The journey of jajabelles began long before The Shop on Main Street. It started in my mother's kitchen and grew in the mountains of Colorado. I started jajabelles by making homemade greek pastries for all to enjoy with recipes that have been in my family for generations. Over the years, The Shop has evolved to the one you know today: coffee, bakeshop, breakfast, lunch, smoothies, but most importantly, a community gathering space.
I have been selling my pastries between Colorado and New Hampshire since 2004, and the journey I have been on from my first market to today has been an extraordinary one; I would like to share it with you.
The Early Years
I grew up in a home where something delicious was always cooking on the stove or baking in the oven. If I wasn't at my house, I was at either my yiayia's house or one of my great aunts' homes, where something was always in the oven or on the stove there, too. My mother taught me how to bake, and she learned from my yiayia, Tessie.
My great aunts had a Greek bakery out of
their home in Nashua, N.H. called Makreena's. When I was ten, I started helping them sell their pastries at a yearly event; something I looked forward to every year (although I can't imagine how much help I actually was at ten!) It was working those shows, where the bug of bringing pure joy to people through food hit me. To this day, I get the same joy of watching people take that first bite of my food.
During the summer months, my childhood friends Marisa, Heather & I would set up a lemonade stand (it should have been called a Kool-Aid stand, because that's all we sold.) Unfortunately, our only customers during those summers turned to be our parents and the mailman....needless to say, we should have stuck to selling good old fashion lemonade! From that first stand, I learned a very valuable life lesson that I continue to this day: stick with what has been tried, true and successful. Although the techniques of my family's baking has changed from generation to generation (i.e. my mother still insists I use the Moulie to chop walnuts when I am home instead of the food processor), the recipes have not. I bet my aunts didn't ever think I would grow up baking for another generation to enjoy!
jajaBelle's is Born
The actual concept of jajaBelle's came senior year at the Univeristy of New Hampshire, when I had to write a business plan for my entrepreneurial class. The concept was a cafe, specializing in Greek pastries. I called it "jajaBelle's" - - a family nickname I have had since a little girl. The business plan went on to win the annual Paul J. Holloway Competition in the Whittemore School of Business & Economics. That was a special day for me: After months & months of endless rewrites, hours upon hours of practicing my presentation with my roommate Bethany, my dream was recognized as actually being award winning. To me, this meant my family & friends weren't the only ones who believed in me; complete strangers now did too. Having an award winning dream was just the affirmation I needed to turn jajaBelle's into a reality!
After college, I started baking and selling my pastries at local craft fairs in NH. I will never forget the first show I baked for: It was an outdoor show and, not knowing what to expect, I made an umpteen amount of pastries, only to have a heatwave hit the east coast on that particular day. At that first market, there were a total of four customers. I repeat; four customers. Tons of food and only four customers meant financially, it was a bust. But something amazing and priceless happened to me during that first show: every single one of those customers loved & praised the pastries! They gave me the confidence I needed, and thought to myself "maybe I'm on to something here."
Childhood friends Marisa (left), Heather (right) and I getting ready to make the trip across the street to Heather's house to open our Lemonade stand for the day.
I moved out to Colorado in 2006, spending my first two years in Denver. At the time, I was dating a wonderful man named Mike who would help me anyway he could: constructing tables for me, creating my first sign (out of construction paper!), making the cement weights for my tent that I still use to this day, and most importantly, he spent endless hours helping me in the kitchen. Many all nighters were spent baking during those first two years, with many mornings spent having to race from the kitchen to the farmers markets without any sleep. By the second season of markets, I decided to expand from Denver to the mountain markets.
At 5 am every Saturday morning I would pick up my friend Marisa (the same friend from the lemonade stand twenty years earlier!), and we would drive up to the mountains, where I would drop her off at the Minturn market and I would head to the Edwards market. We looked liked the Clampetts! Instead of heading to Beverly Hills though, we were heading to Vail, Colorado with tables & tents strapped to the roof rack with bungee cords and a car full of pastries. Many stops were made along I-70 that season to grab coffee, take 15 min naps, and tighten those bungee cords! Even from those early days, I felt extremely fortunate to have such wonderful customers, as many of them would take us in as houseguests that Saturday night, so we could stay and do the Vail market on Sunday.
By the time third farmers market season rolled around, I made the decision to move to the Vail Valley, where I lived until 2013.
"The Shop" Nashua, New Hampshire
Coming back to Nashua in 2014, I opened my first storefront in the downtown, at 182 Main St. The j.Belle Shop is a place you can come for coffee, grab a sweet, read the paper, and use your laptop. Come meet friends, listen to music, and do the crossword. I welcome you to come, sip coffee, and enjoy yourself. Over the years, The Shop has morphed into a modern day bakeshop of nostalgia - - we even make our own homemade poptarts! In addition to our counter, we sell breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches + salads, smoothies, and ice-cream.
That's my story from the beginning. I look forward to writing the next chapter, as the story continues forward in this little adventure called life.
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