The Crumbzz Journey

“You Only Live Once, But If  You Do It Right, Once Is Enough.”  

                                                                                               J. Lewis

Come along with us as we face the challenges of mediocrity, indifference and status quo in our mission to fulfill our quest to create the perfect crumb cake. J Stephen will take you with us to share in our journey across the world to locate the finest ingredients and rediscover lost baking methods in our “Quest For The Best”.

Our journey goes far beyond the baking of a cake. It involves the total customer experience. The enjoyment of our product is carefully matched by our beautiful packaging and our “you and me” concierge service.

Although our customer experience is the most visible sign that we are a different type of company, our relationships with our provisioner’s and the land where are ingredients come from, is just as much a part of who we are.

“Produce a superior offering that is made by people who are treated fairly, on land that is cared for properly.”

Our goal, to produce a superior offering that is made by people who are treated fairly, on land that is cared for properly, sounds easy.  I can assure you it’s not.  Vested interests, the “profit at all cost”  mentality and the belief that bigger better, all work against that goal.

But we decided from the start that if we can’t succeed doing it right, we’re not interested in doing it at all. For that reason, you will always find products that are less expensive than ours. Products that cut corners to increase profits.

What you won’t find, is a product that tastes as good as our Crumbzz Cakes and MiniZZ™ Snack Cakes, a product that uses any better  ingredients, and most importantly, a company that is more focused on serving all its stakeholders from the client, to the farmer, the worker and the land.

Join us now, on our journey to perfection…

J Stephen



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It’s All In The Details

(original post date 09/30/11)

In our previous post we told you that Forney, TX was the city we chose to open our first Tasting Pavilion.

We also mentioned that we chose Forney because they not only fit our mission of working with local providers, being as green as possible and assuring we were a responsible corporate citizen, but also because Forney seemed different, a city that had a clear vision of what it wanted to be and a leadership committed to fulfill that vision.

But, having a vision and the will to drive that vision are only part of the story. Because they are bureaucratic by nature, so many towns get bogged down in the details that end up killing the very vision they are promoting.

Many a small business owner has watched in dismay as their hard work and plans have fallen to turf wars and ownership issues of small town governments.

Deal killers arise along every step of the process. Government doesn’t have to be big government to kill a small business. The tunnel vision of many small town departments clashes with the “how do we make it work” attitude of most small business owners.

Planning and zoning departments that won’t budge on zoning issues, building inspectors not interested in acceptable work-around’s, by-the-book adherence to the “rules”, are all issues that small business owners must overcome.

Our own experience working with other cities in the Dallas area provides an example of what small business owners must deal with.

As we mentioned in our previous post, because of its size and population base, it was only logical that The City of Dallas was tops on our list for our first Crumbzz Tasting Pavilion.

We looked at several areas. There were plenty of vacant buildings in areas we liked. Artsy areas like Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, Uptown, Downtown, Cedar’s, all had places that fit us nicely.

Most of the locations were empty buildings that were crying to be brought back to life. However, because we are a food establishment, the city required specific upgrades that drove our costs appreciably beyond our budget.

These upgrades were hidden in the “bring the building up to code” requirement. You see in Dallas, if a building is vacant for more than six month’s it now has to be brought “up to code”.

Since most buildings in these areas have been empty for much longer than six month’s, a potential business would be saddled with costs that would never justify the projected income generation from the property.

Since the cost to “bring up to code” is so prohibitive, it often is cheaper to knock the building down and build new. But Dallas wants to “preserve” its heritage and won’t let developers knock down its old buildings. And so, most of these great old buildings sit dormant on empty streets with little hope of a re-awakening.

We spoke to the Dallas EDC about this issue. Nice people, who understand the problem, but whose hands are tied because, as we were told by an EDC employee who asked not to be named, “right now the city is run by the planning and zoning department and they get their paychecks whether we have a vibrant community or a dead one.” A sad, but all too common occurrence.

On the other end of the scale is Seagoville, the town we worked with before Forney “found” us. Seagoville’s EDC is run by a committed Director who understands the need to breath life into the downtown area.

Unlike Dallas’ EDC, who has given in to the reality of their situation, Seagoville’s EDC actively promotes their town and is aggressive in incentives and support to attract potential small businesses.

Unfortunately, the EDC of Seagoville goes it alone. Not because of an adversarial position with the rest of the towns departments. Ambivalent would be a better description of the rest of the town’s view of its downtown area.

Ambivalence can slow down the process but the main issue that prevents Seagoville from attracting businesses to its downtown area is the very property owners themselves.

Resistant to change, unapproachable, unrealistic views of market conditions are key factors that prevent this little town from moving forward. And so Seagoville awaits a reality check of its owners and a commitment by its town before a re-awakening will occur.

And that’s where Forney shines.

To successfully rehabilitate a downtown, you must have a department that champions the town’s vision, an “owner” or “proponent” if you will

You’ll find owners in many towns. Some are committed to the vision and drive relentlessly to make their vision come to life only to be stymied by the rest of the town’s departments who see re-development as a challenge to their power bases.

Other “owners” pay homage to the plan but little else, viewing the town’s vision as a marketing tool rather than an actual re-development plan.

