Recently I had the pleasure of participating in old town Manassas’s first Jolly Ol’ Confections event. During the event I had the even greater pleasure of speaking with so many people who were trying The Shameless Bakery’s Impossible cupcake samples. And within all those people trying the samples, I heard from quite a few repeat customers who had either purchased from us or were given some of our baked goods as a gift in the past. And from those people I heard the same inquiry I had sparsely been receiving from our website and Facebook recently and that was:
“What’s going on with the bakery? We haven’t seen you around or seen any updates recently!”
On October 28 I unfortunately took a pretty horrific fall and injured my knee and leg. At the time of the fall I had to be transported to a hospital where they determined that very thankfully nothing was fractured, broken, or any muscles torn. The next day however, the swelling grew and by the then next day our we began a series of doctor’s appointments to determine what was going on with my leg. Again, very much thankfully, nothing is broken, fractured, or torn. But the leg was full of fluid from broken blood vessels. With the swelling so bad all I could do for the first week and into the second week of recovery was trust the deluge of medications would help speed up recovery. As the doctor appointments continued though, it became apparent that time and patience were the only real medication that are going to help this recovery effort.
I recently wrote about how personal setbacks did setback the bakery but there was so much good that came out of it. And here we are in round two of evaluating when setbacks happen. Had this fall not been so bad and the recovery limited to just a couple of weeks I fully believe this blog entry would not be as detailed as it is as I would of been back in the kitchen at full capacity carrying on with the momentum that October had brought to the bakery.
I am blessed to reach what we see as stage two of this recovery process though and that is the start of physical therapy. I am so lucky that I am mainly off of crutches and I can navigate the house as I need to and mainly rely on a cane for stability too. Although not the most fun in the world, the occasional short car rides to doctors or the kitchen or just around town have been an amazing lift to my spirits too. In the past few weeks I have had a lot of help from friends and family to include moments of being able to return to baking and decorating. But there were markets that had to be canceled and there were events that had to be rescheduled too. The Jolly Ol’ Confections event this past week was the first time I was returning to the outside world since the injury. And it was so good!
Now, I write this all as an update as to what is going on with Shameless. Shameless is still here. We’re just a little quieter while the baker is in recovery. It doesn’t mean we can’t bake. It just means we are a little slower at it. And until I am cleared to drive (stage three of recovery!) it means that events are very, very, very carefully scheduled.
I do not know how to properly thank everyone who has been so helpful to us or those who have offered their kind words and prayers. I cry with the amount of thankfulness I have in my heart for all these actions and thoughts. Thank you.
In closing, let me address the picture attached to this note. Yes, that is the bottom part of my leg and yes, that is one of our cats (Crowley Craig) who in the second week of my recovery poised himself on my ankle like that after one of its ice sessions. I couldn’t feel a thing between the ice, swelling, and medications. But he was just so content that I had to snap a picture. He has been my buddy throughout this recovery. Our other cat (Stoli Shot) has been content to just stare at me from across the room every day. Let’s just say my Nerf gun aim has gotten pretty good in order to shoo her from the room.
So be on the look out for posts to our Facebook page and to our website as this recovery process hopefully is coming to a close soon. Getting to stage three (driving) will be huge. The next step after that is jogging the bakery back into full swing. You have to learn to walk before you run.
In review of the AmazonFresh program and their current updates; The Shameless Bakery has withdrawn its participation with Amazon at this time.
Amazon is working hard to update their sales regions and how they can better serve customers within the northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware areas at this time. Unfortunately, with the growth and direction that The Shameless Bakery is headed into we are unable to participate with the local AmazonFresh market at this time of Amazon's growth as well.
We are eternally grateful for this partnership and will keep our customers updated as we navigate these waters of change. Just as one door is being closed for development meetings, other doors are opening for The Shameless Bakery and delivery options to the northern Virginia and Maryland areas. Stay tuned!
And as always, thank you for your continued support!
The color red can be a seductive color. A color of passion. Red lipstick on someone’s lips or a red dress hugging someone’s curves or even just a red tie against a black button up shirt and most people are drawn into a world of intrigue.
Then there is the other side of red - as in my finances are in the red or I am seeing red from anger. And who can forget the old “Do you own a red car? Guess whose rates may be going up?” or “Hello officer!”.
