When the restaurant where Darrell (DJ) McLaughlin worked shut down at the start of the pandemic, he and his wife Katey began thinking more seriously about starting their own business. The couple had recently relocated to St. Johnsbury from Washington State to be closer to DJ’s family. They looked forward to the creative freedom and independence that owning their own business would provide. They also were excited about the revitalization of St. Johnsbury’s downtown area and wanted to do something that would bring value to their local community.
As to what type of business to start, the field was fairly narrow. Not only do DJ and Katey share a passion for food and baking, this is what they do. Katey, who is originally from upstate New York, is a trained pastry chef, and DJ, a Danville native, spent 15 years in the restaurant world after attending the Culinary Institute of America.
A retail food business made sense. But where to begin? The couple walked by the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC)’s office in downtown St. Johnsbury every day. So when they realized they needed help determining their next steps, they reached out to VtSBDC advisor Ross Hart. “Working with Ross was pivotal in getting started,” Katey said. “DJ and I knew how to run a business, but we had no idea how to get it started.”
“When I met them, DJ and Katey immediately presented themselves as personable, talented, knowledgeable, and ambitious,” Hart said. “All qualities that are critical in retail food service and would also be attractive to a local lender. I assisted them with developing a business plan and financial projections. They are very financially oriented, so the process really was a simple one in their case.”
Initially, the McLaughlins were considering subleasing a small space in another area of downtown and starting a wholesale bakery. “But the highly visible space they now occupy had very recently opened up, and I encouraged them to take a look as I felt that there was significant potential for a well-run retail bakery in downtown St. J,” Hart said. “They did, and the rest is history.”
Boule Bakery, which opened in the summer of 2021, is located at 462 Railroad Street, St. Johnsbury. They make their own naturally leavened sourdough breads, along with a rotating array of pastries and specialty desserts. They also offer custom-made desserts for special occasions. All of their products are made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Boule Bakery is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more info: boulebakery.com.
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