The Times-Independent

Business expansion, retention, Part 2

Starting up a business is the biggest single step an entrepreneur makes. Sustaining a business takes many more in the steep learning curve required to reach even a modicum of success.

Howard Trenholme

Abilities to pivot and adapt in a changing environment are tools that only experience can provide.

A fledgling bakery was up and running. It offered a new, made in Moab product, staffed by the two founders. The initial result was small and required both the owners to find second jobs. Another new restaurant, the Moab Brewery, offered me a consistent wage from waiting tables. The school district hired my partner as a substitute in order to keep the bakery dream alive.

In my role, working evenings, I would drum some up the next morning’s business. Two months into the new business our landlord, a Vietnam veteran who suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder, saw his dream of opening a restaurant dashed when he was taken to a veteran’s facility in Wyoming. The bakery also needed a new home.

Moab Property Management’s owner, Shirley O’Kelly, came to the rescue in finding us a space. An agreeable landlady, Lilian Balsley, converted an old garage as a usable space for the bakery. Within two months of originally opening, the baking company moved to its second spot. It now had its own space.

The space was tiny, maybe 200 square feet, barely enough room for two to move in let alone bake and sell the product to the few customers who came in to the location half a block from Main.

Customers did find the spot and sales covered the basic operating expenses. Sweat equity poured into the project. Second jobs covered the living expenses and the baking company just kept going quite literally one day, into one week into one month at a time.

During that first winter the bakery remained open since some clients opened all year. Dave’s Corner Market’s daily order helped keep the lights on. Other wholesale accounts starting to come online. Mondo Cafe agreed to a large daily order. Eclecticafe began buying small amounts of product.

Early into 1998, two opportunities presented themselves. Buying a home was the first. Seeing the ‘For Rent’ sign on the Subway located on the ground floor of the Main Street Office’s building the second.

My gut instinct told me that this was it. This was the space for the business. My apprenticeship had quickly become my profession with each batch of product getting better and better as my hands-on skills developed. Prior experiences with the Ritz Carlton prepared me to open a small coffee shop in a sleepy desert town just waking up to its potential. It presented an exciting possibility.

The limited size, the wholesale sales of product, off Main location meant the business was small. Sales barely breached $100 on good days. Any catering options were eagerly devoured. It was sustaining, but not growing and still required both owners to have second jobs.

Opportunity was knocking and I acted quickly. I was the first to the building manager’s door with a commitment to take the space. Then I told my partner.

On the move again the bakery’s small location became the permanent location for another new start up, Hair Safari. Meanwhile, the space formerly occupied by a well-known franchise was being replaced by a locally owned and operated bakery.

Another sign appeared from behind the newspapered windows of Moab’s former Subway; it read: “Help Wanted.” A business expansion was well underway.

When the Red Rock Bakery & Cafe opened its doors once again on Moab’s Main Street in March of 1998 it had transformed into a full-blown coffeeshop. Three locations opened for one operation in less than a year. From two employees to 10. The first day of sales in this newest location bettered almost a month’s worth of sales from half a block away.

Year one, often considered the most challenging, was in the books. It was not without some costs, including the departure of one of the founders.