Why are we bringing up the color red today? Because as a small business owner the struggle to balance the good and bad of the color red coin seems to be a daily battle. Everyone can relate to this whether you are a business owner or not. Now, this discussion partially revolves around money folks. But all I think I need to say about this bad side of the red coin is that when you are working to get your business going (or working your way through debt/family finances - whatever you can relate to), you see your books in the red quite a bit. The biggest piece of advice I yield to is to look at the bigger picture. Ignore the color and look at the progress and the road ahead.
In any event; everyday it is a matter of seeing red too. Frustration mounts in trying to be a small business owner and juggling two kids and their activities and still finding time to be a wife/daughter/friend and oh wait; yes... there is supposed to be some “me” time in there too (you all laugh with me right?). This kind of frustration is always short lived because as we’ve learned - you roll with it. Forget a kid has a rehearsal one afternoon and you are 30 minutes away because your last batch of cupcakes had to cool and you had no control over the heat in the kitchen and the other kid is tugging on your shirt for help with homework while your husband is calling saying “how can I help?” - roll with it. There is usually another friend who can pick up the kid from rehearsal and depending on the homework subject it’s ok to talk it through on the car ride home after you let the husband know “want to help - bring something home and I’ll cook it”. Seeing red in those situations only lasts a few moments. You solve the problem, learn, and move on.
But what happens when the big stuff happens and you can’t solve the problem immediately? Especially as a small business. When The Shameless Bakery got started there was a lot of discussion over the “what-ifs”. What if there is no money? What if there is no demand? What if we move? What if we have no clue? What if something happens to one of us? And for all of these “what-ifs” there was a well written plan of action to get through it.
(Again - everyone laugh with me).
Just because it is written on paper does not mean that is how the problem is solved. Because when you are in the thick of it there are usually a number of other factors happening that make you go “I didn’t think of that!”.
And of course - what happened to Shameless here recently? A big one. The adults of the household were taken ill one after the other that there was just no controlling. In the well written plan of what to do there was no contingency for when both partners are out of commission. Well, there was and then we found out the “we-didn’t-think-of-that”. The good news is adults of the household are well back in hand and recovery is complete. Now it is just the daily grind and catch up that makes us go bald. And the color red again had a pivotal role in getting us through this hiccup.
This time it was the good side of the red coin. If we haven’t mentioned it; our family is huge into hockey. We’re all involved in the sport in some capacity and are fans of the local NHL sports team, the Washington Capitals, whose primary color is red. Throughout our illnesses we got back to talking about the Caps in the evening. We put Shameless away at the end of the day and talked; all of us. Which lead into our kids starting their hockey seasons and talking about schedules and putting more red on the family calendar (because those are hockey days). Now Shameless has slowly come back into a schedule and thus the calendar looks like a red and black (because Shameless is that naughty little black dress so it gets the color black) checkerboard with spurts of other colors for other activities mixed in. But in standing back and looking at the calendar and knowing the road ahead, I see how our family bonded in a time of uncertainty and how the color red balanced our lives out again. The red in the financial books was negated by the red on our calendar to an extent.
The last sixty days has been a nightmare and a huge blessing. We all have been humbled knowing that there is still a very large demand for what we are doing as Shameless. As a family we have learned this is just the beginning of some really great things we are doing together and individually and we know how to prevail and maintain balance.
So now what happens? After this article I am heading in to bake some red velvet cupcakes of course!
To partially quote Forrest Gump - “Mama always said...”, and thusly my mama use to say “It’s the little things in life”. Such a common phrase with such a huge meaning though. And this phrase has popped up so often in the last month I feel it necessary to touch upon it’s meaning.
The picture attached to this note has some meaning to it. It’s a picture of our latest installment of AmazonFresh products prior to them being transported to their pickup location. It is not the magnitude of this installment though that I want to write about - it’s the saran wrap.
“Saran wrap?! Are you kidding me?! We are really going to be reading about saran wrap??” screams the little voice in your head.
To respond to the cries in your head - Yes you are and I think you will find it quite amusing.
As a small business it is difficult to see the forest through the trees sometimes. And then other times it is difficult to see the trees in the forest because you are paddling across a vast ocean of concerns. This saran wrap is one of those “tree” moments. Transporting baked goods any amount of miles typically involves coolers, ice, and/or dry ice along with mechanisms used to keep the baked goods from shifting in transport. Finally there is usually a prayer involved too.
