Mae's Bakery opened in Buckhead at the end of August, and, already, the team is experiencing sold-out cases and scheming up new sweet and savory treats to bring the masses. So far, popular favorites include the s'mores and salted caramel cupcakes, and new flavors like blueberry lemonade and white chocolate raspberry are making their way to the front lines. Here, owner Beth Castro talks about opening week, going from bookkeeping to bakery-owning, and naming the shop after her daughter.
What's your background? When did you decide you wanted to open a bakery?
I spent 14 years in the restaurant and food service industry working in just about every position imaginable— everything from waiting tables to bartending to training and operations management. I worked in a variety of both mom-and-pop and corporate environments, so I feel like I have a very good understanding of what it takes— from a financial and operational standpoint— for our bakery to be successful. About three years ago, after the recession hit, I found myself at a crossroads career-wise. I had been doing a lot of freelance bookkeeping and the work was drying up pretty fast. My husband and I had toyed around with the idea of opening up a restaurant, but it was more wishful than serious.
I have been baking ever since I was little, and it's something that I've been sharing with family and friends for quite a long time. People have been telling me for years that I should start my own business, but it always seemed so daunting and risky. For whatever reason, now seemed the right time and my husband and I started researching in earnest. It took us over two years to get the finances in order and to find the right spot. We're very fortunate to be in the position we're in now.
How have things been since the opening?
We couldn't have asked for a better opening week. Business has been very steady and it seems like word of mouth is spreading very quickly. We've had so many people from the neighborhood come in a tell us how happy and excited they are that we're in the community, and how we've helped come in and fill a void that's been missing. It's been a very wonderful and gratifying experience.
You have some great talent working with you. How did you find them? How have they helped shape Mae's?
Miraculously we found both our head baker, Fahra Krifkovic, and our coffee manager, Brandon Malcolm, through Craigslist ads we placed. We were very close to finishing construction, and we were starting to get very nervous about filling out our staff, but within week we managed to hire the former head baker at Southern Sweets and the coffee manager at Empire State South. It was amazing. They both just sort of fell into out lap, and we absolutely would not be where we are without them.
Brandon has built our coffee program from the ground up. He's very passionate about what he does, and we've let him run the show because he's the expert. And I don't even want to think about where I'd be without Fahra. She's been doing this for a long time and knows all the ins and outs of the industry. She set up our kitchen workflow and has been responsible for a variety of menu items, including the cinnamon rolls and savory rolls. She really is the best.
What's your favorite thing on the menu?
Oooh, that's a tough call. With the exception of the croissant, everything at the bakery is made from scratch, and we try to incorporate and balance a variety of flavors, both sweet and savory. We're always experimenting and introducing new items, so my 'favorite' is constantly in flux. Right now I would say it's the white chocolate raspberry cupcake with raspberry cream cheese frosting. It's the perfect mix of sweet and tart, and a nice end of summer treat.
You named the bakery after your six-year-old daughter— how did she react when you told her? What's her favorite thing on the menu?
We had the name picked out a while back, so she's kind of grown up with it. I don't think she really grasps the idea that there's this business that's named after her. She thinks it's her bakery, and doesn't see anything unusual in that. It's sort of become matter of course with her. But she does love coming to the bakery and handing out napkins to customers—it's her way of participating and "working" at the shop. As for her favorite thing, she likes to keep it simple—chocolate cupcake with buttercream.
Do you bake with her at home? What's your favorite thing to make together?
Oh, absolutely! Mae loves to bake. Anything and everything. But our favorite thing to make together by far is candy sushi. The baking part only consists of making Rice Krispy treats, but she loves marshmallows and squishing everything together. But it's the decorating part that we love the best. Wrapping the "rolls" and cutting them into sections.
What are the future plans of you bakery?
We've only been open for a week, so we're not thinking about expansion, but we did do some future planning when we laid out current kitchen. We are very fortunate to have a fairly large space, which currently has two double convection ovens. However, we wired the kitchen for four ovens, which means we could double our output if we wanted to. We have talked briefly about opening up a satellite location, a smaller space where we could deliver our goods to, serve coffee, and so on, but we definitely don't want to get ahead of ourselves. There's still a lot of work to do, and a lot of cookies and cupcakes to sell, before we get there.
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