The proponent of Forney’s vision is Forney’s Economic Development Corporation. The 7 member board, Director, Kim Buttram and her staff are relentless in their quest to turn Downtown Forney into a vibrant destination area.

Kim and the EDC are one of the few fortunate champions who have a secret weapon to assure their success. That secret weapon is… the rest of the city. From the Mayor to the City Council, through every department, everyone is on board.

Each department knows what needs to be done and where they can assist to make it happen. The vision of a new Downtown Forney is THEIR vision. Every department leader is briefed on the status of the plan and is proactive in how their department can help make the plan a success.

How does that extrapolate down to the business owner? A few examples of our experience working with the City of Forney will serve to show how Forney is different.

Example #1: Bringing an old building “up to code” – Like Dallas, Forney wants it’s buildings to be safe and up to code. Unlike Dallas, Forney offers the required tools for assistance for the business owner to make it happen.

The EDC works directly with the involved departments on the who, what and where to complete the process. Financial incentive? Yes Forney provides a package that helps ease the pain, but it’s the direct assistance that really makes a difference.

Small business owners are focused on running their business and are often overwhelmed by the paper and process requirements of government. Forney helps facilitate all those requirements. The city made the cost financially acceptable AND the process seamless.

Example #2: Finding the right space – Forney helped us locate a wonderful old Victorian building in downtown, introduced us to the owner and helped package our offer. When that deal fell through, Forney found another building and when that space was found unsuitable for our use, actually traded their EDC offices with us so that we had a space suitable for our use!

Tell me where you’ll find that kind of commitment from any other city!

Example #3: City Involvement – Once you’re open, Forney doesn’t drop the ball and hope revenues roll in. Since the town views itself as your partner, it is with you all the way. Anything it can do to help make you more successful is open for discussion.

Our launch will coincide with a full-page announcement in the local paper, a ribbon cutting black tie event for VIP’s and a massive City of Forney grand opening ceremony for the general public. And Forney is a partner with us throughout the process, getting its officials out and the public involved each step of the way.

If you had to use one word to describe what sets Forney above the rest, that word would be “Commitment”, a commitment to making it happen. We found no other town to have it.

We look forward to being the first in what we believe will be a string of many small business owners, who will help bring a “Uniquely Forney” downtown back to life.

J Stephen

Next Month: Welcome To Our First Tasting Pavilion

If You Build It, They Will Come

(original post date 08/23/11)

Building our Tasting Pavilion was always in our plans but was an idea without a date. We have always seen the Tasting Pavilion as not only a social gathering place for Crumbzz Enthusiasts but also a testing place for new offerings and refinements.

Having done the “retail” thing before, we were not in a hurry to get into the grind once more. But we felt it was important to have a place where we could meet our clients and get real-time, first-hand input on our offerings.

As with everything Crumbzz, a lot of thought went into what we would offer, where we would offer it, how we would present it and when we would begin.

The first issue was the name. We weren’t a bakery or a restaurant. Bakeries are bright places with glass cases that display an assortment of baked items. People come in to purchase their baked goods and leave.

Restaurants offer all kinds of foods in a multitude of environments but their bottom line is usually focused on turning tables as quickly as possible.

We were much more than a coffee shop and did not fit the definition of a cafe.

Our clients will come in to taste our offerings and enjoy each other’s company. They will enjoy an atmosphere of style where old world brick meets stainless and marble.

After month’s of discussions, we decided that the best name for what we were focused on achieving was a “tasting pavilion”.

Our vision was pretty clear. As with our offerings, we view Crumbzz as much more than a product. We are totally focused on providing each one of our clients with an “experience”.

From our web site and blog, to  our pre-sales support… our packaging and our offerings, through our post-sales client services…  we wanted our Tasting Pavilion to not only compliment our mission but enhance it.

We were also focused on making sure our Crumbzz Enthusiast Gathering Place was comfortable and welcoming. A place where Crumbzz Enthusiasts could enjoy not only our offerings but each others company in an environment that was warm and welcoming.

Once we had our name secured, we moved on to location. To serve our typical client, we were looking for an artsy, hip location. Initial forays in Dallas’ included the typical artsy areas including: Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, Uptown, Downtown, Cedars, etc. We spent month’s researching each area but in the end, found each missing one or more key ingredient.

We than set our eyes on the Dallas suburbs. Unfortunately, like most of the country, many of the suburban towns we spoke to were solely focused on keeping their heads above water financially.

When you’re busy putting out fires on a daily basis, you tend to lose sight of your town’s long term vision. When that happens, progress in that area grinds to a halt.

And so, our search for the ideal location continued.

It was at that time that we met the City of Forney Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Kim Buttram. Kim had seen Crumbzz on a recent TV interview and had wondered why Crumbzz had not considered Forney for its Tasting Pavilion.

Forney is a small community 23 miles east of downtown Dallas. It’s claim to fame had been its once booming antique business corridor off highway 80.

As interest in antiques began to wane, so too had Forney’s downtown area. Led by Kim and the EDC, we soon learned  that the entire town, from Mayor and City Council to the Building and Zoning Departments were all intent on reversing that slide.

