Sometimes Maura McCarthy’s ice cream melts before customers can pick it up. Her Bold Batch Creamery currently operates like a pop-up, with customers pre-ordering pints a week in advance and then meeting her in a parking lot during a tight window, ideally before the ice creams melt in her cooler. “We don’t have a storefront,” she says, “so people have to meet us in a parking lot within a thirty-minute time frame.”
Allison Vick, who worked as a pastry chef in Austin before returning to North Carolina and launching Little Blue Macaron, has a similar problem. She directs customers to a parking lot behind the warehouse housing the commercial kitchen she uses. “It looks weird,” Vick says. “It’s very impersonal.”
McCarthy’s voicemail explains directions for where to meet her for a pickup, but the process is cumbersome, time-consuming, and requires her to drive all over the Triangle to meet devoted followers for a handoff. She’d love to have her own brick-and-mortar scoop shop, but she’s still paying off the business loan for a $35,000 piece of commercial equipment, and wants to nurture more of a following before taking the leap.
Enter Little Blue Bakehouse.
The brainchild of Vick and her husband Carl, Little Blue Bakehouse is a business incubator of sorts. It will serve as the permanent home of Vick’s macaron business and will host a rotating cast of up to five other baking-based companies when it opens at the end of the month. Bold Batch Creamery will be one of them.
Unlike the Kitchen Archive — the sprawling commercial kitchen space that McCarthy and Vick currently work out of — Little Blue Bakehouse will include a storefront. The front third of the 3,200-square foot space next door to Raleigh’s Alamo Drafthouse will be a coffee shop with display kitchens where members can sell directly to the public. The refitted strip mall property at 2116-H New Bern Avenue will feature a huge window from the cafe portion looking into the kitchen, Vick says.
“That particular area of Raleigh, there’s not a lot of coffee there,” she adds, describing the neighborhood directly east of downtown near Enloe High and WakeMed. Vick chose the space in part because of its location and foot traffic from the movie theater, but also because she can walk there from her home. “We want to kind of be the community spot for the area.”
For McCarthy, it was less about the exact location than the people. She would’ve gladly followed Vick anywhere in the city for this opportunity.
“It’s not surprising that she’s the one leading this effort,” McCarthy says of Vick. “She’s an unselfish mentor and has been helpful to me from the very beginning.”
Two other baking-based businesses have already signed onto Vick’s vision as well. Cookie and cake company Bites of Sam and CBD treat company Medicine Mama’s Farmacy are also on board for the bakehouse’s launch. There’s one remaining space in the shared kitchen, and Vick is ideally looking for someone who would make breads, breakfast pastries, or something similar. She intentionally cultivated a range of purveyors who won’t hurt each other’s sales, looking for people that already established a following.
“I think it will be a game changer because the biggest question I get is, ‘Where is your store?’” Vick says. Now people will be able to find her macarons, some of which are vegan, on any given Wednesday. “What I’ve been dying to do for years is have a case full of macarons where people can put an order together based on what they like.”
McCarthy bought a dipping cabinet to install at Little Blue Bakehouse, which will allow her to scoop eight flavors at a time. People will be able to buy pre-packed pints as well. She will still offer some of her more “adventurous” flavors — like her recent Passover-inspired charoset apple pie swirl pints or Easter-themed “Rest in Peeps” burnt marshmallow ice cream with crushed Cadbury eggs — on occasion, potentially through a monthly club for devoted fans.
But at first, she’ll just be glad to be operating out of a smaller space where nobody is handling meat or leaving fish juice on a countertop. The Kitchen Archive has been an important steppingstone for her, but sometimes a food truck will have a pot covering all four burners on a range. Two weeks ago, all of her ice cream sandwiches melted when someone left the shared freezer open too long while unloading their own product.
“It’s hard sharing a kitchen with like, 80 other businesses,” McCarthy says. “I’m constantly cleaning up after other people.”
Vick hopes that after a year or two, some of the women who signed on will be able to move out and open their own shops, to be replaced by a new crop of pastry and baking entrepreneurs. That’s McCarthy’s dream for Bold Batch, but as a former educator who started as a pandemic hobby, it would be inconceivable without something like the bakehouse to bridge the gap.
“We’re expecting turnover because we want people to be able to use this as a stepping stone to what they want to do next,” Vick says.
The joint venture removes some of the hurdles of running a standalone storefront, including the difficulty of finding a small enough space, or one already outfitted with much of the necessary kitchen gear. But the bakehouse isn’t without risk, and Vick is fundraising to cover unexpected construction and equipment costs. McCarthy will need to buy a $10,000 hardening cabinet, too — similar to a blast freezer that will prevent the larger scoop containers from getting too icy.
The upfront costs will ultimately be worth it, McCarthy says; In the long run, she’ll increase her margins because scooping is more profitable than packing pints and paying for packaging. And the dividends of the bakeshop can pay off for the Triangle too, especially if it’s able to spin off a bunch of independent, home-grown bakeries, confectionaries, and sweets shops.
“We want to help people figure out what their best next step is,” Vick says.