Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Muffin Man

Jim has accused me of trying to turn his coffee shop into a bakery. When we opened, the plan was to have someone else come up with a few recipes and spend five or six hours each week preparing freezer-friendly items that Jim could thaw and pop into the oven. Then I could satisfy my baking urges at whim, with fun, seasonal treats.

That's pretty much how I roll with baking. I'm at the market, and if they have the most amazing grapes ever, I will figure out how to bake something yummy with grapes. So, to answer Jim: No, I do not want to turn your coffee shop into a bakery. That would require adopting a production line mentality, and that just isn't fun.

We started with the bacon-maple scones and salted bread sticks. A friend developed the recipes for us and made them for the first couple months. When she graciously bowed out, I had to take over, of course. If I had to do the baking, I was going to make what I wanted to make--and that was muffins.

There are two things I love about muffins. 1) You can get really creative and throw in almost any ingredients. 2) they are hard to screw up. I experimented with lots of different recipes, and soon concocted my own secret muffin base recipe. This now serves as the base for many of the exclusive muffins we sell, including peach cobbler muffins, ginger-pear muffins, and the best blueberry muffins in the world. Really. I bet I could eat four of those suckers on my way to work.

The thing is, the muffins sort of took off, and the scones are kind of famous now. I found myself at the shop every weekend and some weeknights, cranking out muffin batter, prepping up to 20 dozen muffins in a day. G was plopped in front of the computer to play games, unless we could find a friend to take her for a play date. I was not living the dream, and I was a bad mom to boot.

Enter "D". Never mind that he currently is our only employee; this kid is guaranteed to get Employee of the Year. With just a little training, he has taken over nearly all of the baking. He deciphers my chicken-scratch recipes. Jim springs ingredients on him, Iron Chef style. (Your secret ingredient today is....mangoes!) D powers through the baking with a positive attitude and a smile on his face, always asking, "how can I help next?" Mom and Dad of D, if you are reading this, congratulations--you've raised a winner, and we are grateful. You should be very proud.

So...I was at the market Friday, and the first peaches of the season had arrived. I got that excited, oh-the-things-I-can-bake feeling. If you've followed our Facebook page, you understand. At the end of last summer, in a desperate attempt to preserve a little bit of peachy goodness for a blustery winter day, I had a marathon peach-peeling session late into the night. I froze enough sweet, juicy peaches for about five dozen muffins. I waited, waited, and just when everyone was hating on winter and customers started dreaming out loud about peach cobbler muffins, I knew it was time. Then the freezer died, taking the peaches as collateral. It was a sad, sad day.

Meanwhile, back at the market...I bought those peaches on Friday. I bought enough for about five dozen muffins. Then I plopped my kid in front of the computer so I could blissfully peel, dice, mix, and create something delicious that happens to be the perfect accompaniment to a cup of frehly roasted gourmet coffee.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Web Launch

We are preparing to launch our Website and it is completely nerve-wracking.

It's 3:00 a.m. and I have been tossing and turning for a good hour, maybe two. I am in a sudden state of panic about our site design, which has been in development for months. Is it dynamic enough? Does it tell a compelling enough story for people to buy from us? Because if it is not, or does not, it will be very expensive and difficult to change.

Our developers have been great. They specialize in creating Websites that optimize themselves for the viewer's device. That makes our site just as easy to read and navigate on your cell phone as it is on your iPad or your laptop or your computer at work. (Now, everyone take a moment to admit we all have shopped online at work.) My goal for our site, from day one, has been to make it quick and easy to buy our fresh, roasted-to-perfection, artisan coffee. My worry is that we have sacrificed salesmanship for a too-clean design.

It looks cool and is largely free of distractions, but what is that one magic element that will make people believe they must, at this very moment, with the boss lurking perilously close-by, purchase a pound (or more) of coffee they have never tasted? Because I guarantee you will love this coffee. This is gourmet coffee at its finest. Pure latte love, java joy, espresso exhilaration. You must try this coffee because you will fall in love and you don't want to miss out on that fluttery feeling in your soul, do you? Can we just say that?

True story: A customer recently walked in and handed over a bag of coffee purchased from a competitor, asking Jim to throw it in the trash. This was $20-a-pound espresso from a company that has won major specialty coffee roasting awards. The customer had made one pot and found it simply undrinkable. She walked out of our store with four pounds of Paramour espresso, thrilled that she would never run out or be disappointed again. Yes. It is that good.

So, barring any glitches, should launch in the next couple weeks. It will be a visually pleasing, easy-to-shop Website that a lot of people have poured their hearts into creating. I love the overall look and theme, which speak to our passion, vision, quirkiness, and the mood we want the Paramour brand to evoke. Be happy. Love your coffee. I think I feel better now. But it will take quite a bit of coffee to make it through the day.