Most towns are focused on attracting new businesses. Some even have a vision with grand plans in place. Unfortunately, few go any further than the design and planning stage and their plans lie dormant in their planning departments… great ideas, gathering dust.

Forney is different. It understands that a town must have an identity before it can move forward and that identity starts with the heart of any town, its downtown area.

Forney’s attention to its plan even extends to its name. You see Forney may be small, but it is not a town. Forney, looking towards its future… is a city.

The whole city is intent on bringing life back to its downtown area. And the city wants that life to be uniquely Forney.

Forney is not interested in attracting chains and multi-site mega-stores to its downtown. There are plenty of those in its outlying areas. Instead it’s focused on encouraging small business’ to set up shop to provide its residents and the multitude of visitors it hopes to attract, with a unique shopping experience.

Typical of most small Texas towns (excuse me, cities), Forney has beautiful old buildings, sitting empty, just waiting to be brought back to life.

This appeals to our company focus on being green, and partnering with the local community. What better way to serve a local community than to resurrect an old existing building, help the town bring life back to its downtown area and partnering with local talent to make it all happen.

But vision is just part of the equation. Execution is even more important to assure success. And that’s where Forney set themselves apart from all other cities.

J Stephen

Next Month: It’s All In The Details…  

Who is that Crumbzz Enthusiast

(original post date 06/07/11)

During the course of business, many of you have asked us who is our “typical” client. Being a relatively new company, we have, up to now, been unable to gather enough information to provide an answer to that question.

Finally, after actively providing cakes to our clients for seven months and spot polling different groups of clients, we have a pretty good idea of the typical Crumbzz enthusiast.

First, we need to provide you with a bit of background on the different sales channels we utilize to distribute our offerings.

Sales Channels-

Although our most visible presence is the marketing of our offerings to the general public through our web site, we also market our cakes to restaurants, specialty stores, corporations (corporate gifting), wholesalers (distributors)  and resellers (resellers are companies and/or individuals that market our cakes for a commission, to specific groups such as wineries, party planners, wedding planners, corporate clients, etc.)

The best way to understand who our customer is, is to look at these groups and then drill down into each to identify our client.

Currently, restaurants account for 43% of our business. We primarily market to high-end and trendy restaurants.

Although we market to the traditional up-scale restaurants mentioned above, our restaurant clientele also includes; art cafes, bistros, coffee houses, hotels and tea rooms.

Retail sales from our web site account for 26% of our business. Corporate gifting accounts for 19% of our sales activity and specialty stores fill out the rest (12%).

Because we have just expanded into the wholesale and re-seller portion of our business we do not yet have a track record on this category.

In September, we will be opening our first Tasting Pavilion in Forney, Texas. This will add another “direct retail” sales channel. 

Offerings-

We currently offer two different cake types and four different flavors.

Types- 10” individually packed round cakes. 2” three-to a box sq. MiniZZ.

Flavors- Cinnamon Streusel, Chocolat’ de la Terre, Fruit of the Seasons (Raspberry and Apricot).

We will soon be announcing a new category of wild, out of the box flavors called “Over The Moon Weirdness” (we’ll talk more about that in another blog after our release.)

CAKES: 40% of our cake sales are our Old World Cinnamon Streusel cakes, followed by our Chocolat’ de la Terre (31%) and Raspberry Fruit of the Seasons (29%). Since we have just begun to offer our Apricot Fruit of the Seasons cake, sales results for this flavor are incomplete.

MINIZZ: 33% of our MiniZZ sales are the variety pac (three different flavors), followed by 31% for Cinnamon Streusel, 19% Fruit of the Seasons (Raspberry) and 17% Chocolat’ de la Terre. As with our cakes, Apricot MiniZZ are too new to rate.

Purchase Type-

When we talk about our typical client, we are talking about two groups; (1) the person who eats the cake and (2) the person who gifts the cake

We take some liberty here with our restaurant trade, basing our assumptions on input about who their clients are (gathering input specifically on those who order our cakes).

51% of our sales are gift-wrapped. 49% are wholesale packaged (shrink wrapped only for resale (designed for slice sales at restaurants and specialty shops).

Of our retail purchases, 61% are for gifts, 39% for personal consumption.

12% of our corporate gifter’s include a tea and/or coffee accompaniment.

Although we have not been providing our offerings for a complete calendar year, we do have some holiday statistics.

Thanksgiving was our biggest holiday followed by; Mothers Day, Christmas, and Memorial Day. Because we have not yet marketed our cakes for Fathers Day, 4th of July or Labor Day, these holidays are not yet represented.

6% of our specialty stores sell our cakes/MiniZZ individually, 94% sell the packaged trio.

Interestingly, a large category of sales for our MiniZZ are weddings, (a category we never planned on). Wedding planners provide our MiniZZ as individually wrapped favors 

Typical Client-

Our typical client varies by sales channel but on the whole we have a pretty good picture of who you are:

Our typical client is a white-collar professional (86%). They are primarily urban dwellers (73%) that are socially (75%) and environmentally (67%) conscious. Our clients also dine out a minimum of twice per week.

