When two sisters decide to name their bakery 2tarts, you know right away that it is going to be a fun place and they are fun-loving gals. The various definitions of “tart” work on different levels for the bakery, and even the less than savory meaning is embraced tongue-in-cheek. April Weilbacher and Ashley Landerman, the sisters and two “tarts” behind the name, sell plenty of the filling-based pastries that also give credence to the bakery’s name. And, as artists, they also like to tart up their products so they are displayed to their best advantage.
The name came about from a friend who suggested they name the new bakery Queen of Tarts to emphasize the sisters’ specialty product. But there were two sisters, so a singular queen didn’t quite fit. Inspiration struck while Ashley was in the car, and 2tarts Bakery and Catering was born.
The fortuitous beginning
Sometimes it seems that certain businesses are just meant to be. April and Ashley started a catering company in January 2009 out of a rented kitchen in Austin, Texas. By 2010, they had moved their business to their hometown of New Braunfels, Texas, and had decided to focus more on the baked products that were generating a lot of attention.
“We grew up as artists and the bakery was kind of a natural path. Baking has a lot more artistic bent to it,” says Ashley, who went to culinary school in Ireland. “Cooking is kind of creative, and I had to have a job I could be creative in. But baking fit when it comes to fine arts with drawing and color theory.”
They began looking around town and noticed that there wasn’t a scratch bakery. Restaurants abound and the town is even home to the oldest bakery in Texas, but it doesn’t do scratch production. “I was someone who loved to go to bakeries, but there was no really good scratch bakery,” Ashley says.
The two tarts, from left: April Weilbacher and Ashley Landerman
New Braunfels is ideally situated 45 minutes from Austin and 30 minutes from San Antonio and long has been the playground for San Antonio residents. They scouted the area for a location that would be perfect for their bakery, and found it in downtown New Braunfels, which was just at the beginning of a revitalization. Pockets of New Braunfels had always been touristy, but downtown had pulled from a more local customer base. The town’s goal was to make downtown as touristy as the other areas.
The only problem the sisters had with the perfect location: they had no money to turn the space into a bakery.
Preparations pay off
While working a farmers’ market, the sisters were approached by an angel investor who was interested in backing their venture. Click on the image at left to view 2Tarts at a glance.
“It just kind of fell into our laps,” Ashley says. It was fate. “I feel like we opened this place a little too fast, but we had to do what we had to do. It was one of the moments where you had to seize it or it would be gone,” she adds.
While the pace was fast, only two months from signing the lease to opening day, the sisters had done their homework. They had a 35-page business plan and went often to the local Center of Entrepreneurship. The catering business had helped them identify their target market and customer demographics. The sisters also worked with a graphic designer, even before finding the location, to help create and refine their bakery logo and brand identity. “We wanted to keep the message the same, and keep hold of the brand, everything down to our business cards,” April says. “The photos on display on the walls match our business cards.”
The 2tarts website was up and running before the bricks and mortar store, and it to had to reflect the image the sisters were trying to portray. “For awhile our website was our storefront, and it is often the first way people meet you. That first impression is key,” Ashley says. “I’m super picky about the photos that are put up. It has to be a perfect photo of a perfect cake. It’s all about the delivery. We just wanted to be good and professional.”
The bakery’s eclectic yet homey interior also is a reflection of the sisters’ style and the bakery’s brand. “We’re just really funky, and the bakery expresses that,” Ashley says. “With our style, you don’t have to worry about matching. All of our plates come from Goodwill. If everything is mismatched, then it doesn’t look bad.”
The bakery’s interior walls are painted a warm, peachy color accented with harvest yellow and the ceiling is dark brown. The floor is large tiles of marbled brown, and the bakery’s logo, a tart, is stenciled in front of the door. “We’re drawn to rich colors. It’s bakery but not completely traditional bakery,” April says.
When the bakery opened, it was furnished with tables and chairs from discount furniture chain IKEA with the idea that they could gradually be replaced with more unique pieces, such as the booths now in the front window made from reclaimed wood and the upholstered sofa used as a bench for a table that also was made from reclaimed wood.
The front window, which spans the whole front of the store, has an attention-grabbing chevron painted on it and the words “Peace, love and cake.”
