Many people who are into cooking or baking imagine taking their food specialty public. Suzanne Markus did it.
Back in the days when she worked in a financial firm her coworkers marveled at the treats she brought in for birthdays and special occasions. Invariably the discussions would get around to "so Sue, when are going to sell your bakery?"
Markus eventually did more that just enjoy the compliments and nearly 20 years ago took her hobby to market with the hard-to-forget name Hotcakes. With no experience as a commercial baker or mentor to guide her along, "following her own sweet desires" as Markus put it was the recipe for cooking up her business. Through the right blend of her passion for making pastries and doing just the right amount of trial and error, business has grown to where Hotcakes now has a 2,000 sq ft facility in Northbrook, IL and is approaching $2 million in business a year.
Markus has navigated the ropes on her own and she had to learn not just how to get a tasty cake on the shelves, but all the other aspects of running a business and handling food. Among the many things she has caught on to is that in order to get out the most product, you want the pastry to bake not the employees. One of the economical ways to beat the heat plus the insect invaders that threaten product quality and the clock in getting product out the door has been the addition of a Goff's Bug Blocking Mesh Door on her shipping/receiving area.
The launch of Hotcakes coincided with the American coffee shop boom, and Markus started out with one of the biggest of them all -- Starbucks. Markus took them on as one her first major accounts and baked pastries for the first five Starbucks in the Chicago area. She branched out to the other establishments that sprung up in northern suburbs while avoiding the temptation of going direct to retail.
Markus feels she could grow faster but she likes the pace she has now. "It's manageable and I am concerned if I let the business grow faster I could go into a tail spin." Work/life balance plays into the equation, as Markus wants her involvement with her two young daughters to be just as active as her attention to Hotcakes.
The steady growth in business that culminated in one million in sales prompted the need for Hotcakes to move into larger quarters, which led to an old warehouse in Northbrook. "The building," admits Markus, "is basically a concrete box that is part of a U-Shaped building with us in the center of the U."
She took approximately 2,000 sq ft of the building and had to put in everything to set up a working bakery - plumbing, electrical and even the dock door. "At first there was no large entry for us to receive goods and get our product out the door," Markus recalls. The door leads into the baking area that goes on to the back wall another 600 ft. In between the only ventilation are the dock door and a fire exit at the end.
Markus recognized they needed cross ventilation to relieve her 14 employees. "It gets pretty toasty in here. When we have the ovens on in the winter we rarely have to put on the heater."
They do have a lot of fans to keep air moving around. "There is just no way to get air conditioning into the space. It's just the nature of the beast. With the ceilings so high and the space so cavernous airflow is difficult and costly."
"We had a bad habit of opening up the dock door and allowing some of the air to come in. But unfortunately at the same time we allowed in some of the bugs. "
The actual dock they built is self-contained. There are two double seal doors, which open up into the bakery itself. What they would do is open up the dock door and put screens on the double steel doors to allow air to come through.
The insects would come into the shipping/receiving area but not come into the bakery and fortunately they didn't get too many coming into the bakery. But the problem is when they have to open the doors airlock style to get into the receiving area and wrestle with the screens.
By their second year she got tired of having to leave the door open to cut the heat and fatigue. That fall Markus was at the World Wide Food Expo in Chicago's McCormick Place and encountered the Goff's Bug Blocking powered bug screen. The next spring she got in touch with Goff's and had an 8'X10' powered Bug Blocking bug screen installed.
"As for the door," states Markus, "we're loving it. The ventilation is great. We haven't had any issues with insects and varmints coming in."
The rolling screen is a 17 by 11 polyester scrim with openings too small for insects to penetrate, but fresh air and sunshine can. The door offers a shade/screen improvement factor to 65%, bringing greater comfort without the operating costs.
"I also love that that you can see out." They can see their deliveries coming, the truck is backing up or if someone is coming up to the building. But at the same time the Bug Blocking is fairly opaque to give our workers some privacy."
(The mesh screen offers a shade/screen improvement factor to 65%, bringing greater comfort without the operating costs.) this in twice Compared to the wide open door, the mesh screen dramatically reduces radiant sun heating while inviting in welcome air circulation.
To further prevent infestations and for fast movement of traffic the door opens and closes rapidly at a speed up to 36'/sec. The less time the door is open reduces the opportunity for airborne insect invasions. For the safety of all the pedestrian traffic the Bug Blocking has a reversing edge that stops and reverses the door upon contact.
The Bug Blocking rolling screen is built to give Hotcakes long service. The Mesh door is rot, tear and mildew resistant, standing up to the harshest weather. All seams are double-locked stitched for extra strength.
Screen design ensures the Bug Blocking door is an effective bug barrier by closing off all chances for entry into the bakery. The door's Draw-Tite designTM design enables it to stay in its guide tracks, withstanding winds up to 70 mph. A double baffle under the valence prevents pests from entering through the header.
The Bug Blocking is part of Hotcakes' overall ventilation strategy. Markus has talked to a contractor about generating a better airflow. In the meantime the airflow has made Hotcakes a much more pleasant place to work in the summer, plus Markus doesn't have to buy productivity with an expensive air conditioning system.
"The rolling curtain screen has done a great job," says Markus, "allowing us to work and not feel the effects of the heat. Based on our experience the Bug Blocking has cut our uncomfortable days by about 25%.
Open outside - The Bug Blocking rolling screen allows fast access into the facility, but not for insects.
Open inside - A 17 by 11 polyester scrim on the Bug Blocking rolling screen has openings too small for insects to penetrate, but enables fresh air and sunshine to pour into the building for worker comfort.
Side guides - Side guides on the Bug Blocking rolling screen provide a full perimeter seal.
Please send inquires to:
Goff's Enterprises, Inc.
1228 Hickory St.
Pewaukee, WI 53072
Telephone: (800) 234-0337
Fax: (262) 691-3255