Local bakeries keep up with rising prices and demand.
When Sugar Mamas opened in 2009, it was the only traditional old-style dedicated walk-in store for cakes and pastries in Flagstaff. “I’ve always used only fresh and whole ingredients,” said Sugar Mamas owner Lexi Striker.
Having become an established Flagstaff business, Sugar Mamas moved from the original downtown location to the current space on Steves Blvd. in 2016. Striker also changed her operation from retail walk-in store to online special-order baking (https://www.sugarmamasflagstaff.com/). Loyal customers sought her out and her special-order bakery is thriving.
“It was a risky move, cutting business in half,” she said. “A lot of people thought I’d disappeared! But it was a self-preservation thing. I wanted to keep the quality high and avoid burnout.”
Mozelle’s (http://www.mozellesdowntownbakery.com/) is the other major made-from-scratch sweet goods bakery in town. Located on Heritage Square, the business has embraced the walk-in store model. Owned and operated by the Knott family, Carson Knott, one of five kids, recently joined his mother, Andrea, and father, Sean, full-time in the family business.
“Having grown the business significantly over the last nine years, we’ve brought non-family staff on board in the last year or two,” said Knott.
Mozelle’s typically has about 30 different cakes and pastries on offer on any given day. “We develop our own recipes, with around 100 items on rotation. Breakfast pastries, especially our croissants, are particularly good sellers – perhaps because we’re the only place in town where you can get them made fresh daily,” he said. “We’d maybe like to open a second location at some point, when the market’s more stable.”
When the pandemic struck, business for both bakeries continued, but because people were only able to congregate in small groups, they ordered much smaller quantities. The pandemic also created another challenge in the raw ingredients supply chain.
“The price of ingredients is now a moving target,” said Striker. “Just a year ago, an egg would cost no more than 13 cents, but now, even commercially farmed non-organic eggs cost 35 cents each. Sometimes that price comes back down a bit, but it’s hard to predict.”
Food truck deliveries also have been affected. “Ten years ago, there was a dollar minimum to get a delivery. Now there’s a case minimum, which means having to store much larger amounts of ingredients. I buddy up with folks on orders whenever I can, but it’s all gotten a lot more complicated,” said Striker.
At Mozelle’s, Knott also struggles with the challenge of fluctuating prices on key ingredients. However, a silver lining has appeared with the boom in post-pandemic weddings. Both bakeries have experienced a surge in wedding cake orders.
“Right now, here at Mozelle’s, we have around a 50/50 mix of birthday versus wedding cakes. It’s been a really busy season and we’re booked out most weeks at the moment,” said Knott.
At Sugar Mamas, Striker has teamed up with local chef Laura Chamberlin (https://www.lcprofessionalchef.com/) to offer farm-to-table dinners. It started during the pandemic as a way of delivering socially-distanced evenings out. “But now we’re catering for larger groups,” said Striker, who is originally from New York. “It’s allowed me to bring my knowledge of Jewish and Italian traditions to my baking, with new items like tomato rugelach and challah.”
And there has been another change in Striker’s baking. “I woke up from a dream saying that I wasn’t going to write on cakes anymore!” she said with a laugh. On a visit to Baltimore, she had another epiphany. “I saw a baker there only decorating cakes with a combination of fresh and dried flowers, fruits and herbs done in pretty, textural designs. So now, I focus on natural cake decorating. I want the way my cakes look to reflect their flavor.”
Striker now sources her flowers, herbs and seeds from Wild Heart Farm AZ in Rim Rock, as well as growing and foraging for her own. She is also experimenting with using flowers as integral cake ingredients.
She is taking a break until October, when Sugar Mamas will be taking orders again. “I know the lead up to Thanksgiving is going to be very busy, especially with orders for pies, so I need a bit of time off.”
Busy in the kitchen at Mozelle’s, Andrea Knott says they are anticipating the return of students for the fall semester. “That will give a welcome boost to sales. We get a lot of delivery orders from campus.”
Those orders are expected to increase even more for Northern Arizona University’s Family Weekend, which is Oct. 7-9. “Platters of cookies and cupcakes are especially popular for that.” FBN
By Diane Hope, FBN