Friendly nudge puts Yerington bakery into motion
There’s nothing like a friendly nudge to push a startup into being.
That’s what happened to Mary Kropelnicki and Linda Huntsberger, both longtime bakers, when a group of their friends decided to launch their business for them.
“We started making products and taking them down to some ladies we meet for lunch every week,” says Huntsberger. “And they kept telling us ‘You guys should go into business.’”
The luncheon group came up with a few names for the proposed bakery, but Kropelnicki and Huntsberger thought nothing more of it until they arrived at a fundraiser for Through a Child’s Eyes Foundation, a Yerington non-profit dance studio. The pair had made 1,000 pieces of candies as a donation to help fund student scholarships. And much to their surprise, above the table for their goods was a banner declaring “The Divine Bakery: Coming Soon!”
“I said ‘Heaven to Betsy,’” says Huntsberger. “Better jump into the deep end now and pray for water.”
The pair first tried baking in the Heyday Inn in Wellington but outgrew the space before they even started, says Huntsberger. So they leased a 4,000-square-foot building, a former restaurant in Yerington, and spent the next five months gutting it.
They purchased what equipment they needed from the owners of Madeleine’s Cookies in Carson City, who retired and closed up shop in July 2012. That included a pair of gigantic mixers, which put a strain on the building’s power and forced them to replace the electrical system.
“Our electricians, Hardesty’s (General Repair) and Yerington Electric, have been on retainer,” says Huntsberger. “And we couldn’t have done it without Mary’s husband Gary. He’s a carpenter by trade and everything that broke he fixed and everything we thought was going to break he fixed in advance.”
Another glitch was a break-in after the business’ grand opening in March, in which some cameras and alcohol were stolen and the building doors were damaged.
“It set us back a little bit, but we got over it and moved on,” says Hunstberger.
And move on they have. Divine Bakery’s goods — which include truffles, toffee, macaroons and fudge — are now sold in six stores, including Rexall Drugs, Twigs floral shop and Workshop in the Back gift shop, in Yerington, and the Historic Inn in Gardnerville and Trader’s Outpost in Genoa. The Chevron in Yerington and Tahoe Ridge Winery in Minden will soon be carrying Divine Bakery items, too, says Huntsberger.
The pair was meeting with Costco in Livermore, Calif., last week to talk about the national warehouse store selling Divine Bakery’s macaroons and fudge, and the partners are talking to Trader’s Joe in Carson City to carry the same items.
Divine Bakery’s packaging was designed by Kristine Cornejo, owner of Winnemucca’s Great Expectations Design & Creations. And the bakery is working with Federal Express to provide courier service before having its online sales up and running, says Huntsberger. Plans are to remain primarily a wholesale bakery, although Divine also plans to open its doors for retail sales the weekend before large holidays such as Easter and Mother’s Day.
Being a small-town business has been a blessing, says Huntsberger. She says she has to look through back orders to find out what someone wants when she gets calls from locals saying they want exactly what their next door neighbor ordered. But that isn’t stopping the partners from thinking big. They even have their eyes on international sales after recently attending an export seminar hosted by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office.
“It would be cool if it ended up in China or something,” says Huntsberger. “We have onions going to China, why not chocolate?”
The agreements are designed to split the costs of improvements such as traffic signals between Carson City and developers whose projects generate the traffic increases that trigger the need for improvements.