Mazur's offers a variety of packaged products for easy grab-and-go and impulse purchases
Much of Mazur's production is done by hand, including icing mini èclairs.
The bakery clearly marks each product with its name and price. Mazur's also lets customers know who made the products.
In this day and age, it is hard to imagine business being conducted with a simple handshake. But, that is how Joe Spiekermann came to own Mazur's Bakery, an established retail bakery in Lyndhurst, N.J. Third-generation baker Spiekermann was looking for a fresh start in baking after having sold his own four bakery locations in Union City.
"I heard that Mazur's was for sale, and when I stopped by, both the father and son where here," Spiekermann says. "We talked, and after two hours, we shook hands on the deal. Two months later, we were here."
Mazur's Bakery began as a retail bakery owned and operated by the Mazur family. Spiekermann has continued that tradition since he purchased the business in 2003. His two oldest daughters, Jaclyn and Donna, work in the bakery daily while his youngest, Suzanne, helps during her breaks from college.
"The thing that sold John Mazur on us coming in here was I said, 'John, I'll keep the name on the building, and I'll make you proud of the name. I'll make it bigger,'" Spiekermann says.
Part of making the bakery bigger and better included making the retail bakery more of a destination. With a Shop Rite supermarket around the corner from the bakery, Mazur's is up against a competitor that may be more convenient for customers. So, Spiekermann gave customers more reasons to shop in his bakery.
More than 4,000 customers a week walk through Mazur's door, Spiekermann says. On weekends, the customer count can swell to more than 1,000 a day. The bakery is open seven days a week from 6 a.m to 9 p.m. Customers receive a free newspaper in the morning with their purchase. It brings the people in, Spiekermann says of the free paper.
"The bulk of our business is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday when we have a line out the door," he says. To help keep the customers entertained during their wait, Spiekermann employs a piano player from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The pianist takes song requests, which he performs in the sales area of the bakery.
"We had this piano just sitting in our house, and I said, 'Let's bring it into the bakery.' We get so many compliments and it adds great atmosphere to the bakery," Spiekermann says.
The live music makes customers comfortable enough to want to hang out in the bakery. While they wait, they look around the showcases more and add products to their order. "It definitely adds to sales," he adds.
On the days the piano player is not playing, Spiekermann invested in satellite radio. The style of music changes throughout the course of the day to fit the changing customer demographics.
"It's so important to have music in the bakery," Spiekermann adds. "It makes it more relaxing. Will it [satellite radio] help sales? I don't know, but it can't hurt."
To further entice customers, Spiekermann keeps the showcase full from morning to night. In the fully stocked showcases, every product is clearly marked with its name and price. Not labeling products is a common mistake many retail bakeries make, Spiekermann notes. When customers don't know what a product is called, they might be hesitant to ask for it, he says.
Spiekermann also offers a variety of packaged self-service products, which sell very well. A table in the center of the shop offers several different items, such as cookies, including the extremely popular black and whites, and quick breads. The tops of the showcases also are lined with packaged products, making impulse purchases easy.
To help introduce new products or push seasonal ones, Mazur's Bakery sets up active sampling on the weekends. The seasonal product being sampled is often the bakery's weekend special, half-price item. Every weekend, Spiekermann chooses a product to sell for half-price, Friday through Sunday, or through Monday for holiday weekends. The product is often chosen if its ingredients are in season or it fits an occasion. The half-price product is advertised on the bakery's web site and with a banner in the window.
For Memorial Day, the half-price special was chocolate cream pie. The bakery sells about three dozen during an average weekend, but with the special, it sold more than 350. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the bakery traditionally offers strawberry shortcake as the special. Last year, the bakery sold 420. "Even though it might be a little bit of a loss leader, it brings the people in, and then they buy a loaf of bread or Danish," Spiekermann says.
Mondays and Tuesdays are Senior Citizen Days at the bakery, with seniors receiving a 20 percent discount on their purchases. The bakery issues a senior citizen discount card that customers simply have to show to receive the discount. Spiekermann chose Monday and Tuesday because they are slower days and a chance to get customers to come in who might not want to come in on Saturday or Sunday when the bakery is busier.
"It works," Jaclyn Spiekermann says. "We were only going to do it for six months to try it out, but we noticed an uptick in sales for those days."
Due to the rising costs of ingredients, gas and insurance, Spiekermann is in the process of raising the bakery's prices. Last year, he paid $26 for a bag of sugar, but the same bag now costs $46. "You can't keep absorbing these hits," he says.
Occasionally, customers may complain about the raised prices, "but, I think people today are so used to everything going up in price," he adds. And, when customers take into account the special perks the bakery offers, such as the senior discount, product sampling, the half-price specials and the free newspapers, then they feel like the bakery isn't killing them on price, Spiekermann says.
