| Lyle and Kerry Feigenbaum have grown Scholars Inn Bakehouse to three locations and $3.5 million in sales. |
Branding is important to most bakery operators. They want customers to recognize their bakery’s name and associate that name with quality. Lyle Feigenbaum and his wife, Kerry, have taken the branding concept a bit further. Not only do they want their brand to equate to quality bakery products, they want it to represent quality across several markets. In fact, bakery is only the latest venutre under the Scholars Inn umbrella.
In 1996, the Feigenbaums opened Scholars Inn Bed & Breakfast, in Bloomington, Ind., home to Indiana University. It seemed a natural extension to open a restaurant next door, so they named that Scholars Inn Gourmet Café & Wine Bar. The couple has since opened a second restaurant location in Indianapolis.
The restaurants drew the Feigenbaums into the baking industry. They had been unable to produce bread that lived up to their high standards. Until they discovered a bakery café/specialty wholesale bakery that two local businessmen had opened in 1994. In 2001, the Feigenbaums purchased the bakery, naming it Scholars Inn Bakehouse, and began creating the Scholars Inn bakery brand.
“We started out with the bed & breakfast, then the restaurant, but the one thing we couldn’t do was make good bread,” Lyle says. “When the bakehouse became available, we just jumped in with both feet. This was the best bread we’d ever tasted.”
And jump they did. The Feigenbaums now operate three Scholars Inn Bakehouses, two in Bloomington and one in Indianapolis. The bakehouses offer a variety of bread, cakes, pastries and bagels as well as a full selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. Scholars Inn Bakehouse also offers full breakfasts, including omelets and egg sandwiches. The second Bloomington location now features a full kitchen, which offers hamburgers and hot dogs on house-made buns.
When the Feigenbaums purchased the original bakehouse, sales were $1.2 million, including both retail and wholesale. Now, the three bakehouses bring in $3.5 million in retail sales, and the wholesale business generates another $800,000.
Scholars Inn expansion is still not complete. This spring, a new 10,000-sq.-ft. bakery production facility will open. Greg Berke, vice president of wholesale accounts, is overseeing construction of the new facility.
“We’re anxious. This building [College Ave. location] is fairly inefficient,” Lyle says. “It’s a big deal. From start to finish, it is a $1 million project, but it’s exciting. We want to elevate what we do as bakers to be a world-class bakery. Our goal is to become the definitive bakery in central Indiana. People will come to Bloomington just to see what we do.”
| Scholars Inn Bakehouse on the east side of Bloomington serves as the prototype for all future locations. |
All the production that is currently done at the original College Ave. location will be moved to the new 10,000-sq.-ft. space. Dedicated mostly to production, the space will have a small retail shop. Located just outside of town, the new location also will have a loading dock and be designed for efficiency, Lyle says. And, the site has enough land for future expansions.
It also is located next to a winery that draws tourists. Lyle is hoping the tourist business will spill over to his bakery. “We want to give tours. We are proud of our bread, and we want people to see and understand the love that goes behind the bread, pastries and bagels,” Lyle says.
The new facility, with half a million dollars worth of new equipment, will allow Scholars Inn to focus on some business sectors that had been restricted by space limitations, such as wholesale and catering. Some equipment purchases include a mixer, bowl elevators, double rack convection oven, divider/formers, automated oven loader/unloader, depositors, a cookie machine and packaging equipment.
“Our wholesale business is about 15 to 20 percent of our overall business, and with our new facility, we look for that to explode,” Lyle adds. In the 4 1/2 years the Feigenbaums have owned the bakehouse, wholesale sales have doubled. With the addition of the new production facility, Lyle would like to see a 25 to 45 percent increase in sales in the next two to three years.
Currently, Scholars Inn has about 60 wholesale accounts within a 75-mile radius of Bloomington. Almost 50 percent of wholesale sales come from bread. Clients include Indiana University, hotels, supermarkets and non-commercial foodservice facilities.
“We also want to increase catering,” Kerry says. “Bakehouse Catering is a new division that’s opening. We do some catering now, but in the spring we will be doing a lot more of it.”
With no previous bakery experience, the Feigenbaums have relied heavily upon the employees who continued working for the bakery after they purchased it. “They make the best bread. All we tried to do was enhance that and improve it,” Lyle says.
All of the bread is made from scratch using only organic or untreated flour and shaped by hand. Most of the baking is done at night with mixing and forming during the day. All the breads are baked in a steam-injected hearth oven that Jeff Duez, head bread baker, helped build when the bakery was first established in 1994. “Jeff is the backbone of the bakehouse, and a lot of our bakers have been here many years,” Lyle adds.
