In his first entrepreneurial venture, Dave Brooks relocated a popular Branford bakery and branched out beyond bread
Dave Brooks enjoys working with his hands. He relishes putting together sandwiches, molding breads, seasoning soups. He’s capitalizing on that creative streak by selling freshly baked goods and other culinary delights at Judies European Bakery (judies.net).
Brooks and his wife, Jami, bought here (they dropped the apostrophe from the name to accommodate online idiosyncrasies) 15 years ago. Jamie, a hairdresser, received a tip from a client that the business was for sale. The client also happened to be a business broker, and he ended up brokering the deal.
Since acquiring Judies 15 years ago Brooks has expanded and diversified the business.
Â“I had just gotten out of culinary school,Â” recalls Brooks, who lives in Branford and is a 1996 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. HeÂ’d been working at Chabaso Bakery for about a year and the idea of owning his own bakeshop intrigued him. Judies is his first business.
Â“I went to culinary school for [non-baked] food, not for baking studies,Â” says Brooks who, in addition to Chabaso, spent time honing his craft at legendary Elm City watering hole RudyÂ’s Bar & Grill. Before that, he used to cook for a hobby and enjoyed treating friends to well-received dinner parties. But Â“I have always loved bread.Â”
Brooks credits that affinity for baked goods to his German roots. His father was stationed there while serving in the military and his mother is a native of the country. While living in Stuttgart, Brooks became enamored of the aromas that wafted through the neighborhood during mealtimes Â— especially when bread was baking.
Â“There was so much there,Â” he recalls fondly. Â“Wonderful place, the smell of fresh yeast. I remember that, as a child growing up with that experience, the freshness of the product.Â”
BrooksÂ’ father was transferred back to the States when he was 13, but he never forgot the pleasant sensations that meals in the process of being created evoked. He strives to infuse his products with the same fresh, quality ingredients. Even with the onset of recession that, for Brooks, was a given.
A signature peasant bread is among the offerings at Judies, located at 63 Grove Street. About half of its business is wholesale. A staff of 17 is on hand to tend to a the companyÂ’s wholesale, retail and catering clients.
Although the business Â“badlyÂ” felt the recessionÂ’s impact, Â“I think you have to be really careful [how to adjust],Â” he says. Â“You donÂ’t want to change quality in exchange for ingredients being really expensive. IÂ’m very leery about that. I donÂ’t like to bargain shop for ingredients.Â”
BrooksÂ’ predecessor also was a stickler for quality ingredients. Judie Saleeby started the business in Branford circa 1976 as a health-conscious bakery that soon attracted a loyal clientele, notes Brooks.
Â“Judie wasnÂ’t into sugar at all. She was into breads. I came up with the sweet stuff on my own,Â” says Brooks, who buy tramadol online the businessÂ’ customer base while adding his own touches to the menu.
Â“Part of the appeal of buying a business that was already a business is you have clients already,Â” says Brooks. But, for obvious reasons, Branford customers did not take too well to BrooksÂ’ decision to relocate Judies to New Haven. He did it anyway, even though moving ovens and other equipment turned out to be a Â“huge undertaking.Â”
But what Brooks found when he got to his new location is that customers had different tastes.
Â“People didnÂ’t want baked goods. What they wanted more than anything else, they wanted sandwiches. People lined up [for sandwiches],Â” says Brooks, adding, Â“ The biggest time here has always been lunch. People wanted lunch food.Â”
During midday the 55-seat eatery bustles with hungry diners who favor the health-conscious selections.
Â“People love our soups. We make everything here from scratch. Soups are very popular, especially in the wintertime,Â” says Brooks. Â“We also do a lot of salads. People are very health-conscious in this neighborhood. For example, with a sandwich, more than half of the customers ask for whole wheat bread.Â”
In addition to a variety of soups and salads, menu items include hot and cold paninis, grilled pesto chicken (the most popular sandwich, says Brooks), grilled shrimp with guacamole, and, for breakfast, egg sandwiches and oatmeal.
Two years ago Brooks expanded the dimensions of the store by some 800 square feet to about 4,000 feet, acquiring a portion of the dry cleaning company next door to create more baking space. He doesnÂ’t see more space acquisition in the near future, but during this recessionary period he, like just about most other business-owners would like to increase his generic ambien line. He plans to do that by making morning traffic comparable to activity at lunchtime.
Â“We need to expand those busy hours,Â” says Brooks. Â“One of the things for this summer is to do a kind of breakfast Â‘revolution.Â’Â” A new TurboChef oven, which prepares foods faster and has energy-saving qualities, will help with that. Â“The whole purpose is to speed things up,Â” says Brooks.
Brooks did not have formal business training. His formal education at the University of Massachusetts and New YorkÂ’s School of Visual Arts focused on the commercial arts. HeÂ’s also a musician-songwriter, and plays guitar in his band, the Streams.
For him, Â“The culinary stuff was like art, like music. It was creative.Â”
Brooks also learned to like the variety of tasks in which having his own company allows him to be involved.
Â“I do sales, I do office work,Â” he generic tramadol. Â“The variety of what I have in my day, I enjoy that.Â”
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