Poquito Jaime's closes to keep bakery business alive
January 9, 2013By Jana Shea for NewsWorks
After only two and a half months in business, Poquito Jaime's Southwestern Café has closed its doors. The restaurant, located at 6734 Germantown Ave., was the second Mount Airy food establishment opened by Jimmie Reed in the past year.
Reed, who also owns Little Jimmie's Bakery Café, said opening the restaurant was the realization of one of his dreams in life.
In the end, he said, the decision to close came down to keeping the new dream alive versus saving his first dream, the bakery.
"I had a lot of long nights in making the decision," Reid said. "I couldn't bear losing my baby."
The bakery, he explained, means everything to him.
Poquito Jaime's officially closed Dec. 10. That same day, Little Jimmie's also closed, but Reed would fight hard to ensure the bakery would open again.
How the trouble started
Poquito Jaime's was in trouble from the outset. Two weeks before the restaurant's originally scheduled opening date, Reed said he received some unsettling news.
Lora Little, Reed's business partner and co-owner of Little Jimmie's, opened in December 2011, told him that she wanted out.
Reed said the announcement came as a total surprise, but that the two parted on good terms.
Poquito Jaime's opening date got pushed back by two weeks as Reed scrambled to hire two new employees for the bakery. Little Jimmie's apprentice baker, Steve Halstead, stepped up, handling 60 to 70 percent of the baking.
"He did a wonderful job in the transition," Reed said.
The restaurant opened in late September.
A slow summer for Little Jimmie's also factored into the financial equation. Reed said he had to cut Poquito Jamie's budget in order to keep the bakery solvent.
Reed removed $15,000 from the new restaurant's marketing budget, a big part of which was ear-marked for signage.
Reed and Little had sunk all of their own funds into Little Jimmie's. Reed did the same with Poquito Jaime's.
Overall, however, Poquito Jaime's never caught on the way Reed had hoped and he soon found himself overwhelmed by two struggling businesses.
By December, he had to close both. Little Jimmie's, however, wouldn't stay closed for long.
"At the end of the day, there was payroll I was not expecting to have to pay out," Reed said.
Reed also had to buy out Little's share in Little Jimmie's.
Neighbors step up to help
One thing Reed said he knows he did right was that he never ran from his problems.
"What many business owners don't realize is if something is wrong you have to talk to others," he said.
One of the first people he talked to was his landlord, Ken Weinstein. Reed said Weinstein and local civic organizations like Mt. Airy USA and East Mt. Airy Neighbors helped him to figure out what was his best course of action and how to manage the transition.
Private investors also stepped forward to help with low interest loans.
Several options were considered, but Reed said it was clear that he needed to put all his effort into saving the bakery and let Poquito Jaime's go - for now.
Because of the investment he's made in Little Jimmie's current location, he did not want to move it or combine concepts.
As a result of the financial assistance, Little Jimmie's was able to re-open the Saturday before Christmas.
Reed said he is very appreciative of all the help he has received.
"A great community, like Mount Airy, played a big part of reopening the bakery." he acknowledged.
A second bakery
In the midst of his struggle to keep both businesses afloat, Reed received another boost. The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia approached him to set up a second Little Jimmie's bakery location inside the Brossman Center.
The seminary offered him a sweet deal with low overhead, said Reed.
Besides a kiosk for selling Little Jimmie's baked goods, Reed also handles catering for the seminary.
Reed said baking is still done in Little Jimmie's original location for both sites.
Catering takes place at the Seminary's kitchen, which is located just a few blocks from the café.
The Seminary's offer could not have come at a better time, said Reed, noting that it helped to save the bakery.
"It was a blessing from God," he said.
Since closing Poquito Jaime's, Reed said he's focusing on getting "back to basics" and making Little Jimmie's one of the best bakeries in the city.
He said he's looking forward to a great spring and plans to take part in every local festival, perhaps even branching out into other neighborhoods like Germantown and Chestnut Hill.
There will be some small menu changes as well, including espresso. As the days grow longer, a dinner menu will also be added and feature some pasta dishes.
Reed said he's emerged as a stronger, wiser business person from the experience.
As for Poquito Jaime's, Reed said the dream lives on and will return sometime in the future either at a new location or even as a food truck.
"Don't forget the name, I'm not done with it yet," he maintained.