the question was floated; the dangerous, ‘oh-just-be-quiet’ kind of question that knackers and tugs your shirt until it’s paid some attention: Do we even want to do this full time? Is this where we see ourselves in five, ten years?
To be clear:
Sweet Dukes was never meant to be a ‘real’ business. Deva and I had started it with the intention of baking delicious vegan things as a means of raising money for animal rights and environmental organizations, maybe with enough left over to pay for a well-earned beer. But avarice is sneaky, ever so coy, and very, very sexy. Let’s do wholesale! Let’s take special orders! Let’s do more farmers markets, more street festivals! Let’s open up a storefront!
Enough… Enough… Enough…
A group of teens sat down at a bench a few feet away, horsing and laughing — the day was theirs and they had all the time in the world.
We got up and walked across the dusty parking lot to meet the landlords at the storefront for our meeting. They did all the talking. We made vague promises. Everyone shook hands, and we drove home.
This is also why we backed out of Crofton Farmers Market. Wringing 14 hour work days (prep, market, travel, wholesale) out of ourselves twice a week in addition to FT ‘real jobs’ wasn’t getting us anywhere, not making anyone happier, and not making any more money for our favorite charities.
We both have more free time now, even during our busy season. Deva’s started using that time to tackle more work for a nonprofit vegan outreach group, and I’m rediscovering ambitions I’ve had on hold for 2+ years.
So — you can still find us at Fells Point Farmers Market on Saturdays, and we’ll continue to do wholesale for our present roster of customers. For now.
What’s in the future for Dukes? We’re just gonna play that one by ear.