Service

Columbus OH, Craft, Ohio, Service, Food

Dan Riesenberger : Dan the Baker

How did you get your start?

I was working at North Star Cafe… The main baker there left... and I ended up buying a bunch of his in-home baking equipment… I started experimenting around in my house baking breads. Mainly just eating them myself, but I brought some to the farmers market and started selling them. People were like, “Oh, what is that? Who are you? What are you doing?” I thought it was cool. I’m making bread, making a few bucks here and there. I realized I liked doing it. One of the shopkeepers at the Clintonville farmers market let me set up next to their store. That was my start. The first day [that I set up at the farmers market] I sold out in 90 minutes. The bread definitely wasn’t as nice as it is now but it was cool how much demand there was for a product like this. 

I’m not professionally trained in any way. [North Star] was its own type of baking. So any of the bread making training that I’ve gotten has been self taught. I’m growing with the recipes, just working with them. Trying and failing many times. 

...I quit North Star before I started a bakery… I didn’t have a plan for after that. The baking gig turned into “well, I need to make money, so…” Definitely grew very organically. It was never, “I’m going to be a baker and have this huge operation.” I kind of fell into it all. “Well, I’m good at this, it makes sense, people really like it, I can’t turn back now.” ...

All of this time and money spent.

Right... I grew the business slow and methodical. I didn’t really change the processes a lot. I have a really small staff, it’s very personal. It’s very much a passion that we all have. It’s not some large corporate production. Yes, we make a lot of bread, but we try to have that handmade feel, bring the love to the dough. I mean whatever but it is true. 

It’s something I never really want to grow so much that it loses that feel. Because then what’s the point? That is why I work in the first place. That is why I’m happy with it in the first place. So many people want to grow so fast, you lose that initial excitement and then it’s just another corporation. 

Do you still wake up excited about coming to work?

Oh yea! I love it! So I went to San Francisco for the first time last week. That was just a mind-blowing experience. I’ve always followed Tartine Bakery and Josey Baker and Don Guerra in Tucson. So I finally got to make a trip out there. It was so inspiring to see all of these bakeries and compare your bread vs theirs. To have that experience, [I came back] more excited to work with the product. To bake what I know. We do a really good job, I felt like ours held up. We’re making an awesome product and we don’t need to change much. 

What is an unexpected favorite thing about running your own business?

…I guess finding people that are as passionate as you about it. That really has been awesome. [It’s also] something I’ve had to come to terms with, because I’ve not wanted to give up the responsibility of dough shaping, mixing, baking, all that… To grow the business and to have free time, I’ve had to [let go of some responsibility.] It’s been fun finding people that are as passionate about the product and the business and the whole philosophy as I am. I’m a pretty introverted person in general. So bringing in other people has been something outside of my comfort zone, but it’s been one of the best things.

Creating your own bread community. 

Yes. Watching that bread culture grow, and I don’t mean the sourdough culture. I mean the community around the city that appreciates this bread… Watching that grow and materialize over the last six years has been super sweet. It makes you feel a lot more grounded. More responsible and influential in a way too. You can really affect change in a pretty cool way. By making a product that people can’t find elsewhere and can really get behind. That’s one of the things I picked up from baker Don Guerra in Tucson. His community out-reach philosophy… Instead of just making a really great loaf of bread, really connecting to the community. Teaching people ... how it is different from something they would buy at the grocery store. It made me really appreciate that and want to do something like that in Columbus. 

Bringing the bakery back down to the community level. Like they used to be.

Right. It has become this celebrity thing, and I don’t feel like that’s necessarily how it going to ride out. It’s awesome that it has that sort of exposure right now, the local foods and ‘back to the old methods’ foods. I think in the longer term it is more going to be more intimate than that, less flash. But you know, it’s always going to change. 

What gave you the idea for the Toast Bar?

