Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm not a bakery,,,,,,,


I find myself repeating,,, I'm not a bakery over and over again.  Yet that is what I have become known as in town, "The new bakery", or, "The pie lady".  I set out to open a General Store and as far as I am concerned that is what I am.  I just like to bake so thought it would be neat to offer baked goods from time to time.  For a while the baked goods were every day.  Not something I had planned or wanted to do. But I have to admit, I did enjoy it.  Unfortunately, working that many hours every day has taken its toll on me and worn me down.  So I cut back my baking days to just 3 days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.

Baking days are very long for me.  I am often in the store by 6am because I want to finish the baking before I open for the day.  It is very difficult to be in the kitchen tending to food and being in the front greeting customers.  Baking days leave me very little time to get anything else done.  Book work, restocking shelves, organizing and cleaning all take a back burner on baking days.  Not that they don't get done at all, they just don't take top priority.

Pies seem to be the top seller.  I wonder if it is the homemade crust or all the special cutting I do to the tops that make them so popular?  I use commercial made fillings but make the crust from scratch.  There is nothing special or unusual about my crust.  It is a basic recipe that is as old as the hills.  But homemade crust will always beat out the frozen, commercially produced crust.  And putting the pies together fresh on baking day sure beats those that take frozen pies and shove them in an oven for an hour.

I keep my prices fair, just $8.00 for a 9 inch pie or $4.00 for a small 5 inch pie.  I don't make a huge profit on anything I sell but I think it is a fair profit.  That is the same for anything I sell in my store.  I don't believe in gouging people just because I am considered a "specialty shop".    I want my customers to come back, and they do!

One of the ways I keep my prices down is by not accepting plastic of any kind.  No credit, debit or Link cards.  The hidden fees in accepting plastic would kill my business or cause me to have to double my prices on most items.  And doubling my prices would also kill my business!!  I believe the reason so many folks come back again and again is they know they are getting a fair price on the products I sell.

Back in the day when General Stores were the norm, especially in small towns, they kept fair prices, treated their customers with a friendly smile and respect.  There was no plastic to pay for things back then, no extra hidden fees they had to pass on to their customers to make ends meet.  I feel when folks come into my store, they sense that same feeling of days gone bye.  It is a relaxed atmosphere and friendly.  It feels like country and it feels like home.

I like selling Amish made and Amish style products.  Most people respect the Amish and conjure visions of long ago when things were simpler in life.  I find personally most Amish products are of better quality and yet reasonably priced.  I have a great deal of respect for the Amish, their beliefs and their lifestyle.  I have studied the Amish for several years and am an avid reader of the blog,  you can find a wealth of information on that site and also be able to separate Amish fact from fiction.

Some of my plans for this year, as time and money allow is to expand the baking if finances allow me to hire someone for the front end while I bake.  I will be making gift baskets, starting with Valentine's day and offering them for special occasions throughout the year.  I want to add in fresh local produce during the season.  I plan on adding a full line of dip and soup mixes as well as other canned goods.  And I want to expand my Watkin's Products line as well.

Yesterday I ordered the baskets and other items needed to start putting together gift baskets.  I can't wait for them to come in!!  I have several ideas for unusual gift baskets and my imagination is running wild with this, so who knows what all I will come up with!!  Most will be ready to buy but the baked baskets will have to be special ordered so items are as fresh as possible.  So if you are tired of the usual heart shaped box of candy or flowers for Valentine's Day, you might want to pop in and see what I have conjured up.  Price ranges will run from $15.00 and up, so there is sure to be something for every budget!  They should be ready by the 1st of February. Money Penny's Soysations who also sell products in my store, are also coming up with some great gift baskets.  I can't wait to see what they have to offer!! 

Don't forget, the General Store has more to offer than baked goods!!  Stop in and see me sometime!!  I am open Tuesday thru Saturday  11am to 6pm, closed Sunday and Mondays.

Until next time,,,,,,,,,,Blessings!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!!


I am sitting here reflecting on the past year, the good, the bad and the downright ugly.  It was a crazy year, filled with ups and downs, trials and tribulations.  Like this year, it started off with a case of the flu, much like I have now but I do not think as bad as this years.

On January 17th I lost a brother to cancer.  John was in the Navy during Viet Nam.  He had been exposed to Agent Orange.  Ultimately, that is what claimed his life.  The VA said the cancers he developed were a direct result of Agent Orange.  He fought a long battle against the cancer and at times we thought he might actually be beating it.  But the chemicals of a war so long ago also ate away at his brain.  He died a horrible death which was made worse by the bickering, nastiness, and hatefulness of some family members.  The greed over his "estate" sickened me.  He really had nothing.  Those he trusted the most betrayed him,  He had hurt me deeply but not telling anyone he had a sister, but still all I wanted to do was help him. (As I think back upon it today, I have a strong feeling he knew what would happen and in his own way was trying to protect me.) Still wild accusations flew from the deep wedge in a dysfunctional family.  In the final days of his life I felt forced to leave as I was no longer allowed to see him or get any information from the VA on his condition.  I was not there for him when he passed.  I have not seen his grave.  It tears me up that any of this happened.  I love my brother and I miss him dearly.

