Jenny Finau has spent the past several years helping other entrepreneurs to start or improve their businesses.
“I’ve kind of helped some struggling restaurants and coffee shops and things like that, or supported them through branding changes,” Finau said. “I guess I don’t really know what my job title has been. One of my coworkers called me a hired gun.”
In looking for a place to realize her dream of opening her own café and bakery, she found a confidential listing for a tested and successful business in Madison Valley — Essential Bakery Café.
“I was looking for something, something that was not necessarily this but similar; a space where I could open a bakery and a cafe,” Finau said, “and this opportunity presented itself and all the pieces fit together.”
The Essential Baking Company was founded in 1994, and the café has been in the neighborhood nearly as long.
“A lot of things they’re doing are really successful, and we don’t want to take that away from the neighborhood,” Finau said, adding she knows some regulars are nervous, but many menu favorites will remain. “They might get a little tweaking, but ultimately we’re not pulling the rug out from anybody.”
Tom Campanile with Essential told CHS blog the decision to sell the Madison Valley café is part of a long-term planning strategy for the company, which will continue operating locations in Wallingford and Georgetown.
Finau said most of the staff has decided to stay on with Love + Flour, the new name reflecting her goal of offering her own in-house baked goods at the café while maintaining the establishment as a communal space. People will still be able to find Essential breads at Love + Flour.
“For the vast majority of the pastry and dessert items, we’ll start making those in-house,” Finau said. “I’m really excited to start offering pie. I know it sounds silly, but I really love pie.”
While the kitchen is small, Finau said, she expects staff will grow and current employees will step up to help with the baking.
“Right now, I’m the only baker in-house, and I can’t do it all i can’t wear all the hats, so, yes, we are looking for bakers,” she said, “but several of our staff members have approached me because they love baking at home and they want to grow their skills as well.”
The space was closed for almost a full week for cleaning, applying new paint and some light maintenance work, reopening on Jan. 21. Finau said she plans to have her Love + Flour signage and logos up in the next few weeks. She’s also putting in new deli cases to show off by-the-pound offerings.
“What brings me the most personal joy is to see people eating my food and enjoying it,” Finau said, “and that’s the thing that keeps me up at night with excitement.”