Kern has been surprised to find that customer preferences vary at each location, even if the distance between them is just a few blocks.
Patrons at Farragut North, for instance, prefer the spice-infused flavors, because “they’re more foodies,” she said. Metro Center customers like the chocolate flavors, and Union Station customers seem to enjoy the salted caramel.
Northwest resident Emily Robins has a longer morning commute than most as she builds her gluten-free baking business, Goldilocks Goodies.
Twice a week for the past year, the Northwest Washington resident has made a two-hour trek to her hometown, Lancaster, Pa., in her Toyota Prius. She loves having the driving time to herself — she listens to music and mentally runs through her to-do list. When she arrives, she gets to work, baking in the kitchen where she grew up, sometimes with her mother’s help.
Robins is avoiding what she considers exorbitant rental fees for commercial kitchen space in the District — several hundred dollars a month. She uses her parents’ kitchen rent-free (she obtained a license for the kitchen in Pennsylvania), and transports the baked goods back to D.C., where she delivers individual orders and vends at farmers markets, cafes, co-ops and the like. She sells banana bread cookies with walnuts, almond and crystallized ginger biscotti, and strawberry rhubarb loaves, among other items.
Driving to Lancaster wasn’t her first choice — before she settled on going home, Robins was looking for restaurants in D.C. which might let her use their kitchens on an hourly basis during off-times. Most charged about $40 an hour, she said — roughly the same amount she’d pay in gas to drive home to Lancaster.
Even if she did find an adequate kitchen, she’d have to sanitize it heavily to prevent gluten contamination, and would have to adapt to the restaurant’s hours and rules.
“I wanted to do it legitimately, and it seemed like wherever I turned wasn’t an option,” Robins said. The best location she could find was in Rockville, about an hour away from her District apartment. “I figured for about an hour more I could go back to my hometown.”
Robins found that going home to Lancaster helped her business — she gets ingredients from local farms, and sometimes distributes her goods at shops there, developing a following both in Lancaster and the District. Her parents’ home is built on land bought from her great-grandfather’s farm, and one day, she hopes to buy it back using money from her business.