When Uptown Bakery in Bellevue, Nebraska was up for sale a few years ago, Wendy Lee and her daughter Jamie jumped on the chance to own the business. But Wendy's history with baking goes back quite a bit longer than that.
“I've loved baking since I was a kid,” Wendy said. “On rainy days, my Mom would always bake. That's kind of what got me started in it. For me, my happy place is when I'm smelling cookies or baking something. I love the expression that people get when they taste something they really like.”
This lifelong passion had already led Wendy to create her own custom desserts business, but Uptown represented an opportunity for her to go into business with her daughter.
Now, they spend their days selling a wide variety of baked goods to local eaters—all baked from scratch. Things are going well, and Jamie notes that they've worked hard to build a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. As a result, their storefront sales have doubled since their first year, and it's easy to understand why when you hear them talk about the care that goes into their items.
“We start production at 12 AM,” says Jamie. “That lasts until 6 AM some days. We make everything from scratch, and that's what separates us from other bakeries. Some places say they're selling scratch donuts but they really aren't from scratch. We don't even have the big machines that automatically cut donuts.
“We make the dough in house, we make the frosting in house. Our glaze, buttercream, angel cream, Bavarian cream—none of that comes in five gallon buckets. We make it all from scratch.”
“There's a lot of care and hours that go into our product,” Wendy adds. “But that's what makes it so good.”
Of course, sometimes this growing popularity can create difficulties for the business. Every business owner has to learn as they go—as Wendy puts it, when you first start to run a business, “you don't know what you don't know.” And because making these products is a 5+ hour process, that means if they sell out, they can't make additional trays.
“There are some days where we could've sold another 25 trays,” she says.
And despite all the talk of donuts and pastries, their most popular item is their glazed croissant, which has won several local awards. Their custom cake business is booming, and while their strawberry wedding cake is extremely popular, Wendy is ready to take on even the most difficult requests.
“I just did my first turtle,” Wendy said. ”They wanted a turtle on the cake that looked like a real, live turtle. Turned out really well, but it was a challenge.
“We get a lot of really fun requests all the time, anywhere from cartoon characters to super heroes to sports figures to wedding cakes to anniversary cakes. We do the whole gamut.”
With so many different items, it helps to have a good point-of-sale (POS) to make the checkout process easy. When they took over the store, though, they inherited a simple cash register from 1962, and they had to enter everything manually.
"In their time since taking over Uptown Bakery, Wendy and Jamie have experienced some ups and downs, and they've learned a lot."
Jamie, who has worked in the restaurant industry for many years and has experience using restaurant-specific POS systems, knew they wanted a setup that could do more for them.
“I was looking for something that I could integrate a menu on, something more up-to-date. We wanted to do food cost and food percentages, have receipts, and have a faster customer experience.”
After exploring several options but finding them insufficient, their bank suggested the Vital® POS. They've been happy with the experience, and say they'd recommend it to other businesses.
“It's been a good all-around experience,” said Jamie. “Anytime we have questions on it, we've been able to get a hold of someone pretty quickly. We don't have to wait on hold for a long time to get somebody.”
“Customers like the big screen, and they like how it flips. They like the print and email options for the receipts, we get a lot of comments on that.”
Vital takes care of the payments, and that lets Wendy focus on her true passion of baking. In their time since taking over Uptown Bakery, Wendy and Jamie have experienced some ups and downs, and they've learned a lot. But in the end, Wendy's biggest piece of advice to other potential entrepreneurs and small business owners is to follow their passion.
“I'm the sort of person that says, if you've got a dream, jump in and go for it. Quit talking about it. It's not going to be easy all the time—there will be really, really good days and some not so good days. But if it's your passion, go for it.”