Interestingly, although our cakes use all natural ingredients with no chemicals or preservatives, we’ve always considered them more of a decadent treat than a health food. We were surprised to find that 51% of our clients are health food enthusiasts.

98% of our clients state that they will be purchasing another cake within the year for either themselves or as a gift.

79% of our clients enjoy our cakes with a coffee or tea, 67% enjoy them in the morning versus 31% as an after dinner dessert (we assume the other 2% have them during lunch or throughout the day.)

Our MiniZZ are enjoyed as snacks (versus a sit down dessert after a meal) 63% of the time. A Trio box of MiniZZ is shared with others 31% of the time.

Some additional client demographics:

Sex

Female 71%

Male 29%

Age 

<20    06%

<30    14%

<40    46%

<50    21%

<60    10%

<70    03%

Income

<30K    01%

<50K    03%

<75K    08%

<100K  18%

<150K  29%

<200K  20%

<250K  21%

One other interesting note: 23% of our clients keep the box our cakes and MiniZZ come in for other uses.

There you have it, a window into who you are. We hope you enjoyed our trip down statistics alley.

Although we didn’t get to everyone who purchased our cakes and MiniZZ, thanks to all of you who received AND answered our surveys. It is you who help us provide an offering that is focused on you.

J Stephen

Next Month: If You Build It, They Will Come


A Home Like No Other

(original post date 04/29/11)

In choosing a home for our bake house, we wanted to make sure we took the environment into mind. Saving an old building from destruction would be preferable to building new. Setting up shop in an old part of town would be more desirable than building out in a modern strip center.

We always had visions of building an environmentally advanced facility that would be a “green” showcase. Unfortunately, as a start up, our budget would not allow us to create the green baking environment we envisioned.

With our budget limitations in mind, we instead decided to look for an existing building in the Deep Ellum or Bishop Arts areas of Dallas

For those of you not familiar with Dallas, TX, these two areas are the old funky sections of Dallas that have a lot of history and character.

Artists, designers, writers and artisans from every field call these places home. Unlike the suburbs where fast food restaurants and massive chains are the mainstay, café’s, bistro’s and small independent stores are the common element that provides these communities with their character and unique flavor.

In short, they would be the ideal home for Crumbzz.

As we researched these locations, we ran into a deal killer disguised in the name of progress. Like many cities, Dallas has its share of old buildings in need of a little bit of loving to bring them back to life.

Unfortunately, also like most cities, Dallas’ zoning requirements eliminate any hope of a start up doing just that. You see, Dallas requires that a building be “brought up to code” in any location that has been sitting vacant for over six month’s.

With today’s depressed real estate market, that included just about EVERY old building that met our criteria.

Being “brought up to code” is an expensive proposition that includes installing sprinkler systems, grease drains, venting hoods, etc. We estimated that the cost to bring one of these old buildings “up to code” would be approximately $30K.

Spending $30K before we even installed equipment and finished out the space was not something we were prepared to do. We would much rather spend those funds on client support, product development and marketing.

We could find new locations in strip centers that were already “up to code” but part of our green mission included rehabilitating old structures not encouraging another strip center. And so our search went on.

On our many property scouting trips across the DFW Metroplex, in the Cedars area, just south of downtown Dallas, we continually passed a grand old hotel called the Ambassador Park. This beautiful hotel lay vacant but cared for. The grounds were immaculately kept and the building, although obviously closed, seemed in excellent condition.

On each trip, we would stop by to see if anyone was there. In each case we were met with silence. No answer at the door, no telephone number, nothing.

Online, we found that the hotel was a historic monument in a town that has so few. Built in 1904 in Sullivanesque skyscraper style, it was renovated in 1932 to reflect the local interest in Spanish Colonial Revival.

As the city’s first suburban luxury hotel, it entertained presidents and royalty and was the first hotel west of the Mississippi to have an elevator. In 1965 it was recorded as a Texas Historical Landmark.

It lay vacant for several years now and to us, cried out for some attention.

The more we researched, the more we felt this grand old lady fit with our vision perfectly. What better way to serve our earth friendly principles than to reawaken a sleeping beauty.

On our fifth trip to the hotel, we struck gold! A trip to the basement door resulted in a face-to-face encounter with the Ambassador’s caretaker.

One conversation led to another, which led to our vision of saving an old building and bringing her back to life, which led to a tour of this once magnificent hotel.

Like those old movies, where mysteriously, everything remains but the people, the Ambassador was a trip back in time. Its lobby still shone from the light of its majestic chandelier, its wide hallways with ceiling fans and plush carpeting hark back to a time when travel was a leisurely experience to be savored.

Its two bedroom suites were still as they were back when guests would arrive, dressed to the nines, from around the country. Beds neatly made, curtains drawn, standing ready for their next visitor.

The more we toured, the more we fell in love with this grand old lady.

Our tour of its magnificent kitchen was more then we could have ever hoped for. Fully functional, with every appliance a commercial kitchen would need, we could feel the energy of its once large staff quickly setting about to service its restaurant and many guests.

