Leisa: Hello, I’m Leisa Holland Nelson and this is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. My guest now is Janice Jucker, Co-owner of Three brothers bakery, welcome to The BusinessMakers Jan.
Janice: Leisa, thanks for having me, we really appreciate this opportunity.
Leisa: Well I’m really glad you’re here. As a native Houstonian I know all about Three Brothers for my whole life but I want you to tell our audience about the bakery.
Janice: Three Brothers bakery, as you said, we’ve been here quite a while, we’ve actually been her about 65 years but our history goes back almost 200 years.
Janice: So we’ve been baking since about 1825 and we began in Poland in a building that Napoleon once slept in.
Janice: And we’re scratch bakers today and we use many of those recipes that date back to that 1825 time period. So my husband, he’s really the baker, we use scratch recipes that date back almost 200 years and so that’s what I think makes a bakery special. Because this is a taste you might have had in the past when your grandmother made it and you don’t want to make it like that today so you come to us and you let us do the work but you can tell people you made it and we’ll be okay with that.
Leisa: Well that’s – that’s kind of cool. So are you all in one location or?
Janice: Our main store is on Braeswood between 610 and Stella Link and then we also have two newer stores. In 2012 we opened our first satellite store – I say first, first after hurricane Ike – in Memorial City Mall area on Kings Road Lane and then we opened our third one almost a year ago on Washington Avenue just off of Shepherd.
Leisa: What’s your main product, I mean are your best sellers?
Janice: Well I think our main product is memories.
Leisa: Love that.
Janice: We say that we’re memory makers who happen to be bakers.
Leisa: Oh, I love that.
Janice: And so that’s what – we’re on our fourth, maybe even fifth generation of customer – well I’m not sure the fifth generation’s eating yet but they will – and it’s when you come in and you see the dip-decorated cookies with all the icing and that brings back a memory and that’s going to be the main product for you; or maybe it’s the gingerbread men or maybe it’s our non-dairy chocolate ripple fudge which is our top-selling chocolate cake – you never know it didn’t have butter. I mean, that’s something that just brings back a memory and there’s a real comfort to that.
Leisa: Have you been in this business a long time? Did you plan to be a baker when you were growing up? Tell me about your entry.
Janice: No I did not, no, no, no. I was living in San Antonio when my husband and I got married, so I married a man with a lot of dough and that’s how I got into the family. And then after Katrina I did a lot of volunteer work at Reliant Stadium with Katrina and I realized then that was really important to me to give back to the community and I couldn’t do that working in Corporate America where I was. Things happen for a reason, after Katrina I came and I joined the bakery. I’m more on the strategic side and the business side, my husband’s the baker and he’s the face really of Three Brothers; I mean I know I’m here doing this interview but when you think of Three Brothers Bakery you think of this male fifth generation baker. And so I do a lot of the business planning; I do the marketing, P/R, things of that nature. I – the website, I did the website and the online store and some more behind the scenes.
Leisa: So were the Three Brothers three brothers 200 years ago or more recently than that?
Janice: No, Three Brothers were three brothers that came to America; that’s my father-in-law, his twin brother Sol and his other younger brother Max and they are…
Leisa: Whoa, recently; 65 years ago.
Janice: Well they came – they were holocaust survivors and on May 8, 1945 they were liberated from the concentration camps and on May 8, 1949 they opened Three Brothers Bakery in Houston, Texas. And so what we feel like is that we’re really the steward of an incredible legacy. They built this and we want to keep this going. And, you know, who knows, maybe we’ll see a sixth generation.
Leisa: Well I don’t think anybody’s going to argue with you keeping Three Brothers Bakery going.
Janice: I hope so. We need you to come and try a lot of our stuff.
Leisa: I’m going to. It’s so funny, I was telling someone earlier today that you really appeal to a large audience and being that I grew up in the neighborhood that I grew up in, which wasn’t over in Braeswood, I had a lot of petit fours which was
Janice: See, you had a memory.