In transporting our cupcakes we are usually bound by “how many coolers fit in the vehicle” discussion. For this installment to Amazon though we were up against the limit of coolers to vehicle ratio. For most of the day leading up to the time of transport it was a worrisome thought of “is there anyway to not have the vehicle filled to the brim with a lot of coolers?!” especially since it would be very late at night delivering the cupcakes and going in and out of a warehouse with several coolers is not an ideal situation. There were 2 large pros of the coolers - 1) the ice is kept contained to keep the product cool and 2) they keep the product from flying around the vehicle.
There are ways to keep the product cool and at temperature without coolers though. It involves some sun visors/insulated bags and bagged ice/dry ice. We’ve done this at larger scale events to keep the products cool. Although this solves only half of the problem; the other half being “how do we keep them from going everywhere?”.
And then as I was finishing wrapping up some left over cake scraps in saran wrap the answer came upon me. No duh - wrap the 4 packs in stacks and instead of using coolers you can use the smaller area of your husband’s hatchback like trunk to stack them in the insulators with ice! Once at the drop off facility, cart in the stacks (because the stacks fit on carts easier than coolers), dispose of ice, clean off insulators and away you go!
But folks; do you know how idiotic I felt after pondering this question of cooler to vehicle ratio for most of the day? I felt absolutely abysmal at my lack of intelligence to realize wrap-ice-insulate-and-go answer. Such a small issue with an even smaller answer I felt compared to the plethora of other concerns that come with running the bakery. But this small victory, this small answer was making me feel like an absolute champion of the universe.
My son happened to witness my enthusiasm during a slight celebration of this victory. He was puzzled and all I could think of to say was “Son - it’s the little things”. I then shared the story to my husband along with sharing my feelings of idiocy. His immediate response was “Hon(ey), it is the little things. You should be happy.”. And I am.
So thank you saran wrap. I may curse you because you bunch up when you aren’t supposed to and/or you do not come off of the roll how you should and/or you think it’s ok for your box cutter to slice me from time to time. No, no, no, it’s ok, I promise. Because you solved this problem for me I will defer to tolerance when having to deal with you in the future.
And I have taken stock into the little things. Whether it is saran wrap, or it is just enough batter to not be a full cupcake (but we’ll bake it anyway), or sitting in traffic on a hot day with no air conditioning or radio but three people around me have their windows down with their radio on; these are the little moments that calm us and make us realize - wait; there is not all bad here. There is not all “problems” here. In fact, there is a lot of small things that are adding up to some really big moments.
Time to celebrate all the moments.
When you open up a menu at a restaurant or stare down a menu at any food establishment you expect that every now and again you will find an item named oddly that in some way pays homage to a story of the item itself.
Here at the bakery we decided to go full tilt and pay homage to one of our favorite shows - Bob’s Burgers and try to uniquely name each creation we have. You see, in each episode of Bob’s Burgers there is a pun-spun burger named on its menu board. Names such as the “Summer Thyme Burger” or the “Peas and Thank You Burger” have intrigued our curiosity and tickled our sense of humor throughout the seasons of the show. From this we were inspired to make sure each of our creations had it’s own identity and could create conversation between not only ourselves and customers; but hopefully spurn lively conversation at the different venues our goods are being served at.
At the present time we have fifteen uniquely named cupcakes. They are:
First; who really just wants to see “Carrot Cupcake” written on a label? So in creating this name we went from carrots to ‘what is associated with carrots?’ - ah ha! Rabbits! And instead of calling the cupcake “Rabbit Food” (because that sounds very appetizing :: insert sarcasm ::), is there a famous rabbit out there or some rabbit associated word that can name this cute carrot cupcake? There is the Cadbury Bunny, Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, Harvey (although that’s more a pooka), the Energizer Bunny, Roger Rabbit, Rabbit (from Winnie the Pooh), the White Rabbit (Alice in Wonderland), and of course; the Easter Bunny. That’s a lot of rabbits and we know we are still missing quite a few in that list. But now there were choices before us. So the line of thinking starts to go like this:
“Energize Bunny. Maybe it can be the “Carrot On Cupcake”?” - Maybe, but not a favorite.
“Roger Rabbit. Let’s go with the “P-P-Please More Carrot Cupcake”?” - Nope. Too Complicated.
“Cadbury Bunny. There’s no way to even phonetically fit that chicken sound it makes on the label. It’s out.”.