To me, my brother and all Veterans are our nation's heroes, whether they have served during time of war or not.  The fact that they served at all make them heroes.  Thank you to all Veterans and those serving our nation today!  May God Bless you richly!!

Like so many others who have lost a loved one, moving on is hard, but we must.  Putting bad events like this in the past is not easy.  It never really goes away but we do move forward.  I spent the next several months trying to make sense of everything, but really still cannot.

Also in 2012 my 12 year long work comp case was still progressing through the court system.  In April it had come to the point that it was going to proceed to the State Supreme Court.  An option the insurance company was not happy about.  So finally, after 12 years of fighting they were willing to make a settlement offer.  Understand the fight was never about whether I was really injured on the job or not.  Both the employer and the insurance company acknowledged in court I was indeed injured on the job and I should be compensated.  But each felt the other should be the one paying it.  I was dragged through the court system multiple times over 12 years because of this.  I was the victim of loopholes in my opinion.

Negotiations did not go easily.  I mediator was brought in.  I walked out twice that I recall during the process.  Very frustrated, insulted and ready to take my chances with the State Supreme Court.  Finally they made an offer that although I felt was not nearly what the claim was worth, I could live with it and in May we finally came to an agreement.  I never tried to get greedy but I did expect a fair and reasonable offer.  In my opinion I never got it.  But I was ready to get this over with, so I decided I could live with the offer.  I had been "homeless" for 12 years.  My injury never repaired.  Unable to work and unable to get any kind of assistance except for food stamps.  During that 12 years my marriage fell apart leaving me the victim of domestic violence in the process.  Yes, I was more than ready to put it all behind me and move on.  I had lost almost everything I owned over the years and in the final months before the settlement I did not even own a car.

Once the settlement check arrived I had some serious thinking to do.  I did not want to just blow the money and wanted to make wise decisions.  I wanted a house.  I wanted to pay cash so I would never lose a place to live again.  I went house shopping.  That turned out to be a major lesson in financial responsibility.  Houses I felt I could afford and still have money to live on while I looked for a way to make a living again needed so much work it would have eaten up the remainder of the settlement to make them livable.  And what would I do to make a living?  I am not considered hire-able due to being out of work for so long with an injury that was never repaired.  Could the injury be repaired 12 years later?  How much would it cost?  Do I really want to spend that amount of money at this time?  The more questions I pondered, the more questions came to mind.

Not satisfied with the housing market I had to rethink my plans.  I had been staying at Win's house.  Win is my second ex-husband.  Although we do not make a good couple we are good friends.  We have always tried to help each other over the years.  He had been helping me when my settlement came in.  He also made a will to leave the house that he owned and we had once lived in as a married couple to me when he passed.  It of course had a mortgage on it.  After searching to buy my own house and being really disappointed I approached him about co-owning his house.  The idea would be that I would pay off the mortgage and do some much needed upgrades to the house.  Both names would be added to the deed and we would have new wills written that would entitle the survivor to the full ownership of the house.  The agreement was that so long as he is alive and capable he would pay the monthly bills.  It helps him and it helps me as well.

So, I paid the mortgage off and a loan against the house.  I put a new roof on, gutters, new windows and doors and had the house electrical rewired.  Aside from some interior decorating I hope to do this year this house is now in great shape and should last my lifetime and beyond.  You have no idea how good it feels to no longer be considered "homeless"!  During all this going on I bought a pickup truck.  Feels good to have wheels again!  Then I decided I needed to get away for a while and bought a camper and took a trip.

Originally my thought was to use the house as my home base but to live and work out of the camper.  I was going to travel and work either with a carnival or at campgrounds.  There are plenty of jobs out there for this type of work.  I pulled out with the camper in early summer, thinking I knew what I was doing and full of excitement.  But God had other plans for me.  During my trip I felt the tugging to open the General Store that I had often thought about.  That tugging got stronger and stronger until I finally listened and started to put plans together.  I returned September 30th and on October 1st started working on Candle Hill Farms General Store.

The store was opened on November 13th.  It was no easy task and still faces challenges but I love what I am doing!  I ended 2012 with a brand new store and some health issues that I did not expect but I will not let that deter me.  I look forward to an interesting 2013!!

Until next time,,,,,,,,,,,,Blessings!