In about 10 days, Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM)’s Just Bakery is going to have a storefront where the community can come into to purchase high-quality cookies, breads, pastries, muffins, and much more.
And that’s a really big deal for an innovative program that is not even five years old.
“This is really cool. We have our own spot. This has been our goal for a while,” Carmella Glenn, coordinator of the Just Bakery program, tells Madison365. “This place is perfect because we’re in our own building. We don’t have to move anything. We’re already there.”
Last March, Just Bakery moved into their new commercial-grade kitchen on 1704 Thierer Road not far from Madison’s East Towne Mall. Now, they will have a storefront there.
“For us, this is a win-win. We are pretty excited about it,” MUM Executive Director Linda Ketcham tells Madison365. “We’ve had the goal of having a little storefront really since the program has started. We really try to manage the growth so everything is doable and we have a vision for why we wanted the storefront – it affords us additional training opportunities for our students so we can learn the retail side of it, customer service, restocking, cash register, etc.
MUM’s Just Bakery is a 16-week vocational and employment training program specifically designed to prepare men and women returning to the community after incarceration to work in commercial bakeries. The program teaches life and employment skills, food safety training and math. The program works with individuals who are experiencing significant barriers to employment (homelessness, criminal conviction history, lack of education, and/or a lack of work history or skills) and who have an interest in baking or culinary arts as a career pathway.
“Opening this storefront actually lets out students get another credential – National Restaurant Association,” Ketcham says. “They learn that skill set. In doing so, the students who finish the program are earning credits if they want to go to Madison College.”
Participants completing the Just Bakery program learn how to operate commercial kitchen equipment and can enter the job market offering valuable knowledge and experience to employers.
In the Just Bakery classroom, students take intensive courses in food safety, baker’s math and science, and life and employment skills. Besides working towards their ServSafe certification, students are taking courses in nutrition, restaurant and hospitality management and controlling food service costs through the Manage First curriculum. Just Bakery trains 48-60 people per year.
“We offer about 400 hours and they can also do storefront hours – which they will be during classroom, too,” Glenn says, talking about the advantages of having the new storefront. “They can finish another 400 [hours] and then we can certify them as managers in the business which a lot of people want to go into. A lot of people want to be entrepreneurs and do their own thing, so this will be some accreditation behind that.”
Another benefit of the storefront, Glenn adds, is that a lot of her students need to work.
“If you finish your ServSafe [certification] we can help you get a job. Just Bakery can help improve your future,” Glenn says. “We really wanted this storefront to be there because we think it will be an economically smart move. We want this program to self-support itself 100 percent eventually. This storefront is another way to help do that.”
The new storefront has the potential to really expand Just Bakery’s customer base. Right now, Just Bakery sells most of its products through catering orders or at farmers’ markets or at a network of churches throughout Madison. “Not everybody attends church, so we thought that we already were at the space at Porchlight and they had the vision of a storefront when they were creating this space, too,” Ketcham says. “We felt it was a good fit.”
MUM will be staffing the storefront with its students and staff, and on top of Just Bakery goods, they will be selling Porchlight products, too. “They are providing the space and we’re providing the labor and the training for students,” Ketcham says. “We’ll be open on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. and Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 3-5 p.m. in the afternoons. Saturdays we will be open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
“There are a lot of businesses around where the bakery is located and we felt this would be a great way to expand our customer base which increases the financial support for the program because those proceeds will go back into the program,” Ketcham says. “There’s not a commercial bakery out in that area so we thought that this could perhaps fulfill a bit of a niche on the east side.”
Glenn says that they have been walking around to businesses in the area and distributing flyers. “We’re trying to get that foot traffic. We’re letting people know that we will have the storefront,” Glenn says. “There’s American Family [Insurance], Department of Corrections, Erik’s Bikes, all of these businesses on East Washington. If they want to have muffins walked over to them, we can do that.”
The grand opening of the new storefront will be Monday, March 5th, 7-9 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. at 1704 Thierer Rd, Madison. The community and media are invited to their own grand opening on March 10.
Short Stack Eatery has partnered with Just Bakery to help make this storefront dream come true. They’ve worked hard to provide store training and quality customer service delivery to the Just Bakery students. “They’ve really taken us under their wing and put the pieces in place for this component of the program,” Ketcham says. “That’s been great to have another community, locally based partner to come on board in supporting the program with some mentoring of our staff to help get this opened.”
MUM’s Just Bakery has really grown since it started in the fall of 2013 with its first cohort and since they launched their product line on Jan. 26, 2014. Ketcham is excited about the future of Just Bakery.
“I’m really excited about how the program has continued to grow. My whole job, at this point, is to listen to the vision that the staff of this program has and say,’OK.’ And then get out of their way,” Ketcham says, laughing. “We’re really fortunate that we have a very energetic and skilled team in the bakery. Led by Carmella [Glenn], they are doing a wonderful job.”
A lot of people already know that Just Bakery has some delicious baked goods. But is there going to be coffee available at the new storefront? I’m asking for a friend.
“Oh, yes, there will be coffee. Do you know somebody who likes coffee?” Ketcham laughs. “This will be a great place to stop on your way to work for a morning treat and a cup of coffee. This is going to be the place to be.”