By Valory Schoenecker/Murphy News Service
Tracy Kohler hovers over a tray of chocolate cupcakes, carefully topping them with a pink raspberry frosting inspired by Valentine’s Day until she hears the timer go off on her state-of-the-art oven. As she transports a tray of warm croissants to a cooling rack, the kitchen is immediately overcome by the mouthwatering aroma.
When Kohler decided to quit her corporate job two years ago to start a career in baking, her husband wasn’t the only person who benefitted. After working in a bakery for a year, Kohler leased a commercial kitchen in Excelsior last April, giving her the space to bake for an entire community.
Farina Bakeshop, named after the Italian word for flour, is a boutique bakery where Kohler focuses on baking pastries and desserts for her customers.
Many of her patrons first heard about the bakeshop last summer when Kohler sold her treats at farmers markets in Mound and Excelsior. “Just about every Valentine’s Day order is from someone I met at one of the farmers markets,” Kohler said.
But Kohler doesn’t just sell bakery items at farmers markets, Farina Bakeshop is also a catering service for special events, personal and business-related occasions.
“I deliver all over the Twin Cities,” Kohler said. “A lot of it is word of mouth. Someone orders pastries for the office and their co-worker calls me asking if I can make a cake for their child’s birthday.”
Farina Bakeshop is based out of a commercial kitchen located in Excelsior behind the Our Savior Lutheran Church on Highway 7. Since Kohler lives in Excelsior, it’s a convenient location for Kohler. But there will be competition when a Kowalski’s supermarket opens down the street next month.
“I’m excited for Kowalski’s to go in, honestly. I have really loyal customers,” Kohler said. “It’s such a thriving community and everyone is so close knit that everybody supports one another and supports small businesses.”
Kohler said her customers will certainly shop at Kowalski’s but said she thinks they will still buy baked goods from her because they won’t be able to get her chocolate chip cookies or buttery croissants anywhere else.
Another factor boosting Kohler’s confidence is the quality of her ingredients. “You can really taste the difference in my products. I use all-natural ingredients. I don’t use anything artificial and I get a lot of my ingredients from my own organic garden,” Kohler said.
Strawberries, tomatoes, herbs, asparagus, and apples – to name a few — grow in Kohler’s garden. She also shops locally for other ingredients, such as eggs, butter and pork.
“It’s different than buying from grocery stores,” Heather Cottwell, a Farina customer, said. “You can tell she really puts her heart into it.”
Cottwell typically buys Kohler’s baked goods for personal and family consumption. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, Cottwell bought pies and desserts from Farina to share with her family. She now has members of her family buying from Farina Bakeshop.
Cottwell said she bought a couple dozen pastries just to hand out to friends. She laughed as she admitted to hiding some from her husband.
Cottwell applauds Kohler for taking the leap toward starting her own bakery. “Taking a chance on a passion that she has… Most people are not willing to step out of their bubble like that,” Cottwell said.
Kohler’s husband, Matt Kohler, who does the marketing and web development for Farina Bakeshop, said he fully supports his wife’s decision to dedicate her time to baking.
“If you’re not doing what you enjoy day-to-day, then change is good,” Matt said. “I will stand behind her and back her any way I can.”
Before opening Farina Bakeshop, Kohler traveled around the world with her husband tasting and learning about many different types of food.
“We appreciate the craftsmanship behind certain foods and we care about the ingredients and where they come from,” Matt said.
Kohler, who originally worked as a project manager in a healthcare company, said that she enjoys baking because it is a science. Often times, people don’t realize the hard work that goes into baking, not to mention baking for large groups.
Kohler does not plan to open a retail shop but she would be willing to if the opportunity presents itself. She plans to continue to focus on catering baked goods to the Excelsior and Twin Cities communities. Staying involved in the community is very important to her.
Her favorite community event last summer was Excelsior’s Apple Days where she baked everything from apple cookies to apple pies. This summer, she plans to get involved in the Fourth of July celebration as well.
Lately Kohler has been looking into different advertising opportunities with bridal magazines and even had her own booth at a Minnesota bridal show last weekend, promoting her wedding cake options.
Reporter Valory Schoenecker is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.
HOW TO REACH
Bakery items from Farina Bakeshop can be ordered at www.farinabakeshop.com, by calling 651-253-7126 or by email at [email protected]. Pick-up and delivery options are available.