“It’s nice and sunny and makes you feel good,” Ashley says. “We’re selling happiness more than any other emotion. People come to bakeries to feel good. We just wanted the bakery to be comfortable.”
All scratch, all the time
Along with the comfort is an emphasis on high-quality, scratch-made products. All of the bakery’s products, from tarts to empanadas to cupcakes, are made from essentially the same six ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, cream cheese, butter and milk or cream. “It’s a lot easier to run a scratch bakery if everything is made from the same basic ingredients. And it’s cool that we can take those few ingredients and make them into so many different things,” Ashley says.
The white cake is actually a cream-based cake with a buttery and almost cornbready flavor giving it a more complex flavor profile than the traditional, sweet white cake. The bakery uses an all-natural, vegan confectioners’ sugar that gives products a nice, muted color. Traditional confectioners’ sugar uses animal bone in the creaming process, Ashley says, which gives it the bright white color.
2tarts cupcakes. Photo credit: Sarah Griffin Photography
The scratch-made choux pastry is used for the bakery’s éclairs with filling made from vanilla bean pastry cream and whipped cream. French macarons are a fairly recent addition to the product line, and varieties include milk and honey, mint, lavender, strawberry, lemon, lime, raspberry and chocolate. They also are gluten-free, made with meringue and almond flour, but the bakery doesn’t market them as a specifically gluten-free item (although it is noted in the printed menus).
“We have some things that are low sugar, gluten-free or vegan, but it has to be delicious first and those other things just happen to be,” Ashley says. “I have a delicious cupcake that just happens to be vegan. I tell certain people it’s a lemon cupcake and I tell other people it’s vegan. It’s such a delicious cupcake that I don’t want to turn anyone off just because it’s vegan. I have a macaroon that is made with walnuts and it happens to be gluten-free. Everyone should be able to enjoy it, and products without something should taste just as good as the products with something. I’d never have an inferior product just to meet dietary demands.”
Mix by hand
The scones (available in vanilla bean, lemon poppy, cranberry orange, strawberry lime, blueberry lemon, orange vanilla, maple pecan and peach) and cinnamon rolls are made from the same dough with a baking powder base, which creates a really moist finished product with a flaky, buttery mouthfeel rather than the traditional yeasty texture. The dough is mixed mostly by hand; butter is cut in using a mixer, but once the liquid is added, it is mixed by hand to avoid developing the gluten. The result is a scone or cinnamon roll that melts in your mouth, Ashley says. Click on the image at left to view 2Tarts sampling of prices.
“The least amount you can touch it, the more tender it will be. I’m really into not over-mixing, even the cupcakes. You can tell when they’re even slightly over-mixed because they don’t have the crack. I’ve had to untrain a lot of people who’ve come here,” she adds.
Decorated cookies are a big seller, especially around holidays. The cookies, which were popular when the sisters ran the catering business, helped push Ashley and April in the direction of opening the bakery. During holidays, such as Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter, the bakery will sell thousands of decorated cookies a week.
2tarts also offers a variety of savory items like frittatas, empanadas and chicken potpie. Savory empanadas include blue cheese red onion, picadillo, potato curry, brisket, spinach feta, chili pie and raspberry chipotle pork. Sweet versions include cherry, cherry cheesecake, apple, apple rosemary, pineapple, pumpkin and blackberry.
Product flavors change daily; cupcake flavors are dictated by what flavors are needed for the specialty cake orders and other product flavors are influenced by the fruit that is in season.
The bakery’s location in the revitalized downtown keeps customers coming in the doors from 7 a.m. when it opens to 10 p.m. when it closes (midnight on Friday and Saturday). The new retail stores draw people during the day while the restaurants on the block bring in a big nighttime crowd. “You come in at night and every table is full,” April says. “We have two baristas at night and one during the day.”
“We’re definitely the place to come after dinner or before you go out,” Ashley adds. “We have a lot of knitting circles and book clubs.”
While April and Ashley readily admit they made mistakes along the way–“everything is a lesson,” Ashley says–they did plenty of things right. For others looking to open a bakery, April suggests keeping consistent store hours from the beginning, keeping the same logo for awhile and keeping the same color scheme in the bakery. “Consistency,” she emphasizes. “We were very sure of our identity and our brand. We’re OK being pink and green and semi-girly.”