Lynn Schurman, president of the Retail Bakers of America, is entrenched in the problems she and other retail bakers face under the current state of commodities prices. But, she sees a silver lining in how the different baking industry associations have come together for a common cause.
Schurman, co-owner of Cold Spring Bakery, Cold Spring, Minn., took over as RBA president last month during a ceremony at the Upper Midwest Bakers Convention in St. Paul, Minn.
“I want to bring the baking industry closer together, working more closely with other associations to benefit the entire industry,” Schurman said.
She cites the recent work RBA has done with the American Bakers Association (ABA), an association for wholesale bakeries, as positive steps forward. With its established connection to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., ABA helped RBA First Vice President Richard Reinwald in his testimony earlier this month before the Joint Economic Committee in Congress. RBA members also joined in ABA's Band of Bakers March on Washington to draw attention to record high wheat prices and tight supplies.
Schurman would like to organize a summit, hosted by RBA, which would bring together representatives from the different bakery associations. Most of the disparate associations rightly have their own agendas and priorities to their membership, but common problems exist among all bakery businesses regardless of size or specialty. The skyrocketing cost of ingredients, for example, is affecting everyone in the baking industry, she noted.
“Our industry has shrunk a little. We have fewer bakeries and fewer vendors with all the consolidation,” Schurman said. “The summit would bring everybody to the table to work together to make this industry better.”
Moving from the big picture to her own contingent of retail bakers, Schurman also wants RBA to continue to provide more services to its members. “I'd like to see more touches with our members,” she said.
One way to achieve this is by getting more of its membership involved in committees and special projects. These small groups would achieve simple, usable member benefits, such as developing a lawyer-reviewed wedding cake contract template, which is a project currently under way.
Another major project for RBA, which is in full swing, is developing the educational portion of the American Bakery Exposition to be held Sept. 21-23 in Atlantic City, N.J.
“We're upgrading our seminars by presenting experts in their field, not just the bakery field,” Schurman said. The exposition will bring back a general session, which will feature supermarket guru Phil Lempert.
Along with operating a busy full-line retail bakery, which was awarded Modern Baking's Retail Bakery of the Year in 2004, RBA President Schurman has a full plate in the year to come. For Schurman, with years of service to the baking industry and her community, juggling responsibilities is nothing new.