I am so grateful to start our new year with Baum-kuchen as a sustaining business. Each year, I close our book at the end of December and start a new book on the first of January. I pull myself together for a fresh beginning with the hope not only to survive but to contribute to our analogue community with ease, graciousness, and intentions.
January 14th was our 2nd in-person shop opening in 2024. Sundays are big days for the BK team members who open the shop since that is the only day of the week when we physically extend our space to our community. Opening hours have always been really special to us, but I feel that, lately, the time we spend together is becoming even more potent.
Right before our door opens, I usually light the incense and walk around the studio, sending smoke from the incense into various corners and crevices of our space. In my silent practice, I am sending positive energy and hoping for an abundance of connecting moments with everyone who might visit us during the day. Once we unlock the door at noon, our plant baby “Kevin” is outside of our door to greet everyone who is walking through it (as of this past Sunday :). From the street, our shop looks like nothing - simply a grey building. We don’t have any signs or window displays that show that we are a store. It’s my hope that everyone who is meant to be with us on the day will find the door, and once they step into our space, the vibration of the city will disappear into the background, and they will be fully with us in a little oasis.
In this ever-changing, trend-chasing, and overwhelmingly loud world, we want our Baum-kuchen space to remind us of the gentleness we each hold within us. We stay away from any seasonal decorations or displays. In fact, we hold back from filling every corner of the space. We know that everyone’s nervous system can feel worn out from how fast the world is moving, and we want to create a calm where we can all feel comfortable taking deep breaths instead of being bombarded by more. The middle of our shop space is dedicated for an analogue table where everyone is invited to sit and enjoy journaling or adding stamps on their notebooks using our self-inked stamp designs. Currently, Emil, Amanda, and I are the ones who open the shop regularly. We often discuss as a collective to make sure that our intentions are aligned in the way we hold the space together during those five hours. We are more concerned about how everyone who joins us in the store feels that day than how much sales we make.
A lot of people ask us why we only open once a week.
We often jokingly say that we are just hanging out during the rest of the week :) But that’s just a silly joke. We usually ship our online orders throughout the week. Each team member’s plate is full. If I were a different kind of business owner and if Baum-kuchen were pursuing a different style of business model, maybe I would think of opening the retail space for more days and hiring more team members to fulfill a larger volume of orders. If I were a different kind of business owner, I might make a decision to scale up at this point. After all, we are going into the 14th year of our business and are still here.
But I hesitate about scaling up.
The truth is that it takes an incredible amount of emotional bandwidth for our team members to open the door in the way we do every Sunday. Sometimes, our role during the opening hours can feel closer to that of a therapist… because the kind of relationships people have with their notebooks is often incredibly personal, and we are witnessing the relationships unfold. I often have very intimate dialogues with our customers who are looking for a way to nurture their personal writing journey. It’s not rare that I get teary about something we are talking about during those conversations. It feels human to engage and connect in that way, and our relationship with the global virtual BK community mirrors the way we open the physical shop.
I don’t want to just sell a notebook and a leather cover to profit from the business. When Frido and I have an internal (family) conversation about where BK is going, I make it very clear that if profiting is the only thing we are doing, I won’t continue.
My left brain sees Baum-kuchen as a solid business. From the perspective, it makes a sound decision to sustain its standing. My right brain, which has an equal weight in how things get done at Baum-kuchen, treats Baum-kuchen just as a mother treats her child. Not because Baum-kuchen is childish but because she (my right brain and my heart) deeply cares for and loves it unconditionally.
In this uncertain world, it feels like a miracle that we get to continue to open our door both online and in person. It’s not always easy. It’s also not as glamorous as it might look. Shipping a lot of packages every day is hard work, and opening the space each Sunday consistently with such a high level of intentions is also a true labor of love. Creating beautiful virtual content and accommodating online customer interactions that are aligned with BK values every day requires commitment.
So, I come back to deep gratitude, first and foremost to our team - to Nerine, Eunice, Emil, Kei, and Amanda. I am grateful that I get to keep walking on this BK path with our amazing team members, who share a deep passion not only for analogue artifacts but also for the kind of meaningful connections I hope we all get to experience in this world. They are incredible humans who are willing to show up as fully as they can each day when they work with BK. When things feel tender, I am grounded by the presence of Frido, our girls, and the BK families. I am also deeply touched by all of our BK friends. It means a lot to me for you to open up your hearts to us and include us in your personal analogue journey. I don’t remember all of BK’s business milestones in the last 14 years, but I remember stories I heard from you and how it felt to see your eyes while I listen to your story.
Baum-kuchen is personal and will continue to be personal. I am not sure what 2024 will hold for me and Baum-kuchen but I can be sure that I can always go back to the place of gratitude… and I am grateful for that.