From that point forward, we knew this would be our home. We would set up shop and bring life back to her old bones. Crumbzz at the Ambassador, a marriage of necessity, for both of us, but a marriage made in heaven, nonetheless.

We signed our lease in April and are happy to be working with our new old friend to bring you cakes from the past, from a grand old hotel from the past.

What could be more natural.

J Stephen

Next Month: Who is that Crumbzz Enthusiast


Our Website… The Long Winding Road

(original post date 02/28/11)

It hasn’t been easy, but we’re finally there. On February 26, 2011, the Crumbzz website was finally launched. It took twelve month’s and three web site developers to get there, but we finally made it.

Our long and painful journey actually started in February 2010 when we sat down and sketched out our ideas for the site. By March, we had a basic idea of what we wanted. Elegant, clean, less is more, was the basic theme.

The nature of our offerings dictated our market focus to a client who is socially and environmentally conscious and appreciates the finer things in life.

Accordingly, our site had to be upscale with beautiful pictures of our offerings. We also wanted our landing page to feature a stylish flash type feature that was of visual interest yet simple and understated.

From a technical standpoint, because our intent was to be equally accessible from a desktop, laptop, as well as an iPad and iPhone, we wanted the site built in a computer language that all could see. And that language was html5.

For those of you who are technically challenged, like me, html5 is a relatively new computer language that allows flash type elements (in its simplest terms, elements that move) to be viewed on iPhone’s and iPad’s.

Today, when you see these types of elements on a web site, they’re usually created using a program called Adobe Flash. Unfortunately Flash is not viewable on iPhone’s and iPad’s.

Since we believe that accessing a website on an iPhone or iPad is how most of us will access web sites in the near future and the fact that our target client is already using these devices today, we wanted to be ahead of the curve.

However, building a site in html5 posed a problem.

Since, as I mentioned earlier, html5 is a relatively new computer language, there is not a lot of “off the shelf” modules to choose from.

Most websites are built using pre-built modules that are then customized for each clients particular site. This saves time and money (time is money when building a site).

Since the module has been used extensively in the real world, not only do you save time on the build but  also save time on the testing.

Because we were using html5, (when I say we, I mean the developers) we had to write and test all our code to assure it worked as intended. This is no easy task.

In addition, our site is pretty complicated. With multiple levels of ordering (we market to retail clients, exclusive specialty stores and high-end restaurants), interactive client participation areas such as voting, recipe and contest areas and multiple offerings that include our Crumbzz Cakes, Toppers and fashion items, our site was a real challenge to build.

With all this going on, our first developer got us up to the testing phase before they crashed (went out of business). Four month’s of development went with them.

Using the code created from our first developer, our second developer set about to complete the site.

Three month’s into the project, we were informed that they were unable to build the voting area of the site to our spec’s. So, nine month’s into the project, we moved on to our next developer.

Our third developer, Casey Burden, discarded the ashes of our previous two attempts and started from scratch to accomplish what seemed like the impossible dream.

I have been accused by those who know me well and specifically by those who I work with, of being a person who has a clear idea of what he wants, down to the smallest detail, and is never happy until the finished product precisely matches my vision (this is a cleaned up version of what others who are more blunt would call “anal”).

Casey’s dedication to “getting it right”, surpassed even my own drive for perfection. Not an easy thing to do. His vision of how to get to the stated goal and his “out of the box” thinking, expanded our knowledge of what we could do to reach and in many cases, exceed our goals for the site.

The finished product speaks volumes of Casey’s ability to understand our vision and execute it flawlessly. We now have a site that superbly satisfies all our requirements and is built to serve our client’s needs.

On www.crumbzz.com, you can…

◆ Check out the story of Crumbzz

◆ Look into our heart and soul

◆ Read about what goes into each of our offerings

◆ Cruise through our client’s own words

◆ Reserve your order of Crumbzz Cakes and Toppers

◆ Check out our gifting programs

◆ Visit “Fashionably Crumbzz” to see our latest fashions

◆ Enter a recipe

◆ Vote on a recipe idea

◆ Find all our contact information

◆ Link to our blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts

◆ Refer to our Privacy, Guarantee and Security policies

◆ Check out our latest videos

… all on our window to the world.

It took much longer than planned, and we’re exhausted from the process, but we’re quite proud of the end result. We think you’ll like our new home and hope you’ll visit us often.

Hopefully, you’ll find using it, easier than we did building it.

J Stephen

Next Month: A Home Like No Other

Thank You

(original post date 01/12/11)

After a month long hiatus, its good to be back with you. Sharing our successes and our trials and tribulations is a challenge but we feel it provides you with the personal side of Crumbzz that you seldom can get from a web site, tweet or post.

We had a very busy holiday season to say the least. Considering that our web site is STILL not up, through word of mouth alone, we still beat our sales goals for 2010 by 30%. Along the way we found our footing, solidified our processes and clarified our brand.

Thank you to everyone who purchased a Crumbzz Cake or Topper in 2010. We truly appreciate the effort you made to place your order. In a world where convenience is so important, you went out of your way to share in our creations.

We heard from many of you and appreciate the many great comments about our quest to provide you with the best.

We would like to share a few like a parent proudly posting their child’s latest masterpiece on the refrigerator.

