Clyde Greenhouse had never sold his baked goods until his sisters brought them to their friends and co-workers. When calls started to pour in with orders, he decided to pursue a side hustle creating custom cookie tins and gift baskets for corporate clients.
In 2014, Greenhouse decided to leave his corporate real estate job and launch Kessler Baking Studio, a Dallas-based bakery that specializes in cookies, brownies, and blondies like Texas-shaped shortbreads and the “Kesslerdoodle” cookie. Since opening the shop, Greenhouse has become a must-see Dallas foodie destination and was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker in 2020.
Hello Alice talked to Greenhouse about taking a leap into entrepreneurship, the importance of using high-quality photography for your social media, and why great customer service can bring brand awareness to your business. The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did you get into baking?
It wasn’t baking at first. I started culinary classes at a local junior college while I was in corporate. Then I discovered that I was more of a baker. I was more of a formula person using precise measurements versus someone that threw ingredients together.
What was it like going from the corporate world to launching Kessler Baking Studio?
Giving up a corporate salary and starting a business where it was just me — that was quite challenging. The first year, I struggled between trying to bake while waiting on customers. It was only a year later I had someone that could help me at the front counter. That was the biggest leap: going from a corporate environment where you had support staff to operating a business all by yourself.
What did the transition into a full-time business look like?
It was scary. I had saved some money that I was able to use for the business, but the first year was probably the most challenging. The leap was giving up that corporate salary and now depending solely on my business, which was in an area that’s very transitional here in Dallas. It’s booming now. There’s new developments in the area; there’s new apartments.
I bought an old 1920s bungalow, and that’s where my business is located. It’s on a block with a couple of other businesses that are in bungalows as well. But it was still a challenge to get noticed.
Was there anything that you did to help your business get attention?
Social media is something I took to first: Facebook, Instagram. One of the things that helped me was I met someone who coached me through it. She actually had a bakery business in California, and she had a thriving Instagram account on what gets people to land on your social media.
What we talked about was mostly good photography. I wasn’t very good at taking photos with my cell phone, which she didn’t recommend, so I’ve hired photographers that did photos of my product and use those. That seems to have brought more attention to my business.
One of my biggest things is customer service. No matter how bad of a day I was having, I would never let my customers know that. I’m always happy to see customers, and those customers helped with the word of mouth and getting my business out there. That was something that was very crucial to growing my business: providing excellent customer service and making people feel very welcome when they walked into the bakery. Then they would come back with friends and family.
Have there been any challenges you’ve faced since opening Kessler Baking Studio?
As soon as things started to pick up, there were obstacles that I had not anticipated. One of the things is that the City of Dallas started building a streetcar, and the streetcar runs right in front of the bakery. The street was closed for months with very limited access.
One of the other things is that earlier in 2020, I was at an event doing a pop-up and a friend messaged me that I was the semifinalist for the James Beard Award, which was a shock to me. I had no clue that it was being considered for one, and we were really hopping after that. People traveling into Dallas made this a destination, and then the pandemic started three weeks after that. There’s just a number of challenges along the way, but again, it was just wanting to do something that made me happy.
How did you get through those unexpected challenges? What were your solutions?
When the streetcar was coming in, I really used social media. I offered special products that I normally would not do, like tarts and cakes. We really focused on cookies, brownies, blondies here, but I started offering things like specialty items that attracted people and got attention.
Prior to the pandemic, we were just a retail location. We had a web presence, but not a website where you can purchase. As soon as a pandemic started, we pivoted to an online ordering system, as well as local delivery that we didn’t offer before.
Even though about two months ago, we started allowing people back into the bakery, we still have a lot of people that enjoy curbside pickup. Customers that really know what they want here; they found that item they enjoy, and they come back again and again for us.