Monday, December 11, 2023

Rachael’s Bread is on the rise — started in 2020 from necessity, now buys former Mohican Grange

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Rachael Lujbli launched Rachael’s Bread during the pandemic in 2020 out of necessity — financial need and stress relief.

Now the business has grown so big it needs to move out of her house.

Rachael and Jennifer Islas have purchased the former Mohican Grange building on Ridge Road at Oneida Corners in Queensbury.

On the first floor will be Jennifer’s Zumba and yoga studio. Rachael’s bakery will be in the basement.

Up until now, Rachael has baked entirely out of her home. Her staff is strictly family. Husband Dan does the packaging and distribution to stores like Bean’s Country Store — diagonally across from the Grange building — and to Jacob and Toneys in Warrensburg.

Rachael’s main point of sale is Dan’s Farm Shack, near the corner Route 149 and Bay Road (west of Bistro LeRoux). Named for her husband Dan, it also offers his wood crafts and her mother-in-law’s “quilling.”

Rachael Lujbli & Jennifer Islas combined to buy the former Mohican Grange on Ridge Road in Queensbury. Rachael is turning the basement into her bakery. Jennifer’s Zumba & yoga studio will operate on the first floor. Chronicle photo/Zander Frost

“It’s like a farmer’s market under one roof,” Rachael said.

The couple’s two teenagers help too. “My son does granola, and my daughter does brownies,” and they do some dishes, said Rachael, who also home schools the kids.

Rachael bakes — “14-16 hours a day in the summer.”

“I’ve always had a love of baking. But after my mom passed away, I kind of suppressed it for several years, because it was just too painful,” she said. “It stirred up lots of memories of her in the kitchen.

“But when COVID hit, our income just plummeted. And I had to bake not only to eat, because it was cheaper,” she laughed, “but also, it was like a stress reliever for me.”

At first she just gave the bread away.

“I had friends and family starting to ask to pay because I was making so much that I was giving it away,” Rachael said. “They were asking me to pay if they could pick what they got. So I just started a business almost by accident, I guess.”

“I started thinking to sell [the bread] in May of 2020.”

Rachael said she had been doing direct sales, in people’s homes. Dan did seasonal jobs, like ski patrol at Hunter Mountain. The early days of the pandemic shut their jobs down.

Rachael is from Vermont. Dan is from near Hunter Mountain. They moved to Lake George because it was “sort of a middle ground between both of our families.”

“And then I started being more purposeful,” Rachael added. “My husband and I put a stand at the end of our driveway after a little while. And we started taking pre-orders too.”

The baking is done entirely out of their home. Her kitchen is a tight squeeze

Rachael said her most popular items include sourdough bread, cinnamon rolls and cookies. But she has a wide variety of options, from Cinnamon Babka to Coffee Cake to Biscotti.

Rachael said she focuses on using organic ingredients and that her bakery is 100% nut free.

Growing the bakery is a necessity, Rachael said, that will make her life drastically easier.

“I’ll be able to better manage my time, because I have five hours straight from 3 a.m. until about 6-7 a.m., where I only just put things in the oven, one after another after another after another after another.

“I can’t prep anything, I can’t make anything, I’m just constantly putting things in the oven that I prepped the day before.”

They had tried to put a kitchen above their garage, “but due to zoning, we were restricted,” she said.

Rachael said her friend Ms. Islas “was looking for a new place for Zumba because her gym was closing.”

“I said, well, there’s this place diagonal from Beans Country Store, and I looked at it myself, but it’s just not feasible to do alone. It’s just too big. It’s too expensive. So she was like, Well, why don’t we just buy it together?” Rachael said.

Rachael has launched a Kickstarter (at http://kck.st/3qdXqfT) to help raise the $41,700 for the renovations she’ll need to make on the space.
Contributors receive treats — like a “Mystery Box” of baked goods for $100, or “Cookies for LIFE” for $10,000.

Rachael writes that she chose Kickstarter because “I wanted to try to avoid going into the traditional forms of debt to put capital into the building prior to making a profit as interest rates are 9% for a business loan right now AND I wanted to involve the community in rejuvenating the old Oneida Corners and Mohican Grange Hall.”

Rachael said her 1,600 Facebook followers are “really excited. Everyone has been extremely enthusiastic. I’ve actually had people tell me for months, if not years, like, ‘oh my gosh, you need a kitchen, you need a bigger space. I can’t believe you do this from home.’”

Rachael said the new space will enable her to ship goods, say, to seasonal customers who returned home to New Jersey or New York City.

Operating out of her home kitchen, she notes, “I’m not allowed to ship out of New York State. Even if I could, there’s just not enough space or capacity.”

She plans a total redo of the Grange basement — “really beginning to end, it’s almost like building a new building.

As with everything, she and her husband Dan will do the work themselves.

Does she have bigger future plans?

“I’ve always adopted the strategy, one step at a time,” Rachael said. “I found in this industry in particular, there can be a lot of hurdles. So I tried to just take it one manageable step at a time.

“I do have some big lofty goals, but for now, it’s just to open and grow taller and not wider until I see where I can.”

She adds, I think I said that kind of weird. I’ve been up since 3 a.m. [baking].”

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