The Tasty Crumb in Ascutney, Vermont, is a small-town bakery with big taste. I am Jaime Dowling, and this is my story.
Starting at age five, I would visit my grandparents for two weeks every summer. My Gramma loved baking and was from a long line of Portuguese bakers. Every summer we picked fresh produce from the garden, and then we'd cook, and we'd bake in her kitchen. My first pie with her was a cherry pie. She left me alone with it on the table mat. The pie ended up on the kitchen floor, so we had to make a new one!
In high school, I loved baking and there it was when I took my first food class. After high school, I had planned to attend UNH's culinary school, but I was unaware of my social anxiety. So, I changed directions, leading me down a different path. I ended up in the medical field, starting first as an LNA, obtaining my RN license, and worked full-time in the medical field up until 2018.
However, my love for baking never left me and I continued to bake at home. I'd make baked goods to bring to work to share with my coworkers. Over time, friends and colleagues requested if I would bake them some cinnamon buns for a family reunion, or if I might bake them pies for Thanksgiving. Soon, I began selling my baked goods to friends and they loved them. Okay, I could do this. More people began buying my products, and they praised them. Oh, I think I can bake!
I mastered my cinnamon roll recipe in 2017, and people loved them. I was selling so many. Game changer! I sat and chatted with my amazing husband. “I want to start a home bakery business.” He supported the idea. In 2017, The Tasty Crumb LLC was born.
I signed up for an apple pie festival in Springfield, Vermont. One of my daughters assisted me with setting up and hanging out with me for the day, and we made a few hundred dollars. We received excellent reviews on our baked goods, and it was enjoyable. I began to think this venture has potential. I continue to work as a full-time nurse and baking in my “free” time. However, when COVID hit, I decided to resign from nursing.
As I baked, I grew braver. I sent out emails and messages to different places asking if anyone would be interested in carrying my items. Someone said yes! What now? I must get legit! So, I started researching getting licensed and commercial kitchens. A friend asked if I could make gluten-free cannoli. Since I love a kitchen challenge, I produced them. They were amazing! I also made traditional cannoli, which were popular and started selling like crazy. Game changer here!
I got licensed and started working out of a commercial kitchen. I was gaining a lot of satisfaction and business was booming. My family encouraged me to take a chance and make another jump, and that's what we did. We began searching for places we might lease or buy with the help of a friend and another investor, but we didn't find the right location.
Then, I saw an empty store front and I called the manager of a nearby salon to help me connect with the landlord. We signed our lease in June 2021. The landlord gave me seed money to renovate the long-abandoned Red Barn Cafe. We installed an entire new commercial kitchen. We opened in January 2022. The Tasty Crumb has evolved from a modest home bakery delivery service to its own location in just one year. It was a long time coming, we finally had a bakery!
Because I wanted to feel more confident about starting my own company, I knew I needed mentoring. My mom's friend, Heather Turner, who volunteers with SCORE, was able to assist. We had Zoom meetings, and she was just amazing. I really liked her, and she was able to clarify things to me in a way that I could comprehend. When business was slow, she gave me information about products we could offer to get people to buy on impulse when they were at our store. She's wonderful and has a wide range of skills.
At first, we only sold our usual baked goods, such as donuts, cinnamon buns, and cannoli. After a couple of months, people began requesting lunch items. We began making our sandwich bread and offered BLT, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cranberry chicken salad. In the future, we hope to offer more private custom orders, some gluten-free options, and, as my decorating abilities improve, wedding cakes.
That’s my story, and it is just the beginning!