We received great comments for corporate gifting….

“Your streusel crumb cake is outstanding. The presentation is also top notch. My sales force will now have a quality thank you gift to offer to our clients.”

                                                      Rick DeVincent, Sales Manager – Stephen Gould Company

“Your Chocolate Crumb Cakes passed our review with flying colors. The quality of the entire package made Crumbzz the hands down favorite as our thank you gift for our best customers.”

                                                                          Anne Janis, Regional Director, Worldwide Sales – Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

 “Your crumb cake is scrumptious. We intend to have all our associates provide this wonderful product as a thank you gift for all our new home sales.”

                                                                          Vivian Smith – Ellen Terry Realtors

 “I can’t tell you how many customers I have who tell me they don’t like crumb cakes and who fall in love with them as soon as they taste yours. My can’t lose proposition is to offer a slice free if they don’t like them. In every case, they not only end up buying the slice but ordering a cake to take home!”

                                                                          Sharon Yarbrough, Owner – Maudee’s Cafe & Tea Room

 Even more important are the comments from our individual enthusiasts…

“OMG, I just had my first piece of Crumbzz crumb cake – these are my ratings – you get an “A” for being “A genius”; but the cakes get two “D’s” – one D for Decadent and one D for Delectable :)! Absolutely Amazing!!! I know what all my friends and family are going to get as gifts this year – if I don’t eat them first myself.”

                                                                          C.Tartaglia – Seaside Heights, New Jersey

“Wow. That had to be the best Crumb Cake dessert I have ever had! Crumbzz has a special place in my heart (as well as my dinner table).

                                                                           W. Bettis – Dallas, TX

 “I received a box of assorted toppers as a gift. I have to tell you that I’m glad there’s only three in a box. If there had been 20, I would have eaten them all.”

                                                                          B. Chisholm – Fort Lauderdale, FL

 “That has to be the best crumb cake I have ever had. Most crumb cakes fall short on the crumbs they give you. Your cake is all about the crumbs.”

                                                                          S. Jacobs – Highland Park, TX

Thanks again to everyone who follows us on our blog, who are waiting faithfully for our web site (God bless you), who follow us and post on our Facebook and Twitter sites and most importantly who have shared in our creations. It is you who make us us.

J Stephen

Next Month: Our Website… The Long Winding Road

A Mission Beyond Profit

(original post date 12/07/10)

As you enjoy what we believe to be the one of the finest culinary delights in the world, you will be participating in a personal and community commitment unlike any other.

Although our search to create the ultimate crumb cake has taken us across the world.  Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar, Cassia Cinnamon from Vietnam, Dark Muscovado Brown Sugar from The Mauritius, and Dark Chocolate from Tanzania, to name a few, our focus has always been on supporting the small local farmer, the plantation worker and the land.

Our mission statement states clearly our reason for being;

THE CRUMBZZ MISSION

“Using only the freshest ingredients available, Crumbzz will craft the finest crumb cakes in the world.

From request to presentation, culinary enjoyment to support, Crumbzz focus will always be its Clients total experience. 

Crumbzz will facilitate the use of natural ingredients, from local farmers, using fair trade practices in all its offerings.

Crumbzz will be a caretaker of the environment, leaving as small a footprint as possible while sharing in its success by donating a portion of its profits to encourage fair trade and environmentally sound practices.”

Quality is Focus ONE Of Our Mission – If you are a regular to this blog, you have heard plenty about our commitment to excellence. Providing the utmost in quality assures our clientele experience something special every time they touch our offerings our service and our people.

Providing our clients with the finest assures repeat business and our company with the revenues to allow us to successfully accomplish the rest of our mission.

You may not have heard as much about the rest of our mission but rest assured, it goes on every day and is the primary reason we are here.

How We Accomplish Our Mission Is Focus TWO – 

Although procuring the finest ingredients in the world to assure we produce the finest crumb cakes in the world is important, how we get there is equally important.  It is the outcome of all our hard work.

We intend to treat the land, the people and the animals that help us produce our offerings with respect and dignity.

We are all about natural and nature as it was meant to be. You will never find any artificial ingredients, preservatives or chemical additives in any of our offerings.

Whenever we can find comparable quality products, we will always choose the small, local farmer over the large corporate producer.

Locally produced, free range eggs, and premium unsalted butter from Golden Guernsey Cows, lead the list of ingredients we use to support local, sustainable farmers.

Whenever we can find comparable quality products, we will always choose the producer who uses fair trade practices.

Over two thirds of our products are produced using far trade practices.

Whenever we can find comparable quality products, we will always choose a producer that uses sustainable farming techniques.

Seventy two percent of our ingredients are harvested using sustainable farming methods.

Whenever we can find comparable quality products, we will always choose a producer who uses green environmentally friendly techniques. Because the expense of “Green” certification precludes small farmers from participating, you will never find “Green” certifications on our products. However, whenever possible, we will always choose green, environmentally friendly products over their counterparts.

What We Do With Our Profits Is Focus THREE –  We believe that there is more to life than just making a buck.

Profits are great, but what you do with your profits is a better measure of your success.

