What’s This About A Bakery?

July 31st, 2011 | Rachel

First day at the new job

Last Friday afternoon, I had plans to meet up with my friend Arthur for a cup of coffee (since his job is cool and gives him half days on Fridays during the summer).  At the last minute, we scrapped the coffee plan and instead met for cupcakes at a bakery in the Upper East Side called the Three Green Ducks.*

I arrived first and immediately noticed a sign on the front door advertising an open position for a full time employee.  The thought of applying crossed my mind and I felt a flutter of excitement in my stomach, but the pragmatic side of my brain quickly brushed it aside and I blamed the gastrointestinal reaction on hunger.  College students work at bakeries.  People who are still paying for their law degrees do not.

When Arthur arrived, he mentioned the sign.  Again, I waved off the idea, saying it was too crazy.  We each purchased our mini-cupcakes and sat down.  The subject of the help wanted sign came up again.

Arthur, like many of my friends, has listened to me ramble about my bed and breakfast dream on many occasions and has always been supportive despite his otherwise very practical nature.  “There’s only one way to learn how to run a business,” he said over his red velvet cupcake.  “You just have to jump in there even when it means starting at the bottom.”  The wheels in my head were spinning.  He had a point.  He then walked back up to the counter and ordered two lemonades and an employment application.

The humbling part about filling out that application is it quickly revealed how under-qualified I was for the job.  Previous employer: Big Anonymous Law Firm.  Skills used: research, writing… and, uh, cite checking?  I was starting to doubt my odds of even being considered.

“Looks like another unemployed lawyer trying to figure out what to do with her life.”

“Toss it.  Let’s hire the high school student who actually knows how to work an espresso machine.”

I left the box for previous salary blank.  The pay discrepancy was nothing short of comical.

Nervously, I handed the application to a friendly-looking person behind the counter.  She looked it over and told me to wait.  She disappeared into the kitchen.  A few minutes later, one of the managers came out and asked if I had time to talk.  We sat at one of the tables, and I tried to explain that I wasn’t insane and actually had legitimate reasons for wanting to work there.  I told her about my future bed and breakfast and California and my love of baking and Martha Stewart.

Since the only employment experience I’ve had since college was in an attorney capacity, she asked a lot of questions about how my lawyering experiences and skills could translate into the bakery environment.  As I discovered while I was talking, there are a lot of ways.  I was getting a good vibe.

She asked if I could hang on a few more minutes and disappeared into the kitchen.  Moments later another manager came out, and I gave my I’m-not-crazy-I-just-really-want-to-work-here speech again.  He talked about the hectic pace, the ornery customers, the dismal pay, the working holidays and everything else that might make me change my mind.  He said he wanted me to have a clear picture as to what I was getting myself into.  In my head, however, I was picturing myself at my desk, the 5 a.m. nights, not being able to have dinner with Steve the night before he went back to the ship because there was a doc review crisis, the thankless partners, the neon lights, the coworkers that never said hello in the hallway, the stale office air…

Suddenly I felt a light bulb turn on in my head.  What was I afraid of?

I was afraid that taking a job at a bakery would ruin my chance of getting a job at another large law firm — something I didn’t even want to do.  In being scared, I was shutting out the myriad of good possibilities that could stem from having this job — a job I’ve actually fantasized about ever since I picked up cake decorating as a hobby in law school and discovered my knack for baking.  Maybe it will help me run a bed and breakfast.  Maybe I’ll open that pie shop I’ve always talked about.  Maybe I’ll write a book about it.  Maybe I’ll be a food writer.  Maybe I’ll work for Martha Stewart.  Maybe I’ll be the next Martha Stewart.  And whatever it is, it doesn’t have to exclude being a lawyer too. Maybe I’ll be a lawyer for small, creative businesses.  Maybe I’ll run a bed and breakfast and have my own solo trusts and estates practice.  Maybe (or, perhaps, probably) I’ll do something completely unexpected.

The second manager asked me to hold on and disappeared into the kitchen.  I turned around and apologetically told Arthur he could leave if he wanted.  We had been there for an hour at that point.  Arthur said he was going to stay.

Then the first manager came back out and said, “We’d like to hire you.”

A new chapter began.



*The bakery isn’t actually called the Three Green Ducks.  Out of respect for them I’m not going to use the real name because I don’t want my personal viewpoints to be mistakenly attributed to them.

9 Responses to “What’s This About A Bakery?”

  1. laura Patterson says:

    Good for you! Working food service is pretty grueling at times, but there’s also the satisfaction that at the end of the day you’ve FED people. Your work literally nourished them and, especially in your case, made them a little happier. You get to leave it behind when the shop closes and there are no stressful dreams waking you up in the middle of the night. If nothing else, I’ll bet this change of career gives your heart a break.

    Good luck and let me know if you ever need a partner/gardener/pit master for that B&B!

  2. Jessica T. says:

    Hi Rachel, great seeing you yesterday! Just wanted to say that it’s inspiring to see you customizing your life to what you want it to be. I really admire your optimism and faith in the endless possibilities that this opportunity could lead to later down the road. I think we’re all getting to the ages where we see that life is too short not to find a way to do what you really love (&finding creative ways to make that work!). Hope to see you around the city – I’ll definitely have to come visit you at the bakery sometime! -Jessica

  3. Nathan says:

    So proud of you, Rachel! I can’t wait to read/hear the rest of the adventure…or to eat at the bakery when in New York over next spring break!

  4. Laura says:

    I think this is a great step towards your Martha Stewart empire. In a role reversal, I had bakery experience on my resume for a long time from a summer job in college, which I’m sure the law firms I applied to for internships ignored. ;) I hope that you get the opportunity to be creative and get lots of hands-on food production experience!

    When you do get to the point of an entrepreneurial endeavor, you might consider doing a Kickstarter to get started – I can think of no better investors than your friends, who I know believe in you! A Durham cupcake truck is now opening a brick-and-mortar store, thanks to $20K raised via Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1026566929/daisycakes-a-mobile-cupcake-bakery-needs-equipment

    Just a thought. :)

  5. Kim Whitehead says:

    Congrats on the new job and for putting yourself in positions for your dreams to grow!

  6. […] Today marks my last day working at the Three Green Ducks (which, as many of you already know, is not the real name of the bakery).  If you haven’t read about how I ended up with the job, here’s the back story. […]

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