In San Francisco, Josey Baker has a shop called The Mill. They took the artisan toast trend of San Francisco [started by Trouble Coffee] and opened their own. I went to Intellensia Coffee in Chicago and they were doing a flight sort of deal as well. and I thought, “Man that’s a perfect idea!” People can get exposed to the bread and in a non-pretentious way. It’s really funny, because as soon as I launched the idea, people were like, “That’s so pretentious.” That’s exactly what I was not going for. People can feel how they will about it and come see it if they like. It’s just a way to try the different breads and grains and spreads and such without committing to a whole loaf! And it allows us to make our own butter, jams, almond butter, [etc].

To have an excuse to expand into more things!

Right. I’ve tried to expand things too much before. I get really crazy ideas and try to do too much. Business is better when it’s focused and streamlined. I’ve had to realize, with these crazy expansion ideas, what we’re the best at. Keep it limited, keep it focused. Until we’re really, really ready to grow past where we are… Knowledge is half the battle. To know that, to see how to adapt. 

The options are limitless. You have to calm down about trying to do everything.

Absolutely. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

 

artist, Craft, Columbus OH, Ohio, Service

Allison Chapman : Igloo Letterpress

Allison Chapman owns and runs Igloo Letterpress; a small letterpress, design, and book binding business.

How did you get your start in letterpress?

“My grandfather was a hobby printer. I learned by hanging around the studio with him. He was really interested in machinery and how things worked. The things I like about [running] Igloo are process and problem solving. That’s the creative part that I get energy from and get excited about. 

“We use three types of plates: plastic, wood and metal. It’s not all antique stuff. Most of the work we do now is emailed to us as a PDF. Then we make the plastic plates from those designs.“

"The green press was my grandfather's."

A plastic plate ready to print.

How do you do that?

“It is a light sensitive plastic. The area that is exposed to light becomes hard and the rest of it washes away with water. There are two things I like about the plastic plates. One, we can recycle them when we’re done. There’s less waste. We print a lot of wedding invitations and things that are single use. Two, it allows us to have a deeper impression, or bite as it’s called, into the paper. Our customers ask for that.”

I’ve had quite a few people ask me what the difference is between letterpress and computer printing.

“That’s funny, we always joke that letterpress is better press. When you look at a design, sometimes it’s hard to imagine what it’s going to be like when it’s printed. It’s so different looking a [screen] with light shining through it compared to ink on paper. We mix our ink colors by hand most of the time.”

Do you work much with antique plates?

“In our classes we do. I do in my designs too. I wasn’t trained as a graphic designer on a computer. So I learned by setting individual letters together. If I ran out of an ‘e’ I would have to choose a different font. If it was too big to fit on the paper I would have to start over. It’s hard for me to design on the computer. There are too many choices. I like the limitation of saying, “Oh, yes, this will fit on this paper. This type looks good with that image.” It’s a little bit easier to make decisions.”

When are you hoping to move into your new space?

“We did a Kickstarter to fund our classroom area in our new space. So right now we’re in the process of printing all of that stuff and getting it shipped. We will have our grand opening party this fall.”

Were you surprised/impressed by the response to your Kickstarter?

“Yes. All of those things. It’s a humbling experience to go through a Kickstarter. We did ours for 30 days. We wanted to give time for information to travel… We had around 350 donors. It started out with our friends and family. Then the [local community]. In our first day I think we hit 20%. It was amazing to feel that people were investing in our success.”

Many of the cards Igloo Letterpress prints and sells are collaborations with local artists.

The Snow House is the gift shop for Igloo Letterpress. They also carry goods from local artists.

How has Igloo grown over the years from a hobby to a full time business with employees?

“Our family moved here from Minnesota in 2008. At the time I was pregnant. Igloo in Minnesota was me, in the house. I had a job at the time where I taught letterpress printing [in a different shop]. I didn’t know anybody [in Columbus]. It was my way of building something for myself here and meeting people that cared about the same things I did.

