If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. That might be the advice that Kerry Vincent suggests to struggling “generational” bakeries that are teetering on the verge of extinction.
Vincent, the master sugar artist who was inducted into the International Cake Exploration Societe Hall of Fame, is host of the latest Food Network program “Save My Bakery.” Premiering on Food Network Wednesday, March 19th at 8pm ET/PT, Vincent whips up recipes for struggling bakeries who either have not be able to change with the times or refuse to change opting to hold onto the past much to the detriment of their business.
“I am the voice of reason and inspiration,” confides Vincent who serves the wake up call to those establishments that have been around for 50, 75 and 100 years but have not changed with the times. “Generational businesses that get caught up in this trap of always doing it like great-great-grandmom because that is how the bakery started,” concedes that unfortunately many family bakers haven’t moved with the times and sadly that reflects on the bottom line.
The West Australian native adds that anybody involved with cakes, cookies and pastries knows the industry has been “hot” since 2001/2002 following a 60-year industry slumber. “Someone lit a fire under it,” Vincent laughs adding that there is no turning back except to embrace the future or get shutout of the kitchen. Critical of the “business as usual” model of baking, the Food Network host says “generational bakeries rely on the generational shoppers who fall off the perch” and they do little if anything to attract new people and younger people with purchasing power into their stores.
As part of the show, Vincent is given two days and a licensed contractor to help transform the struggling bakeries and put them back on their neighborhood radar. Instead of just being the corner bakery, Vincent and the show hope to revive the establishments’ sweets and sales and prepare them for the future. “When you have been in business for 114 years and 78 years, sometimes you lose the plot a little bit,” claiming that traditional pastry shops fail to notice that trends are changing and that in order to thrive and survive you have to change with the times to remain relevant.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t help you if you don’t answer what the next generation is wanting and shoppers are shopping differently and they are no longer asking for the brown bag with the loaf of bread in it.”
Vincent admits that in almost all of the bakeries she has visited for the first season of “Save My Bakery,” neighborhood businesses have been struggling to survive. She observes old doughnut shops are withering away in a world of increased competition because many family run stores hang onto old world recipes and traditions while fearing to inject new ideas into their business model.
Once of the first places Kerry visits is Viking Pastries in suburban Philadelphia. The once thriving Ardmore bakery was struck by a family tragedy when the owners’ son disappeared along with his girlfriend nine years ago. In danger of losing their shop the Petrone family turned to the “Queen of Cakes” to help them climb out of the mixing bowl and back to the top of the local cake baking tier. While primarily looking to spruce up the appearance of their shop, Kerry’s contractor works on a complete remodel of Vikings’ storefront while she gives their pastry products a look-over.
In most all of her visits, Kerry says the family-operated bakeries are on the verge of extinction because the owners do not want to try new ideas. They would rather hold onto the past instead of embrace change and look toward the future.
Admitting that she does not promise to have the answer to every single dilemma the bakers may experience, the host confides that she is “hopeful when they sit there and listen to me” that they will heed her advice and inspire in them a spark of creativity to insure they will continue to bake for a long time to come.