The bakery also works to accommodate customers by being open 365 days a year, including Christmas. As with many bakeries, Christmas Eve is the top sales day of the year for the bakery. Two years ago, Spiekermann decided to open on Christmas Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The previous year, the Spiekermanns were in the bakery on Christmas Day to finish up orders for the next day, and the phones were ringing off the hook, Jaclyn says. Spiekermann leaves it optional for employees to work that day, but for those who choose to, he pays them overtime. He was surprised at the number of employees who were willing to work and at the number of customers who showed up.
"It was worth it," Spiekermann says. "We had like 800 customers on that first Christmas Day. Now I have to stay open." He does not advertise the fact that the bakery remains open on Christmas Day because he does not want to hurt his Christmas Eve sales. And, the bakery does not accept orders for that day. Customers can only select from what is available, Jaclyn says.
When Spiekermann took over the bakery, he kept most of the existing product line, but tweaked it and added several new items, including 15 varieties of bread. Overall, the bakery offers more than 1,000 different products, including 100 varieties of cakes, a full line of sugarfree items and eight different kinds of brownies daily. The bakery continually switches its varieties.
"Variety is the key to a successful bakery. You need to hit customers with different things all the time," Spiekermann says. "We always offer the staples, but then throw new items at them, even if it's off the wall, like our white chocolate bread."
"This place has to change. If it stayed the same, you wouldn't get that new customer to come in," Jaclyn says.
With the bakery's evolving product line, the more than 80 employees are truly challenged to continually come up with new ideas. Mazur's runs three shifts with 15 production employees in each shift. The bakers are charged with developing new products. Many of them have worked in several different bakeries, which is Spiekermann's favorite type of employee, because they often bring fresh ideas.
New sugar-free line
About a year ago, the bakery began its sugar-free line. Spiekermann, who is a diabetic, developed the products after several customers commented that they wished certain products were available in sugar-free. "There are so many things you can do with sugar-free," Spiekermann says. "Just last week I made a sugar-free lemon meringue. It's just egg whites and cream of tartar, and we used a sugar substitute."
The sugar-free products are housed in their own showcase under the tag line "Healthier for you." He added another sign above the showcase that says, "You don't have to be diabetic to enjoy sugarfree items." The bakery began displaying the sugar-free items without much advertisement, but sales continue to grow every week, Spiekermann says.
Spiekermann also has expanded the bakery's wholesale business to about 40 percent of sales by bringing several of his wholesale clients, such as Costco and Yankee Stadium, with him when he purchased the bakery. In his previous bakery life, Spiekermann ran mostly wholesale bakeries, and he retained several of those clients. However, he does not want to turn Mazur's into a wholesale bakery. "I did that before, and the retail store is my bread and butter," he says.
For the most part, Spiekermann limits his wholesale customers to New York City and New Jersey. However, he does supply Costcos along the entire East Coast with his black and white cookies.
"Costco is king as far as black and whites go," he says. "We just started selling them in the Florida stores, but they are really popular in the tri-state area."
The bakery sells 150,000 of the cookies a week to Costco alone. While the bakery's production is not heavily automated, bakers use a cookie depositor to keep up with demand for the black and whites. Spiekermann also knows that in order to remain successful, the customer is always right. And, if something is not right, you have to overcompensate, he says. "Tell them they can pick out anything in the store that they want. And, that customer will go out and say, 'You know, what Mazur's did for me was more than generous.' But if you say, 'Here's your money back,' they say, 'I'm never going back there again,' and you lose your customer," Spiekermann says.
"Customers knew of the change of ownership, but I believe they are happy," Spiekermann says. And, with more than $4 million in sales, it looks like he is right. "Mazur's is not just a bakery, it's a destination," he adds.
Mazur's at a glance
Location: Lyndhurst, N.J.
Mazur's Bakery a sampling of prices
Carrot cake, 5 ins.
Brown derby cake
Butter pastries, per lb.
Checkerboard cake, 7 ins
Coconut layer cake, 7 ins
Oreo layer cake, 7 ins.
California fruit cheesecake, 3 ins.
Blueberry cheesecake, 6 ins.
Plain cheesecake, 3 ins.
California fruit pie
Mini brownie bits, per lb.
Strawberry tart, 3 ins.
Black and white cookies, 24 ozs.
Rum ball, per lb.
Swiss peasant bread
Sugar free Cheesecake, 3 ins.
Fruit cheesecake, 6 ins.
Marble cheesecake, 6 ins.
Whip cream chocolate torte