In the new facility, the convection oven will be one and a half times as large as the current one. At some point, Lyle plans to move the old hearth oven to the new production plant. To supply all three bakehouses and the wholesale customers, Duez and his staff of 20 produce 10,000 loaves per week.
| Chocolate mousse cake |
Since purchasing the bakehouse, Scholars Inn also has added pastries. The eight pastry employees form every pastry, cookie and cake by hand. The only automation in the department is a sheeter.
“When we move, we’ll have depositors and a cookie machine,” says Mark Brethauer, head of the pastry department. “What I don’t want to do is get a lot of equipment that takes the hand forming work out.”
His staff is used to preparing large quantities of pastries, but with the additional space in the new plant, Brethauer plans to double pastry output without having to add any staff.
“We’ll be able to double or triple the cookie output with just one person and a cookie machine. With the additional oven space, we will be able to double or triple the cake output,” Brethauer adds.
Even in the current cramped quarters, cake sales have increased three-fold in two years. Scholars Inn sells a variety of dessert cakes in 3-in., 6-in. and 9-in. sizes. The smaller 3-in. size is selling well, even though there was a bit of a learning curve on the customers’ part when the bakery introduced them.
“No one in Bloomington had ever seen 3-in. cakes,” Lyle says. Scholars Inn began offering 3-in. cakes because the larger 9-in. cakes tended to dry out too quickly when they were cut and sold by the slice.
All of the cakes are made of several components. “We try to incorporate not only eye appeal in cakes, but also different textures and flavors,” Brethauer adds.
For example, the chocolate mousse cake has a sour cream chocolate cake base, and a ribbon of patterned almond sponge cake. Then, the mousse is added, and once it has set up, a scratch-made mirror glaze is applied to the top. Decorations are piped on top and sprinkled with gold dust. Scholars Inn sells 800 of the 3-in. chocolate mousse cakes every week.
However, the best selling cake variety is the chocolate cheesecake. The New York-style cheesecake is hand-dipped in chocolate and features hints of lemon and orange zest.
| After dough passes through a bagel former, bakers finish shaping by hand. |
Boosting bagel sales
After Scholars Inn conquered bread and pastry, the Feigenbaums turned their attention to bagels. “We were getting local bagels, but they weren’t the quality we wanted,” Lyle says. “So, we decided to do our own bagels.” The original College Ave. location in Bloomington expanded 2 1/2 years ago to include Bakehouse Bagels.
The Feigenbaums took their bakers to H&H Bagels in New York to see how bagels should be done. Scholars Inn now sells 15,000 to 20,000 bagels a week.
“Bagels are a very touchy product,” Lyle says. His staff has a system perfected. After the bagels are formed, they go into a proofer. After proofing, bakers float test them. If they are buoyant and float to the top, the bagels are ready. Then, they are covered with plastic, retarded for 18 to 36 hours, then kettle-boiled to give them a shiny, chewy crust and moist interior. After boiling, the bagels are hearth-baked and flipped by hand.
The Feigenbaums and their staff are committed to providing only the best products and maintaining their scratch-made appeal.
“We are in the process of building a brand, building an image,” Lyle says. “We try to keep our processes good and our prices affordable.”
Scholars Inn Bakehouse…a sampling of prices
Lemon tart, 3-in. … $3.95
Chocolate dipped cheesecake, 3-in. … $4.50
Chocolate mousse cake, 3-in.…$5.95
Carrot cake, 6-in.… $21.00
Lemon shock cake, 6-in.… $26.00
Honey whole wheat bread…$3.95
Rosemary olive bread…$5.50
New York rye…$3.95
Pecan raisin bread…$5.50
Chocolate chip cookie…$1.00
Scholars Inn Bakehouse at a glance
Headquarters: Bloomington, Ind.
Web site: www.scholarsinn.com
Bakery management: Lyle and Kerry Feigenbaum, owners; Greg Berke, vice president, wholesale; Greg Shiffli, vice president, Indianapolis; Jeff Duez, department head, bread; Mark Brethauer, department head, pastry; Laura Chaiken, department head, bagels; Jenny Bell, general manager, College Ave.; Julie Ranz, general manager, east Bloomington; Ellen Sikora, general manager, Indianapolis
Market served: retail–Bloomington and Indianapolis;
wholesale–75-mile radius around Bloomington
Number of bakeries: 3 (two in Bloomington, one in Indianapolis)
Other businesses: Scholars Inn Bed & Breakfast in Bloomington; Scholars Inn Gourmet Café & Wine Bar, one location each in Bloomington and Indianapolis
Bakery size: 3,500-4,500 sq. ft.
Number of employees: 125
Product line: pastries, cakes, bagels, breads and rolls
Production method: scratch
Major equipment: vertical and spiral mixers, divider/rounder, sheeter, proofer, rack oven, and hearth oven
Plans: move to a new production facility this spring, open another Bakehouse location in Indianapolis
Bakery supply distributors: Dawn, Sysco