Little Pearl Bread And Bakes: Balancing Family and Baking

October 17th, 2023
Lauren Leone
Read Time: 7 minutes
Meet Simply Bread Co customer Kevin Grenz (@MeloBread)

Little Pearl Bread And Bakes: Balancing Family and Baking

October 17th, 2023
Lauren Leone
Read Time: 7 minutes

Monday: getting all the cookie dough prepped, divided, and into the freezer. Tuesday: preparing the scones. Wednesday: prepping cinnamon rolls. Thursday: bread. Friday evening and Saturday morning: time to bake. This is the average week for Macey Merlak, the hands behind Little Pearl Breads & Bakes micro bakery. Located in Aurora, IL, Macey juggles her passion and entrepreneurial spirit for baking, with her husband and two young daughters Margot, two, and June, one. Like many others, Macey took up sourdough during the pandemic, but her passion for baking began during her childhood.

“I always wanted to make new creations in the kitchen and it was always very fun for me,” said Macey. “My grandma, when I was like eight or nine years old, bought me a mixer for Christmas because that’s genuinely what I wanted,[...] I had already been baking other kinds of bread, but sourdough started in the pandemic and just became a love for me, and I started baking it regularly,” said Macey.

A New Year’s Eve resolution to not buy any more bread sparked a challenge for Macey. She was determined to bake more than her family could consume. Little did she know that this challenge would be the birth of her micro bakery. “The more I baked, the more I loved it, and it just kind of spiraled and now here we are baking bread for a lot of people, not just my own family,” said Macey.

For some, the idea of starting your own business might seem like an impossible task, but not for Macey. Before she dove into the micro bakery world, Macey worked as a graphic designer and started her own small calligraphy business, which has remained a side business for her. She has even designed her own logo and the logos of multiple other micro bakeries.

“I’m naturally a very entrepreneurial person,” said Macey. “I love branding and just the creative outlet of running a small business,”. Macey started posting her bread on social media in April, thinking that she might get a few families that were interested in buying her bread every week. To her surprise, she was flooded with orders and completely booked up for the whole month within a week.

"I wasn’t expecting it. It was so shocking for me,” said Macey. “At first I kept telling my husband ‘I’m not starting a business, I’m just going to bake bread for a few people, and here we are now”.

Taking her success on a week-by-week basis, Macey was convinced the orders would eventually stop. When the orders continued to grow and showed no signs of slowing down, she decided to turn her micro bakery into a real business and started Little Pearl Breads & Bakes.

“My oldest daughter’s name is Margot, which means pearl, and my younger daughter’s name June means young. I took the words young and pearl and created little pearl because I thought it sounded cute,” said Macey when asked how she came up with the name of her micro bakery.

A pivotal moment for Little Pearl was Macey’s farmers market debut. After baking for two days straight from her home oven, Macey set up her farmer’s market stand, complete with her olive green signage and shelves of bread. “I feel like that was the point where my business grew a lot because a lot more people heard about my business,” said Macey. “Ever since my first market, my home pickups have grown every single week, and are still growing,”.

Some of her best sellers are her classic artisan-style sourdough bread, and her sandwich loaf which utilizes a unique Chinese baking method called Tangzhong. Tangzhong involves cooking down flour with milk before adding it to your dough. This method enriches the dough and pre-gelatinizes the starches, resulting in a fluffy and long-lasting loaf. 

Additionally, her weekly repertoire also includes her sourdough cinnamon rolls, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, and sourdough scones 

When asked about her biggest successes and milestones, Macey credited the arrival of her Simply Bread oven. “It literally changed my life,” said Macey. “Especially having young kids in my home you know, the time that I gained back by having the oven was huge. It just changed everything for me,”.

“I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions, and I felt like the Simply Bread oven was clearly the best option,” said Macey when asked how she came to this important purchase.

Macey’s oven is settled next to her mixer in the nook of her baking corner, a true definition of “micro bakery”. It’s in this corner where aromas of freshly baked bread waft through the house.

One of the hardest challenges of running her own micro bakery has been finding the balance and flow between working and family. “I made a commitment when I started my business that I wanted it to be as little of a disruption as possible to my daily life and caring for my girls,” said Macey. “I really value being a mom and being home with them,”.

Her weekly baking schedule is centered around her children, working around when they wake up, take naps, and sit down for lunch. “I’ve set it up in a way where it feels very integrated with our life and our daily schedule, and the Simply Bread oven really helped with that,” she said. 

For Macey, the motivating factor behind her micro bakery isn’t just about baking bread; it’s about connecting with her customers and fostering nostalgia and hospitality. “I’m not necessarily one to go out on a limb with crazy, unique flavor combinations,” said Macey. “I stick to the classics because I really love the comforting feeling of baked goods that you know and love, that just make people feel happy”.

It’s through social media that Macey is able to connect with her customers. Her Instagram provides her customers with a glimpse into her baking life and updates on her weekly farmers market menu and pickup locations.

There’s more than bread that’s cooking in this micro bakery. Macey is currently working on releasing her own ebook, filled with her most cherished recipes. And the goal after that? She envisions the possibility of opening a storefront within her community.

“I think that the town I live in is really lacking something like that,” she said. “But for now, I really feel very happy and satisfied with the pace that things are going at,”. For now, she envisions becoming a trusted baker for local families, providing them with high-quality bread for their daily lives.

When asked what her biggest piece of advice for any aspiring micro bakers, she emphasized the importance of taking risks, even when uncertainty may hold you back. Macey believes that success comes to those who are willing to try again and learn from their mistakes.

Little Pearl Breads & Bakes is more than a micro bakery; it’s a labor of love, a balancing act, and a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit. Macey’s baking journey reminds us all that sometimes, the best way to make your dreams come true is to simply start.

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