Mount Vernon Baker Opens Doors to Residential “Store”

Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, adjusts the top of a cake for a customer while working in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, November 10, 2022. What began as a baking side gig for friends and family has blossomed into a business of making custom orders, attending farmers’ markets, and operating a “store” from her home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, decorates a cake for a customer while working in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, November 10, 2022. What began as a side concert baking for friends and family has she made it a business of making custom orders, attending farmers’ markets, and operating a “store” from her home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, spreads icing on a cake while working in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, November 10, 2022. What started out as a side concert baking for friends and family has made it a business of making custom orders, attending farmers’ markets, and operating a “store” from her home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, places sugar pearls on a cake she is decorating for a customer while working in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. What started out as a concert Parallel baking for friends and family has grown into a business of making custom orders, attending farmers’ markets, and operating a “store” from her home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Light from a gold cake pad reflects on Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, as she spreads sugar syrup on the bottom half of a cake in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, November 10. She started as a side job baking for friends and family and grew into a business of making custom orders, attending farmers markets, and operating a “store” from her home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, adjusts the top of a cake for a customer while working in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, November 10, 2022. What began as a baking side gig for friends and family has blossomed into a business of making custom orders, attending farmers’ markets, and operating a “store” from her home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, cleans a cake pad after decorating a cake for a customer while working in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, November 10, 2022. What started as a concert Parallel baking for friends and family has grown into a business of making custom orders, attending farmers’ markets, and operating a “store” from her home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jen Juhl, owner of White Tree Bakery, takes chocolate chip cookies out of the oven while working in the kitchen of her home in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Thursday, November 10, 2022. What began as a side gig baking for friends and Relatives have grown into a business of making custom orders, attending farmers’ markets, and operating a “store” from their home one day a week. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

MOUNT VERNON – The latest Mount Vernon bakery opening has fairly limited hours at its offbeat shop. Regardless, most White Tree Bakery customers end up becoming regular customers.

Thanks to a pair of pocket doors, a curtain, and a small table for assorted items, the lobby of the 1900 owner’s home has been converted into what is now Mount Vernon’s only bona fide casual shop with a wide variety of cakes, cookies, scones and more. all home made.

For owner Jen Juhl, baking has been a lifelong occupation. But she only recently realized that she could make a business out of it.

It kicked off this past Thanksgiving, the time of year when those with baking and cooking talents tend to shine. Last Christmas season, a great deal of encouragement and a dash of pressure prompted her to start taking cake orders.

“I’ve always loved baking, but my friends and my husband had been looking for me for a while to do something about it,” Juhl said. “They said ‘you’re so good at it, you should do something about it.’ ”

After a quick Facebook post and 17 cake orders, she realized they were onto something.

“I said wow, I can actually do something with this and turn it into a business,” Juhl said. “It sort of blossomed from there.”

This year, he is planning about 40 cake orders.

What: White Tree Bakery

Where: 217 First Avenue NW, Mount Vernon.

Hours: Residential store open from 2 to 6 pm every Friday. Expanded hours on Thursdays planned in the future.

Telephone: (319) 855-8663

Email: [email protected]

Details: Friday window displays offer a variety of coffee cakes, bars, cookies and pastries for purchase. Custom and advance orders can be placed via email or phone.

Cost: A dozen cookies start at $17, pies start at $25, and cakes start at $40.

growing growth

After a quick success last Thanksgiving, Juhl opened his business in earnest after the New Year. With steady growth throughout the year, he later began selling at an ad hoc farmers’ market at the Morning Glory farm during the summer. By August, he had enough demand to open the store in the hall of his house for four hours every Friday.

“The support from the community has been incredible,” he said. “Your friends always tell you that you can do things, but you are always your own worst critic. I realized that yes, people would buy me cakes and yes, I could do this.”

Juhl grew up in a family where cooking was a way of life. His mother was a catering manager at Cornell College. Family activities were based around the kitchen, and gardening and butchering were as much a part of life as baking in the kitchen.

Juhl, 37, worked as a pastry assistant at Molly’s Cupcakes in Iowa City more than nine years ago. He even attended his own wedding.

I knew I was good at baking. But it wasn’t until some elements in her life came to a head that she realized that she could make a living out of it, too. After having two children, now ages 4 and 6, the neonatal intensive care unit worker at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics began to reevaluate what she wanted to do with life.

The pandemic made it clear that her job in healthcare, where she continues to work on weekends, wasn’t necessarily what she wanted to do for a long-term career.

Starting a home baking business isn’t exactly a productive path for a working mom who wants more free time. But for Juhl, it’s an investment in the future that becomes clearer over time.

“As a working mother, this has made life more challenging in some ways,” she said. “But I feel like it’s a way of setting up my future so I don’t have to work weekends forever.”

With strong sales continuing to grow, you are considering adding an extra day to your home store. The growth has forced her to think about the future of the business.

And while she’s not sure exactly where it will be located or what it will look like, she has a dream.

“I want to have a store, have a place where you can go and buy a cookie if you want, or a piece of cake, anything,” said the business owner. “In the great grand scheme of dreams, I’d like to turn it into a bakery and deli where you can get a nice sandwich and a cup of soup.”

In the town of roughly 4,500, the home shop of White Tree Bakery is one of the only places for sweet treats in town. The bakery niche has potential for a wide swath of Mount Vernon sweet tooth customers.

their specialties

White Tree Bakery isn’t a “specific bakery,” Juhl explained, it’s a jack of all trades. With everything made by hand, White Tree focuses on being fresh and artisan through a comforting simplicity reminiscent of home.

“I don’t just make cakes. I don’t just make sugar cookies. I do a little bit of everything,” she said.

The pie crust is rolled in half butter and half shortening, incorporating seasonal ingredients as much as possible. This fall, pumpkin pie customers will get a slice with pumpkin that she roasted herself.

“If I’m going to buy a cake, I want it handmade from start to finish,” Juhl said.

With some experience from Molly’s Cupcakes, Juhl has learned a lot through online research and trial and error.

The cakes are frosted with their Swiss-style buttercream, where hot sugar water is poured into a meringue before being chilled and mixed with butter. Frosting gives cakes a unique, fluffy feel that seals the deal.

“It doesn’t contain a lot of powdered sugar. I feel like it’s a lighter frosting, it doesn’t feel as heavy,” Juhl said. “That’s my personal favorite.”

Chocolate frosting is literally made with melted chocolate, rather than cocoa powder.

Juhl’s from-scratch approach makes it easy for you to work with customers who have dietary limitations, expanding your offerings to include gluten-free, dairy-free and allergy-free baked goods such as pumpkin bars, coffee cakes, scones and more.

At first, Juhl wasn’t quite sure why her clients kept coming back. But then she realized it.

“There is nothing like it around here,” he said.

Comments: (319) 398-8340; [email protected]

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