“The White Rabbit. “Down The Rabbit Hole Cupcake”?” - A little long but workable.
“Harvey. No, let’s save this for when we test some Irish whiskey with carrot cake. After all; Harvey is more a pooka than an actual rabbit”.
No matter where I was turning I felt like Bugs Bunny saying “I should of made that left at Albuquerque”. Because I could just give up and go with a traditionally named “Carrot Cupcake” or try and pick between a few more I had come up with. And then just like a frying pan being hit upside Daffy Duck’s head - it came to me. Just name it The Albuquerque Special for that reason. It’s one of Bugs Bunny’s more infamous quotes and it’s catchy and just plain, old, why not! Thusly folks we have The Albuquerque Special.
As for the fourteen others on the list I will slowly let you in on their stories too. The bottom line folks is that we are rarely (if ever) going to be normal in naming our creations. We want to highlight local and that means local folks and local stories too. If you notice we do have quite a few ladies names that appear in our creations. Each with their own little inspiration to the creation. Even the local beers, spirits, and wines we incorporate into our goods plays a role in aptly naming the good.
In closing I have a couple of notes to share with you.
1) If you have a local story/legend or know of a local hero that you believe would inspire us to create a baked good in their honor - let us know! Yes, we specialize in cupcakes but we are not scared of pies, breads, cakes, muffins, and so forth to create from. And do not be deterred to contacting us because you aren’t sure what qualifies “a hero”. A hero folks is anyone that inspired you, made you laugh, made you smile, made you be introspective, and in summary - someone who influenced you. If this person influences others too; great! But heroes just have to touch the life of one to start.
2) #13 on our list of current 15 cupcakes is going to get renamed. At 3AM with the minutes ticking into oblivion and down to the delivery time, it needed something besides “Chocolate Cupcake” and at the time I thought saying “chocolate chocolate” sounded pretty funny; again - at 3AM on about 4 hours of sleep. It is what is sounds like - a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. The game still continues on how to rename it.
Now, I must leave you with some Shakespeare:
“ What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
As if the nation’s leading Broadway musical couldn’t possibly penetrate any further into society; here it is intruding upon most late nights I am up working on the bakery.
I stated in my last blog post I would introduce you to the characters that have mentored and created The Shameless Bakery. My apologies for the length of time that has passed since that entry. Things have truly been non-stop though. It is an amazing, scary regiment of organization, chaos, and every emotion that comes with it.
You would think in this resume of characters that is about to befall you that the leading ladies/men would be listed first. Ok, you are correct. So let us begin with the cast list for The Shameless Bakery.
YES! The supporting cast are the leading ladies/men in this endeavor. I and my husband may be the work force; but without this supporting cast there would never have even been the concept of this bakery brought to light!
Friends & Family - From my parents, brother, all in-laws, and several very good friends spinning us ideas and listening to our endless list of “what-ifs” we could not be where we are today. For many, many, many, many, many (you get the point), years I have had friends tell me “You should start a business!”. And for all those many years I always responded with “what a loaded statement!”. After enough times someone(s) telling you the same thing over and over again though you finally start moving in the right direction. At the time though it may not seem the right direction though.
Frontier Kitchen - In April of 2016 I met with Cassity Jones at Frontier Kitchen in Haymarket, Virginia. I had only stepped into a commercial baking environment a couple other times prior to this meeting. When your world of being a hobbyist is about to take a plunge into the world of a full-time business, the kitchen in this instance was the gut check. The honesty, patience, and knowledge Cassity presented that afternoon to myself and my husband during the tour was the first push of baby steps to be taken for the bakery. Later, in early September, I would meet Brenda Brown while attending classes. Between Brenda and Cassity’s advisement, all the ideas and plans I had been putting on paper were then quickly being worked into real life. Paper was turning into reality.
Community Business Partnership Offices - The first time I walked into the offices in Springfield I was so nervous and quiet because I felt like “This is way over my head”. But I met several mentors there that first day. I attended classes and wrote so many emails (still do) with so many more questions. I absolutely should not be writing this is past tense. I still utilize their offices today and hope to for a very long time. Without the mentors and resources made available here I would not be as confident as I am today in my business.