Because of this belief, we donate three percent of our profits to our non-profit organization, The Crumbzz International Green Foundation (CGIF). CIGF is dedicated to fostering fair trade, sustainable farming and green initiatives around the world.

In addition, the success of our company allows us to provide employment to committed people who believe in the principles of our mission.

Yes our employees work for us to earn wages to support their families. But, because they are each part of a mission that assist’s others, the fruits of their labor accomplishes much more.

We take great pride in our accomplishment of providing you with one of the finest culinary delights in the world. You can take pride in knowing that, with every decadent bite, you will be part of a mission that goes far beyond the creation of the worlds finest crumb cake.

J Stephen

We will be spending the rest of the month with family and friends (and making all those cakes you ordered for Christmas, thank you!) Look for us to pick up where we left off in January. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2011.

Next Month: It Will Be A Surprise To All Of Us

From Oven To Print

(original post date 11/30/10)

Presenting your creations whether they are in print, video or on the Internet is a challenge for any provider. As I quickly learned, the effort that goes into photographing food is beyond anything you can imagine.

We knew when we started Crumbzz that the presentation of our offerings would be second only in importance to our clients experience dining on our offerings. How we presented our cakes and Toppers would set the tone for everything that followed.

With this in mind, we set out to find the best photographer in the business. Our starting point was photographer portfolios and food sites. There’s plenty of food sites on the Internet, but we did not want the Crumbzz website to be a “Food” site. The look we were after could not be found on your traditional food website.

As anyone who has worked with me will tell you, I have pretty clear ideas on what I want and although open to input, will not settle for anything less then perfection. This can be a double-edged sword. We had a real challenge getting that vision onto the paper. We knew what we wanted our web site to look like. Getting photographs of our offerings that fit into that vision was not a simple task.

There are also plenty of photographer portfolios on the Internet. Most represent the work and vision of their owners. It is from these sites that we started our search.

Unfortunately, we found out through time-consuming trial and error that in order to photograph food you MUST use a “Food” photographer.

Three month’s of shoots and re-shoots with two highly rated photographers, who were never able to produce at the level of excellence we required, taught us that photographing food is an art unto itself

We also learned that an expert food photographer is only half of the equation. In order to get the quality and look we required, it would also require the services of a food stylist.

Food stylists are expert at staging the shots required. Food photographers are excellent at achieving the desired results from the stage that has been set

The best analogy I can think of is the relationship between the director and the actor. In order to produce the movie, you must have both.

It was at this learning curve period that our fortunes turned. As has happened so many times before, a chance occurrence, that had nothing to do with our photo challenges, pointed us in the right direction.

Visiting a friend who lived in one of those beautiful rehabbed loft buildings in Deep Ellum, a funky area near downtown Dallas, I was awe struck by a photograph hanging on the lobby wall. And, although it was not a photograph of a food item, it had all the elements I had been searching for.

My friend instantly knew who the artist was and I was on my way to meeting the man who would put my visions through the lens.

As a chef in a previous life, Trace Hayes is unique among food photographers. He can relate to fellow chefs on the challenges of bringing their product to life. He is also expert at taking one’s vision into the staging of the shoot.

To be honest, crumb cakes are not glamorous products. Their beauty is found in their taste not their design. There are no frostings to beautify, no flowers to design. Their many subtle shadings of brown, although pleasing to view, are not stunning in any shape or form.

Making crumb cakes, including ours, look as great as they taste is a challenge to say the least. Trace took on the Crumbzz offering challenge with a passion that excited the whole team.

The actual process of staging and photographing any food item is enormous and ours was no different. First we had to plan out each shot. Convert our ideas into sketches. Where we plan to use the shot, vertical, horizontal, print, web, video, all are important considerations for each shot.

Then we baked two of every cake and Topper we offer. Once finished with all the pre-shoot development and planning, we moved into the actual shoot.

As with any photo shoot, attention to detail is paramount. A good example of this is the shot on the home page of the Crumbzz web site. This shot shows a bite about to be taken from a piece of our cake. That “simple” shot took over three hours to complete.

Proper lighting, positioning and placement are just a few of the items that come into play. The tools of the trade include not only multiple backdrops, cameras, lenses and lights but also brushes, tweezers, ladders, blowtorches (yes blow torches) and food substitutes.

Did you know that because cereal turns to mush when sitting under the hot lights of a photo shoot, Elmer’s glue is used as a substitute for milk on all cereal photo sessions? 

We’ve all seen those hamburger ad’s that show a big juicy burger that ends up being half that size at the restaurant. That’s called marketing!

In our case, we had a different challenge. The hot lights shining down on a cake for three hours tend to re-cook the cake. As the cake sits through the many takes, it dries out and loses its color. The chocolates crack and the fruits shrink.

Our challenge was to make each photo look just as our cakes would look when our clients open the package.

It’s ingenious what a professional photographer uses to accomplish this. Remember that blowtorch? It’s used to re emulsify the chocolate topping to return it to its original form.

The loss of color and drying of the cake is solved with a continual misting with tea. And that shrinking of the fruit toppings? Not a problem with a little addition of liquid glucose.