“[The first Igloo Letterpress studio in Columbus was in an artist warehouse outside of town]. I had 300 square feet and shoehorned everything in…When I was out there nobody would go meet me [at my studio]…I got tired of meeting people in coffee shops. I looked [everywhere in Columbus] trying to find the right spot for Igloo… We live in Worthington. So I chose to look for a space around here. I really appreciate the Worthington Farmers Market. I thought the people going to the farmers market might have an interest in the handcrafted stuff I’m making. It was the natural way for me to grow my business, but it’s not a traditional way to do it. I worked while my daughter was in kindergarten and my son was in preschool, 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. Then I would pick my kids up and it was family time. I would work again from 9 P.M. to 2 A.M. It let me grow slowly. I am thankful that it isn't just me anymore. Igloo's staff is so talented. We’re a big small business… [I’m comfortable with our size and work load.] I feel really good about the quality of our work and the quality of our customer interaction.”

 

Richmond IN, Indiana, Service, Craft

George Marinakes Shoe Repair: Shoes Expertly Rebuilt

George Marinakes is a second generation shoe repair man. His son, Ted, works part-time in the busy shop. Ted has a full-time job but helps his dad out in the evenings and on Saturdays. Both father and son are quick to laughter and very helpful. During my two hours in the shop, every customer left with a smile on their face.

George-
“I’ve had the shop since … 1952. My dad started it in 1928, September the 1st…
When I started working here 70 years ago, there were 20 shoe repair shops in Richmond. Now we’re the only one. We’re ‘the last of the Mohicans’. We’ve always had a good business here.”

Ted-
“I think Dad’s had me down here [since] I was about 6 or 7 years old. Shining shoes, starting out.”

  In the 1930’s and 40’s, the shop was open on Sundays. People would stop in before church to get their shoes shined. This bench used to be twice the size and seat 6. The shop used to employ two shoe shine boys. Now, customers drop off their shoes to be shined.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, the shop was open on Sundays. People would stop in before church to get their shoes shined. This bench used to be twice the size and seat 6. The shop used to employ two shoe shine boys. Now, customers drop off their shoes to be shined.

Has business been affected by mass produced and cheaper shoes?
Ted-
“Things are getting harder to fix because there’s a lot of plastics. Glues don’t stick to the plastics. A lot of stuff is molded instead of built.”

 

George later introduces me to the only glue that works on molded soles. He was re-glueing the sole of a sneaker. The glue is from Germany and very expensive. He kept asking me if I could smell it. It is very strong. His doctor has told him to stop using it: George has asthma. George’s doctor has also told him to retire.

 

George-
“The old saying is:

‘If you’re happy with your work, then the customer is happy with your work, also.’  

So if you’re not satisfied with your work, if your work didn’t come out like you wanted, the customer will know it and will not be satisfied with your work, either. So as long as you’re pleased with it and your work looks good … then you know you’ve accomplished something and that works out to please both parties. That’s the main thing. Anything that you do. Your work or anybody else’s. If you look at it and say ‘Well I’ve accomplished something here, it’s amazing and something I appreciate,’ [then] the customer will appreciate it also. That’s what brings them back.

It’s not how much advertising you do. It’s satisfaction between the two parties that brings a better result.”

So you’ve never advertised?

“No, I’ve never advertised. It’s been mouth to ear and that’s about it. It’s been good.”

You seem to have plenty of work!

“Always. Too much work. I want to retire! I’m 85 years old and I don’t have a chance to retire yet because I gotta wait for Ted to retire [from his day job]… I’ll be 93 years old, I’ll be an old man then! [laughter] I know I’ll want to retire then. Oh well, that’s the way life goes.”

George’s parting advice:
“[Another] old saying is:

‘There’s no easy sailing when the sky is clear and blue,
There’s no merit in doing things that anyone can do,
Satisfaction which is mighty sweet to take,
When you reach something you never thought you’d make.’

There’s a lot of truth in that. That’s what I’ve always looked at and thought about. That’s what keeps you going. An old watchmaker told me that about 60 some years ago.”