Baker has recipe for business — quality ingredients and planning

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To look at this hip 31 year old bakery owner and entrepreneur, one might never guess that Stephen Boonzaaijer (pronounced Bone-zy-yer) comes from five generations of European-trained Dutch baking craftsmen. His Boonzaaijer’s Dutch Bakery location on Centennial Boulevard opened for business three years ago, and today employs three full-time bakers and four part-time personnel.
“We grew quickly,” he admits. “It was almost unmanageable.” During his first year, in a small shoppette near FedEx, a U.S. Post Office and the Garden of the Gods industrial park, Boonzaaijer’s marketing efforts consisted of simply attracting existing shoppers to his door. Anchors, Cunningham’s Market (which is now the Harvest Market), and Bamboo Court Chinese Restaurant, both popular Mountain Shadows community eateries, initially generated plenty of customer traffic – putting Boonzaaijer’s on the map by word of mouth. “I considered opening downtown or in the Broadmoor area, but I’ve watched too many businesses try to appeal to just a higher-end audience and fail. You must be able to accommodate all levels of the market as a new business – and not limit yourself to just one group in order to succeed,” he adds.
“When I was thinking about where to open my store, a friend in business asked me about my “plan,” he says, referring to a formal business plan. The young baker had built a terrific reputation for quality pastries and bakery products thanks to five years of professional schooling in the Netherlands and as Assistant Pastry Chef for the Broadmoor Hotel – but he was new to business plans. Because of the high failure rate of poorly-researched new businesses, it was crucial to plan for both best and worst case scenarios. So far, Boonzaaijer’s business plan has worked well – and if sales continue to steadily increase, there may be an expansion on the horizon.
But it’s not just a smart marketing theory that has brought Boonzaaijer success. Once inside the door, clients are greeted by wafting smells of chocolate and buttercream – and visuals of iced coffee cakes, lemon bread (a Boonzaaijer’s signature product), cakes, breakfast pastries with fruit fillings, scones, tortes, mousse desserts and fruit tarts, and then there’s no turning back. Cookies are sold individually or by the pound, and a coffee machine stays busy around the clock.
Recently, Boonzaaijer’s savvy instincts and comfort with the Internet also gave way to a new thrust – wedding cake/bakery marketing via the Internet. In the three months that his web-site has been up, he says that he has already fulfilled numerous e-generated orders – one was a wedding cake for a bride he never met. “I’ve always tried to learn from every apprenticeship and every business I’ve been involved in,” says the baker. “If I’m going to expand my business in a transient community like Colorado Springs, I have to find a way to tell customers about our dedication to quality ingredients and about the 115 items that we offer.” One look at and tired techies, blushing brides, party-planners and fastidious foodies will flock to his appealing, user-friendly site. Dozens of wedding cake designs, for example, are easily accessed and can be enlarged for detailed viewing. And, Boonzaaijer’s entire product menu (with the prices listed) is posted in a user-friendly format. “It’s a great way to expand your business without incurring a lot of marketing expenses,” he says.
While he admits he would like to build a larger business in high-ticket wedding cakes and catering, this stubborn Dutchman also remains committed to providing the best possible baked items to his everyday clients – and at an affordable price. “It’s not uncommon in better bakeries to see pastries cost three or four dollars, or more. Wherever I decided to locate, my business was going to be for everyone. I want to be able to offer a high-quality cookie or pastry to someone with a small budget as well as the bigger items – and I keep my prices at under three dollars, for the most part.”
Boonzaaijer also would like to grow his retail customer base – restaurants, retailers and delis that would resell his products in their own bakery cases. Currently, only 15 percent of total sales fall into the wholesale category. Of his customers, the baker estimates that he attracts a large group of military clients who seek out the kinds of European baked delicacies they enjoyed overseas. He also has built a sizeable European clientele who appreciate the distinctive tastes and textures of Dutch pastry. “The neighboring community (speaking of Mountain Shadows) has also been a huge source of sales – and corporate sales for meetings and catered events is growing.”
When it comes to what goes into Dutch baking, Boonzaaijer says that Holland has been strongly influenced by the French. “I typically use real butter, fresh cream and imported chocolate and never skimp on ingredients. We also make our dough from scratch, by hand.” During this interview, he notices that his inventory in the bakery cases is down a bit – and that more fresh lemon bread will be out in the morning. “We are usually slammed on Saturdays,” he says, noting that certain items (deep-fried powdered sugar and fruit-laden fritters) are prepared fresh just for the weekend crowd. He also explains that his bakery does not try to compete with bread baking shops. “The owner of Breadheads over in Manitou was a friend of mine at the Broadmoor before he started his own business. We have very different bakeries – in this business you either tend to do pastries and sweets or you bake bread. They’re very different operations.”
Speaking again of the business of operating a bakery, Boonzaaijer expects to revise his strategies on a regular basis. “I will always try to find a better way to produce a better product – new efficiencies and tighter operations.” About his unusual last name, Stephen Boonzaaijer laughs. “A lot of people just think of us as that Dutch bakery with a funny name.” Still, he expresses pride in growing up as a fifth generation Boonzaaijer – and so far the old-fashioned European name has worked well to convey the uniqueness and the quality of some of Colorado Springs most delicious baked goods and pastries.