S.C.O.R.E. - In the very beginning there was S.C.O.R.E.; and there is still S.C.O.R.E. today helping me navigate the business end of the business. I have a wonderful mentor who I know I can reach out to any time and his support and knowledge spins me into more confident avenues of planning the future of the business. The resources made available on their websites have proven invaluable in setting a foundation for the business. Just as with the Community Business Partnership offices; S.C.O.R.E. is a resource I hope to continue to use through the growth of this business.
Children - It takes a village to raise a child they say. It took my two children to raise me. They are a huge part of the bakery as they are a huge inspiration with their patience and kindness and inquisitiveness.
Thomas R. Shankle - My best friend. My husband. My spell checker. My “it-broke-fix-it-please” guy. My “don’t-let-me-forget” guy. My “NO!-NO-MORE-SAMPLES-FOR-YOU!” guy. He is my partner in this business. His mechanical and logistical skills balance out my lofty ambitions and his support are what keep me going at the end of the day. He smiles through the highs and lows with optimism. I could continue to gush on his support but I need to give you the brass tacks of why he is a partner in this venture. He knows how to accomplish goals. He knows how to realistically accomplish goals. When the words come out of “I don’t know”; he finds a way to know and fast. He knows how to delegate and for this I am eternally grateful.
Elisabeth A. Shankle - I come from a background in baking since I was a youngin’ sitting at my great aunt’s kitchen counter learning how she decorated cakes for her catering business. I took that love of baking and melded it with a love of spirits as I grew older. I feel blessed to also keep this love close to the community I am in by continuing to work with local breweries, wineries, and distilleries. I have won several awards for my creations. Each time I am humbled even more. I truly enjoy being able to highlight the greatness around me. As for how and why I can do this today - again, without the supporting cast I wouldn’t be here. I may not have a business degree or culinary degree; but those are just pieces of paper. I continue to attend classes and ask questions and build a support network of mentors to ensure this business grows. I remain humble and personable for each transaction. I may be the one producing the goods; but I cannot have a business without someone purchasing those goods and a lot more than just money goes into that equation.
Thus concludes the cast of characters that make up The Shameless Bakery. It is a growing cast as any good business should be. Not all characters are present in each scene; but they are still there in the background supporting the business.
To further quote from Hamilton, here are a few lines from “Wait For It” to close us out.
“I am the one thing in life I can control,
Wait for it, Wait for it,
Wait for it, Wait for it,
I am inimitable,
I am an original,
Wait for it, Wait for it,
Wait for it, Wait for it,
I am not falling behind or running late,
Wait for it, Wait for it,
Wait for it, Wait for it,
I am not standing still,
I am lying in wait”
Welcome to The Shameless Bakery! You’ve been sniffing around Facebook long enough today and just happened to catch a whiff of what we are baking didn’t you? A familiar smell of vanilla that warms into something a bit harder; like... wait... is that bourbon you smell?
Yes, it quite possibly is! Along with hints of nutty stout beers and crisp hard apple ciders to deep notes of chocolate that enveloped your sense of smell. The bakery began out of the love of a good beer yet having a nagging sweet tooth that just wanted to interrupt any evening at a bar. Such a naughty lil’ sweet tooth it was. But I did not shame it. Instead, I embraced such a decadent problem with a lot of stubbornness and a lot of heart. And here I am today; offering unique baked goods to the northern Virginia area.
It’s not just about the alcohol flavored baked goods though (although boy can those be the most fun to come up with recipes for!). There has to be a solid base for our imaginations to truly grow from and that base here is found in our traditional and gourmet flavors. Our ‘Vanilla The Hun’ is aptly named because it may be “just a vanilla cake” to some, but it is a force to be reckoned with as it is the most recognizable flavor! Or we have our ‘Rocking The Red Velvet’ cake which pays tribute in name to a certain hockey institution within the Washington D.C. area. The rich chocolate flavor that stems from this classic recipe will have you wanting to head towards Hershey Park (and while you are there say ‘hi’ to the Hershey Bears).
And getting back to the alcohol; we certainly don’t have to look far to become inspired. With so many local breweries, wineries, and distilleries we are overwhelmed with the possibilities! Our hope is to continually highlight local establishments and artisans who work so hard to perfect their craft.
How did we get here? Where did we come from? Who are the people who make up this business? Ahh, folks, unfortunately you will have to wait another night for that story.
Before I leave you all, I thank you for visiting the page and (hopefully) giving us a like to follow our journey. It truly humbles us all that you have taken the time to visit us and sit with us for just a little bit.
Thank you! A million times over, thank you!