| Foley’s began producing bread only four years ago, and now it accounts for 35% of overall sales and 30% of wholesale sales. |
Since the Portland-area retail bakery first fired up its bread ovens, stone-ground whole wheat has been the star of most of its 11 varieties of loaves. Every day, Foley’s grinds about 180 lbs. of wheat berries into about 160 lbs. of flour for its breads, including honey whole wheat, the bakery’s most popular variety. It sells about 200 to 250 loaves per week, 50 percent more than any other loaf on the menu, says Kurt Libby, the company’s operations manager.
Other popular whole wheat-based varieties include orange apricot almond, cinnamon raisin (with or without walnuts), onion dill rye and Katahdin, a four-seed loaf named after a Maine mountain. Libby, a graduate of the New England Culinary School in Montpelier, Vermont, calls the Katahdin, which contains sunflower, poppy, pumpkin and sesame seeds, a spiteful loaf because of its sticky, dense consistency.
“But it’s delicious, and customers love it,” he says.
Katahdin is a particular favorite at Foley’s main bakery (one of its three locations) in the Visitors Center at Pineland Farms, a unique concept combining business and leisure opportunities for locals and tourists. About a half-hour north of the city of Portland, Pineland Farms is part industrial park and outdoor recreation center designed to build tourism as well as business in the area. Foley’s exhibition bakery (2,000 of its 2,400 sq. ft. is open production) is one of the Pinelands’ three showpiece operations–the other two are an organic produce market and dairy farm–that showcase made-in-Maine products.
Bread buying in quantity
On weekdays, bakery sales are fueled by members of the on-campus business community, who come in regularly for pastries, sandwiches and bread to take home for dinner. Foley’s also is a popular field trip destination for school groups. And on weekends, those school children often return with their families for more of the bakery’s oven-baked loaves. Between these families and others who are attracted by Pineland Farms’ recreational opportunities, Foley’s sells a lot of bread on the weekend.
“People buy four or five loaves at a time,” Libby says.
Aside from its whole-grain varieties, Foley’s also offers a selection of loaves made from a white sponge starter. Children particularly like the cinnamon chip and adults the cheddar garlic, he notes. All of Foley’s whole wheat- and white-based loaves, except for the cheddar garlic, are baked in pans and are bagged.
“Our customers like the convenience of pre-bagged breads and the wrapping gives our products an extremely long shelf life, between 12 and 14 days,” Libby explains.
Cooling the breads completely prior to bagging ensures that Foley’s breads maintain a crust that is yielding, but has body, he adds.
Bread production is a 40-hour-a-week Monday through Friday job at Foley’s. That reflects a 20 percent increase in bread-baking hours in the last two months.
Libby believes that the smell of the baking bread whets customers’ appetites better than any signage could do. He also attributes much of the success of Foley’s bread program to the sampling board, where warm slices are always waiting to reinforce the idea of freshness.
Libby notes that while the breads are premium priced (averaging $3.50 for a 34-oz. loaf), the bakery’s three locations sell between 2,000 and 2,300 a day, which accounts for 30 to 35 percent of the company’s total sales. All of these loaves are turned out by the Pineland Farms location’s production staff of eight. The same crew also produces all of the breakfast pastries (15 to 20 percent of total sales) and cookies (another 15 to 20 percent) for the three stores.
| Foley’s began as a cake bakery, and the bakery’s Portland location offers as many as 25 varieties daily. |
Sweet breakfast items sell best on weekdays, when Foley’s at Pineland Farms usually displays at least two dozen items, including three types of Danish (made from scratch dough), four each of scones and muffins, and two varieties of coffee cake.
Large, scratch-made cookies in flavors such as chocolate chip, “reverse” chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and molasses, also move quickly on weekends. Each of the oversized sweets sells for $1.40, but customers often take advantage of the 12 for $15.00 price break. Brownies and bar cookies, such as honey pecan squares, linzers and Florentines, also are priced for volume sales.
While bread is becoming the bakery’s most profitable product line (profit margins are between 45 and 55 percent for wholesale, higher for retail, according to Libby), Foley’s started out as a small, but well-known cake bakery in Portland. Four years ago, founder Ed Foley sold his Portland operation to businessman Andrew Wright.
