Catching up With Coleen, Founder of The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe

At Patriot Software, we’re committed to providing accounting and payroll software that lets entrepreneurs keep their time and money for what they love: running their small business. 

Our #PatriotSpotlight customer success stories both celebrate and inspire U.S. small business owners. For this month’s small business spotlight, we spoke to Coleen McMains, owner of Strasburg, Virginia-based bakery, The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe.

The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe is known for making baked goods using historical recipes (among other treats), providing a cozy environment, and offering hard-to-find specials like peanut soup!

What was it like to start your own business?

I started The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe’s blog in January 2016, and opened my business on September 1, 2017. It was the first time I’ve ever run a business, so I had to learn from the ground up. Every single thing.

What is running a business like? It’s hard work. Many people think running your own business is all rainbows and butterflies and wonderful, which it is, but there are also behind the scenes things you have to deal with, like money, taxes, and managing employees. Those types of things are hard.

People warned me before I started that I wouldn’t have any time off, and I didn’t believe them. Mondays are my days off, but I still do work for my business. But despite the hard work, running a business is rewarding.

I’ve met people in my life I would’ve never met without doing this. We have regular customers who have become like family. It’s been really good. And, being your own boss is good.

Why did you decide to open a bakery and cafe?

Opening my own bakery and cafe was something I always thought about doing. I danced around it, and then all of a sudden, it happened. When I moved to Strasbourg, this became available, and I thought, Oh sure, why not?!

My grandmother had a family restaurant when I was growing up. As a child, I cleaned the tables. I thought, I’d love to just make a place like my grandmother has: Cozy, warm, friendly … a Cheers-type of place where everybody knows each other’s name. 

And it is like that!

Can you tell me a little bit about what you offer?

We offer a variety of different things, like bakery pies, cookies, and dinners. I try to keep the historical aspect, so we generally have one or two historical menu items at all times.

For example, we make Mary Todd Lincoln’s white almond cake a lot. It’s an original recipe from the family that we got from a National Park service. She made this cake when she was being courted by Mr. Lincoln.

We try to be different by doing some historical baking. That way, people can taste what Abraham Lincoln liked.

The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe's cake

Some other presidential favorite foods we make include:

  • Seafood chowder (John F. Kennedy)
  • Cowboy cookies (Laura Bush’s recipe)
  • Lemon chess pie (Lyndon Johnson)
  • Key lime pie (Richard Nixon)

We also make historically-themed dinners. Last year we did a Colonial Christmas dinner, which featured pork, peanut soup, and apple pie.

On average, how many hours do you work per week?

Oh my gosh, I don’t even know! Even on Mondays (my day off), I’m still working. I generally work seven days a week, 12 or 13 hours a day. However, Sundays I don’t work that many hours—I generally only come in for a little bit.

The days fly by, though, because we’re always baking and filling special orders. Especially now with Thanksgiving coming up, we’re starting to get special orders and dinners here.

What are your go-to marketing strategies?

We do a lot on Facebook and have a lot of followers there—close to 2,000—and are working on building more. On Facebook, we upload fun videos of us singing and dancing, and we also show pictures of our baked goods. Whatever we do, we try to interact as much as we can.

We also do marketing on Instagram and have a business website.

How does Patriot Software help you run your business?

Oh my gosh, Patriot does my timekeeping for my employees! I’m able to just get into the system every week, run payroll, and get out. It saves me a lot of stress.

All I have to do is enter hours and print off checks. I can’t even imagine doing the math. Using Patriot’s payroll has been really easy. And, it’s been a blessing because Patriot takes care of everything!

When it comes to your business, what are you most proud of?

There are a lot of things I’m proud of in my business, starting with the fact that I came in not knowing a thing about it. I’m proud of how much I’ve learned over the past 2+ years and how I’ve grown it into what it is today.

I’m also very proud of my employees. I’ve had some really wonderful employees I’ve met who have been with me from the beginning. I’ve been really blessed with my employees.

The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe's cookies

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I don’t really have that much time off, especially with having just moved and trying to unpack. I like to go to the local brewery and have a glass of wine. I also have a chihuahua and grey parrot. I rescued the parrot last year, who came with his own colorful language. He says horrible things in Spanish to people!

Although my children don’t live locally, I try to see them and spend time with them when I can. I also like to read to decompress, but it’s not that often … I can never finish a book. I have every intention of reading, but then I put it aside and it just sits there.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone thinking about starting their own business?

Work hard, follow your dreams, and just know that your whole life will change and be part of your business. Keep persevering. It’s very, very hard, so realize that it’s not easy. It’s also expensive—an expensive hobby.

But, it’s not every day you get to do what you love doing. I have no regrets about starting mine!

Before starting my business, I was a secretary for 27 years. I hated my job. But now, I get to wake up every day, be creative, make things, work with people that I love, and talk to my amazing customers.

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