The village of Westhampton Beach, N.Y., with a population of less than 2,000, may not appear to be an ideal location for a full-line retail bakery on the surface, but once summer hits, the population swells as New Yorkers flee the city to spend long weekends at the beach. Simon Jorna, owner of Beach Bakery Cafe, takes full advantage of the seasonal population growth. With more than $1 million in sales, almost three-quarters of that amount is made during 10 weeks in the summer.
“I get more people in the store on a daily basis than we have in the entire village in the summer,” Jorna says. “If you think about it like that, it’s a pretty good accomplishment.” And, he estimates that he is only pulling from a five-mile radius.
The week of July 4 is the biggest selling period in the bakery. In that week alone, sales are more than the months of January, February and March combined, even when Easter falls in March.
As one of the only full-line retail bakeries left in the area, Jorna attracts customers with his line of pies, cakes, cookies, pastries, donuts and pizzas, as well as coffees, sodas and juices, including fresh-squeezed orange juice.
On a good day, the bakery sells between 2,000 and 3,000 of mini black and white cookies, it’s best-selling item. Another popular item is the bakery’s fried croissant, which is filled with raspberry jam and coated with cinnamon sugar.
Jorna also has worked to make his bakery a village gathering spot. He hires a band that plays up to four times a week in the summer for 57 nights of live music on a stage he built outside the bakery. “People walk by, listen to the music and buy a cup of coffee from the bakery. That’s what makes it big,” Jorna says. The bakery opens at 6 a.m. year-round, and remains open in the summer until 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends.
He also has a policy of never saying no to a customer. If a customer comes in at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and wants a strawberry shortcake for 40 people, the bakers will make it. If they a want a half-size donut, the bakers will make it. “Whatever they want to order, they can order,” Jorna says. “Because we are basically open 24 hours in the summer, we can accommodate the customers like we want to.”
It is this willingness to please the customer that allows Jorna and his staff to blow past sales goals. On days that he sets a sales goal of $5,000, the bakery often sells $10,000. Jorna credits his bakers’ flexibility, and their willingness to work extra hours when needed, for the accomplishment. “That makes the business more profitable because if you need them, they are there,” he says. “That’s what really makes the difference; if you have good employees who are willing to do the extra stuff.”
The bakery has a staff of about 35 in the summer with nine bakers. Three bakers work full time year-round, and Jorna supplements his production staff in the summer with bakers from a baking school in Holland. The visa program allows them to work in June, July and August, exactly the months that Jorna needs them.
With a customer count that increases 10 fold from winter to summer, Jorna must keep customers happy. “I will say that there is not a single store that is more known than my store in Westhampton Beach,” he says. “After 19 years in business, I’ve never had a year where I sold less than the year before.”