Leisa: I have a major memory. I mean every tea dance, every prom, every everything there were petit fours and they had to be from Three Brothers in River Oaks at the time.
Janice: Oh wow.
Leisa: You know, you had a location there; so it’s just – it’s kind of interesting. I also remember going there with my dad, the real bakery and picking up challahs or picking up whatever it was.
Janice: One of the things that I thought was a funny story I heard was that this woman said her mother or father used to bring her every single Sunday to the bakery to watch the show. In Europe they were they only bakery in town, there was no competition, so you could do pretty much whatever you wanted to do; customer service was not quite what it is today. And so she said she loved hearing the three brothers – they would yell at each other in Polish and then they would turn around and yell at the customers in English and that was part of the show; that was just part of the persona of the bakery. Today we pride ourselves on that we’re nice to our customers and we’re nice to each other and we want to promote good memories for everybody but I just love that story, I think it’s so funny.
Leisa: So I’m really curious about those memory-makers; you brought a lot of them with you today, you want to tell us about them?
Janice: I did. Well I think the biggest memory-maker for most people here in Houston is the Gingerbread Men. And I think as a kid you can’t beat a Gingerbread Man and mothers are coming in when their grown children are coming for the holidays and saying I need to get some Gingerbread Men because my kids are coming in – my 40 year old kids are coming in. So I think that is one – that’s number one; number two I think is probably sprinkle cookies, anything that’s from your little childhood memory.
And then if you go back to just what are some of those recipes from the old country, I mean just our ryes, our challahs which are egg bread, corn rye, pumpernickel, marble rye and probably one of the things that most people maybe visually it doesn’t necessarily look like the most beautiful item but it is the best item in the bakery is our poppy seed strudel. So if you are ever in the bakery and you’ve never had it, you gotta have the poppy seed strudel; it is – it’s amazing and it’s from the old country, it’s one of those recipes. Babkas also are from the old country and anything with onions. We have onion boards on Sundays and onion pockets and we have – and then all of our cakes; so we have Lemon Cream cake and the Death by Chocolates and Coconut Cream.
Leisa: I got it, thank you.
Janice: Wedding cakes…
Leisa: Do you see growth in the business on an annual basis? Have you been growing a lot?
Janice: Oh yeah. I actually looked at the numbers, from 2006 to today we’ve had 197% growth. We were hit by Hurricane Ike and we were closed for 9 months and when we re-opened we had 27 employees, so that was in 2009 and today in 2015 we have over 70 and we have 3 locations. So we learned after Hurricane Ike we’re – my husband and I, we’re not necessarily the best managers so we actually hired a management team.
Leisa: Excellent. Yeah, no that’s a great idea.
Janice: Which was unheard of, you know, for the family business to not necessarily be run by the family. But that’s what enabled us to grow was having great people.
Leisa: So I know that owning a bakery, which is food, food is not the easiest business, retail can be just a nightmare, what advice do you have for anyone listening to us who would like to achieve the kind of success that you’ve achieved in the retail business, the bakery business, the human customer service business?
Janice: I do talks at the Small Business Development Center for new businesses and I always tell them you definitely need to be passionate about what you’re doing, you definitely want to enjoy the topic of whatever that is; but you also have to remember, you’re in this to make money and it is a business. And so I was actually in a class yesterday and the teacher said there’s checkbook accounting and there’s financial accounting and if you use financial – if you think about your financials you’re going to go a lot farther than do I just have some money and just spend it, you know, just spend it because I have it and that means I’m successful because I had some extra money that I could spend.
That’s not the way to be successful, you really have to plan and you have to figure out really almost what’s your exit strategy and then work toward that. How much money do you need to live out your old age? And then figure out how you’re going to get there doing this passion that – using this passion that you have for whatever it is that you’re doing.
Leisa: Thank you very much for being here today.
Janice: Thanks for having me Leisa.
Leisa: And that wraps up my discussion with Janice Jucker, Co-owner of Three brothers bakery. This is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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