In 2001, Wright also bought Portland’s Grande Pastry Shoppe, a well-established wholesale and retail producer of breakfast pastries, cookies and brownies, and brought it under the Foley’s banner. At the end of 2004, Wright moved the combined operation into a 1,200-sq.-ft. space at Portland’s Public Market in the city’s downtown area.
“Andy’s goal in merging the two operations was to be able to provide a full line of high quality products from upscale cakes to traditional breakfast bakery products,” Libby says. “Bread was a natural extension of that concept, as long as it was as good as the rest of our products.”
Currently, Foley’s annual sales are more than $900,000. Ninety percent of those sales are from retail. The rest comes from small wholesale accounts, such as restaurants and stores. Bread accounts for about 30 percent of the company’s wholesale business.
In 2004, with the opening of two additional locations–the Pineland Farms facility and a 2,000-sq.-ft. retail bakery in the Portland suburb of Scarborough– Foley’s had to put its wholesale breakfast pastry business in a temporary holding pattern. Historically, wholesale has accounted for as much as 50 percent of revenue.
“We had to supply all three stores from the original bakery until the new ones got up to speed,” Libby says. “Now we’re ready to gear up our wholesaling effort again.”
Cakes still represent about 20 percent of Foley’s total sales. Most days, the Portland Public Market bakery has 25 cake varieties on hand. This facility also produces a smaller number and variety of cakes for the Pineland Farms store; Scarborough bakes its own. At the Portland Market location, customers can watch the cake decorators at work through a large glass window. Since the central seating for the market’s food area is situated right next to the bakery, foot traffic past the display cases and exhibition window is usually high.
All Foley’s cakes are three layers and range in size from 6- to 14-in. rounds, to half- and full-sheets. Chocolate mousse is the best selling cake flavor, beating out every other kind by two to one. Other Foley’s specialties include lemon and carrot. The Scarborough bakery handles wedding cake orders (averaging about three or four per weekend) for all three locations.
| Kurt Libby and his production staff grind about 160 lbs. of flour for the bakery’s 11 varieties of bread. |
Although the product offerings are diverse and extensive enough to be interesting, Libby insists that a candidate for the bakery production crew at Foley’s doesn’t need a Ph.D. in physics to work there.
“I hire a plethora of different types of people–some with culinary degrees, some with no foodservice experience at all,” he explains. “For us, it’s a matter of how well they respond to on-the-job training, which begins with job shadowing and progresses to cross-training in as many areas as possible.”
The same basic show and tell philosophy applies to Foley’s marketing strategy. The bakery does not rely on fancy direct mail campaigns.
An occasional coupon in the local newspapers has been sufficient to keep sales growing.
“We show our customers what we do by baking our products right in front of them,” Libby says. “And they tell all of their family, friends and neighbors.
“You couldn’t get better advertising for any amount of money,” he adds.
Foley’s…at a glance
Headquarters/main bakery: New Gloucester, Maine
Number of locations: three (Pinelands Visitors Center, New Gloucester; Scarborough; Portland Public Market)
Sales breakdown: About 90% retail
Annual sales: more than $900,000
Market territory: Greater Portland area
Production methods: scratch
Product line: breads, 35%; old world-style cakes, 20%; brownies and bars, 5%; pastries, 20%; cookies, 20%
Management: Andrew Wright, owner and president; Jennifer Best, head pastry chef; Kurt Libby, operations manager (At press time, Kevin Burnsteel took over for Libby as operations manager.)
Major equipment: wheat and grain mill; bowl hoist; vertical
mixers; bread moulder; reversible sheeter; rotary rack, deck and convection ovens
Plans: to continue to grow retail and become more aggressive in the wholesale bread and pastry segments
Foley’s…a sampling of prices
Breads, all varieties, 34 ozs. $3.50
Chocolate mousse cake $24.95
Lemon layer cake, 6 ins. $14.95
Carrot cake, 8 ins. $23.95
Plain cheesecake $24.95
Fruit-topped cheesecake $27.95
Large cookie $1.40
Mousse bomb $2.25
Apple shutter $1.95
Pecan log $1.50
Jumbo muffin $1.50
Individual fruit tart $3.50