Then it’s on to three days of computer editing where scratches, specks, shadows and lighting issues are corrected.

Postproduction, as it is called, is the long tedious part of the process that is a must to arrive at the finished product. A photographer who is challenged in this area will never produce show-stopping photography. Luckily for us, Trace is expert at ”cleaning up” the shots.

Ten hours of baking, four hours of planning, three 12-hour days of shooting and 3-intense days of post production work and just like that, we have our finished shots. Nothing to it!

The final results are things of beauty. The completion of our final photos allows us to show with pride the finest we have to offer. And all it took was seventy little hours of work.

J Stephen

Next Week: A Mission Beyond Profit

A Marriage Made In Heaven

(original post date 11/23/10)

We always enjoy a slice of our Crumbzz Cakes with a great tea or coffee. During the years, we have received many suggestions from enthusiasts on their opinions of the “best” liquid accompaniment.

Although we’ve received a varied list that covered all forms of drinks, from hot chocolate to vodka (yes vodka), the majority of choices involved coffee and tea.

Since we have always believed in providing our clients with the complete Crumbzz Experience, we thought it would be nice to put together a list of our favorites. However, as with so many projects, as we pondered our going forward plan, the project took on a life of its own.

Understanding that taste is often subjective and ambiguous, we weren’t about to provide our clients with a giant list of opinions. In our Quest For The Best, we wanted much more than that.

As an avid tea drinker, I have my own favorites but don’t consider myself to be a connoisseur by any means. So, our project started by researching the different teas and coffees available. The theory being that we would taste several along with our Crumbzz Cakes to see which tea and coffee matched best.

That idea quickly fell apart when we realized that, just like wine and chocolate, there are thousands of varieties of coffees and teas, from all over the world.

Every coffee drinker knows that coffee beans are not the same: there are species, hybrids, varieties and types. The four species of coffee that were dispersed and commercially grown around the world all came out of Africa: Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica and Robusta. Arabica alone is represented by more than 100 hybrids and varieties commercially grown in over 40 countries.

Over 1,500 types of tea grow in over 25 different countries around the world. The main producers are Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan, as well as parts of Africa, South America, Indonesia and Turkey.

There is black tea, green tea, white tea and Oolong tea. In addition, there are also thousands of different blends of teas.

Armed with this knowledge, it soon became apparent, that we would need expert assistance to help us select the “best” pairings for our cakes. This led us to a more manageable search.

There are only 133 certified coffee connoisseurs in the United States.  At 66, the list of tea connoisseurs is even shorter. Like their wine connoisseur counterparts, coffee and tea connoisseurs have years of experience tasting and grading teas and coffees.

These professionals practice their art and develop their precision palate skills using techniques that have changed very little in over 200 years.

It takes years of training and experience to be able to judge with complete accuracy the thousands of different tea and coffee samples available on the market today. It was clear that these were the specialists we would need to consult to arrive at our “Best Of The Best” pairings.

Reviewing the list of connoisseurs, we noted that two of the very best, were located right here in Dallas and they were the owners of a very special tea and coffee specialty shop called The Cultured Cup.

Kyle Stewart and Phil Krampetz specialize in providing their clients with only two products, the worlds finest teas and coffees. That’s it, nothing else. Clients come from all over the world to experience not only the finest teas and coffees but also to absorb the intricacies of the drink these two partners are more then willing to provide. Buying a tea or coffee from Kyle and Phil is more an educational experience than a purchase.

During my first meeting with the two partners, I learned more about the origins of the teas I favored than I could have ever absorbed from a book. I was also introduced to a few new teas that I never knew existed.

One tea, brought to the U.S. for the first time from a small province in China, was typical of the treasures I would find at this wonderful little shop.

The mother and daughter tea plantation owners were previewing their offering with Kyle and Phil and I was fortunate to be asked to participate in the first tasting by any foreigner outside of this tiny province of China.

The hand-produced packaging was exquisite, and the tea leaves, which were unusually large and green, burst open upon contact with the warm water. It was a visual as well as gastronomical delight that I was privileged to have participated in. This was just the first of many new offerings I would enjoy at the hands of these gracious gentlemen.

The pairings of our different flavored Crumbzz Cakes with the ideal teas and coffees took over four month’s to complete. Kyle and Phil were more then happy to be supplied with “samples” of each of our Crumbzz Cakes for their project.

Teas and coffees that complimented our Old World Streusel Cinnamon Crumbzz Cakes were completely different than teas and coffees that stood up to the intricacies of our Chocolat de la Terre Crumb Cakes.

Did we want to match the fruitiness of our Raspberry Fruit of the Seasons Crumbzz Cakes or counter the fruity taste with a balancing tea or coffee?

All of these and many more questions were considered during the pairings reviews.

In the end, we arrived at several wonderful pairings. Each complimenting the specific Crumbzz Cake it was paired to.

Joining a luscious bite of cake with a delicious tea or coffee that has been matched by an expert palate is the ultimate experience. We think you will find each to be the perfect compliment in our never ending Quest For The Best.

You can find our specific pairings in the Reserve Yours Today section of our website.

J Stephen

Next Week: From Oven To Print