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Wednesday, 16 May 2012 12:25

Annie’s Bakery gets new life, new owners thanks to ‘locavesting’

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When Annie’s Naturally Bakery closed down last November, among those mourning the loss of the beloved coffee, bakery and gathering place in Sylva was Annie’s faithful Charles King.

Without a new owner, the fate of the long-time Main Street institution seemed uncertain.

“Annie’s closing left a void that needed to be filled,” King said. So eventually, fans of the bakery and café decided to take matters into their own hands.

King can now count himself among a group of local investors who helped reopen Annie’s under the new name of Mainstreet Bakery and Café. King, who retired from working in the banking industry, knew a good bet when he saw it.

He’s one of 10 people who live in Jackson, including a couple with seasonal homes here, who have invested money into getting Mainstreet Bakery and Café open. The bakery opened its doors two weeks ago.

“At the end of the day it’s about the people. And this is an investment in the community as well,” King said over a grilled cheese sandwich this week during a late lunch at the Mainstreet Bakery.

The bakery is now under the ownership and management of two former Annie’s employees, Heather and Chad Kindy. Heather was the retail manager of the store, and Chad did a local wholesale bakery delivery route.

“I’ve known Heather and Chad for six years,” King said. “And I know they are hard workers and that they are willing to put in what’s needed to succeed.”

Heather and Chad said there’s been a learning curve to going from employees to owners, however.

“We’ve definitely learned a lot real fast,” 30-year-old Chad said. “About the flow of the kitchen and what people really want.”

The bakery features pastries, bagels, simple breakfast sandwiches and lunches made up of homemade soups, salads and sandwiches.

Everyone who invested in Mainstreet Bakery and Café were loyal regulars — people the Kindys already knew and who loved the place, Chad said.

The decision to buy was made abruptly, with no prior discussion, the day before Annie’s closed.

“We sat down at the house and Chad and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do this,’” 29-year-old Heather said. “We didn’t even have to say what we were talking about — we knew.”

One of their first moves was to seek out Frank Lockwood, a professor of entrepreneurship at Western Carolina University, for advice. Lockwood had been one of Chad’s professors.

With Lockwood’s help, they crunched the numbers and put together a full-fledged business plan. They realized they didn’t have the money to get up and running on their own, however.

That’s when the idea for “locavesting” was hatched, the concept of pulling a group of local people together who have both the money and desire to invest in the community. There is something of a national movement in locavesting, with the bible of the movement being Amy Cortese’s book Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It.

Though other businesses in the region have certainly benefited from local investor dollars, Mainstreet Bakery and Café appears to be the first full-fledged attempt to put locavesting into action.

“We didn’t do a pubic announcement that we were looking for investors,” Heather said. “We had a group of advisors and we contacted people through that. Those people wanted to get us up and going.”

Being an investor doesn’t give those involved the right to have a say in the day-to-day operations of Main Street Bakery and Café.

“It’s not like they are buying a stake in the business and have that say in the daily business,” Heather said. “But Chad and I are very open to suggestions.”

Chad said the couple is already seeing areas to tweak at Mainstreet Bakery and Cafe. They want to do more vegan things, for instance, plus they’d like to add a line of diabetic-friendly items.

For now, the Sylva community is just glad to have its bakery back.

Linda Smalley ventured in with sons Cooper, who got a bagel, and Henry, who selected a cinnamon roll, on their way to Kung Fu practice.

“I love to have a bakery on Main Street,” Smalley said. “The (boys) love coming in to some place like this.”

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