A Seattle Bakery One Year After Coronavirus Hit
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
While the pandemic has forced many small businesses to close, those that have thrived have often been forced to evolve, like a small bakery in Seattle called Piroshky Piroshky. The first time I spoke with the owner, Olga Sagan, was one year ago. The coronavirus was shutting down Seattle, and the rest of the country would soon follow. Well, as it turns out, 2021 has brought some of the best months ever to her bakery, Piroshky Piroshky.
Olga Sagan, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and I'm really happy to hear things have been going well for you.
OLGA SAGAN: Thank you for having me.
SHAPIRO: So how'd you change your approach to this business?
SAGAN: Well, I think we all just had to go e-commerce, and I had to really focus on how do I take my business online and meet my customers where they are at.
SHAPIRO: And I imagine that also allowed you to expand your customer base beyond people who could visit you in person in Seattle.
SAGAN: Absolutely. I was very surprised that we were able to gather a lot more customers over the last several months than we ever have done.
SHAPIRO: How'd you do that?
SAGAN: Well, we got very creative, and we started coming to our customers and - you know, as close to Seattle as Bellingham or as far as getting piroshkies on a plane and flying to Anchorage and San Francisco and Denver and Las Vegas.
SHAPIRO: Was it a smooth transition, or were there bumps along the way?
SAGAN: It was anything but smooth transition.
SAGAN: Anything but smooth. And it was a great learning experience, and I would say only now. So, you know, we transition slowly into it. First, we were doing pop-ups around the state, but then we got that down, and we're very easy right now in the three, four-hour drive from Seattle. Next step was getting on a plane and all the logistics that have to do with getting on Alaska Airlines cargo and so on and, you know, arriving to a new city. And I would say the first three was a disaster. But as usual, our customers are very understanding. And communication was the key, and we pulled it off.
SHAPIRO: So how does your staffing and your revenue today compare to before the pandemic?
SAGAN: So December - the first months when everything really came together and local pop-ups came together, home deliveries really blooming. And I look at the numbers, and I can't believe my numbers are better than last December, which was pre-COVID. But I was like, well, December, people feeling festive. So I kind of disregarded the numbers a little bit. Then we went into January, and January was the busiest January this business ever had. So was February.
SAGAN: So I was absolutely shocked that we met almost our summer high-peak numbers in January and February by creating this new business model.
SHAPIRO: So for all the pain and suffering that this pandemic has caused, it actually helped you evolve your business to something new.
SAGAN: A hundred percent. Hundred percent.
SHAPIRO: As people get vaccinated and restrictions start to lift so folks can visit in-person bakeries again, what do you hope the future of your business looks like?
SAGAN: I think the future is we're going to pick up our, you know, in-store customers. But I don't think the concept of home deliveries or pop-ups, either in-state or out-of-state, is going away by any means because of the uniqueness of the product, at least for us, because when we come, we really try to create the community and bring people piece of Seattle to wherever they are.
SHAPIRO: Olga Sagan is the owner of the Seattle bakery Piroshky Piroshky and now the online platform catch22market.com. Thank you for talking with us again.
SAGAN: Thank you, Ari.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOM MISCH'S "THE JOURNEY")
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