Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Alison Keane makes a biscuit dough at her bakery, Logical Sip, in Brewer on Thursday.
BREWER, Maine — Alison Keane prefers to call herself president and founder of Logical Sip Cafe & Bakery instead of owner.
The two words mean more to her.
They signify the dozens upon dozens of loaves of bread she made at home to perfect her recipe before opening. They represent the time she spent working on a business plan, the Brewer economic development team who finally took her idea seriously, the days her family spent helping her renovate her location and the 14-hour days she has put in since the cafe and bakery opened a few weeks ago.
Keane, an Eddington resident who grew up in Brewer, recently graduated from the University of Maine with a Master of Business Administration. About a year ago she started job searching in hopes of finding something to put her degree to use.
“I started applying for jobs, and I wasn’t really finding anything. I got some rejections, and I was like, ‘Well, why wait? Why not just go for it?’” she said. “I always knew I wanted to own a small business but never really knew what.”
Keane had the business education already, so she applied it to something she loved.
“I love to bake and it’s always been a hobby, but it’s never really been more than that. When I decided I wanted to own my small business I decided that food was going to be a part of that,” she said.
Logical Sip Cafe & Bakery at 103 Center St. in Brewer opened quietly on April 22. The space, which was renovated by Keane, her fiance and their families, smells of warm bread and hot coffee and is outfitted with tables and chairs so customers can take a seat if they choose. Keane is planning a tentatively scheduled grand opening in June, complete with deals on coffee, baked goods samples, prizes and a silent auction with products and gift cards from her Brewer business neighbors, which will benefit a local charity.
Logical Sip began taking shape with an original focus on healthy, natural foods. That focus still exists but has shifted slightly to target the simplicity of baked goods made from scratch and a cafe that offers healthy breakfast and lunch options. Keane has formed her business around the basics — a flour, sugar, eggs and cinnamon approach.
“The food is made from scratch and from ingredients that you’ve heard of,” Keane said.
It was over a year ago when Keane began writing her business plan for the bakery. Though she had no culinary background, she had the head for running a business, which she believes was most important.
“What I know, what I consider myself an expert in, is the business side of things,” Keane said. “I sat down with D’arcy Main-Boyington and Nicole Gogan [of the City of Brewer Economic Development team]. They were really the first two people to take me seriously. I started writing the business plan in April so it was about three months after that. I wasn’t even sure that it was happening then, but they offered to drive around and show me possible locations.”
Her location at 103 Center St. was one of those potential locations. What at first seemed like a good choice eventually morphed into something more.
“It seemed like a good spot. Then it became really all about this downtown area. Now it seems like it all fell into place. It’s the perfect spot. The city told me there have been 10 new businesses just in this neighborhood in the past year. There’s this great neighborly community in downtown Brewer that a lot of people don’t even know is here,” Keane said.
Keane hopes her business will draw more people to the downtown area.
“I feel like food brings everyone together, so I’m hoping this will attract attention to downtown Brewer and draw people here,” she said.
She already has a few customer favorites, including the homemade cinnamon rolls and the “turple,” a turkey-apple panini. Becky Hayward, a graduate of Eastern Maine Community College’s culinary arts program, has taken the reigns as baker.
“My weekday baker Becky went to culinary arts school and I stumbled upon her. I buy my gluten-free goods at the Whole Grain Bakeshop [in Brewer] and the owner Kelly told me about Becky,” Keane said. The two got in contact, and Hayward was the perfect fit.
“Baking is always what I’ve wanted to do. I never wanted to be a chef. Particularly I always wanted to help start a bakery and be a part of it,” Hayward said.
With a schedule that starts at 4:30 a.m. each day, Hayward whips up the treats and sweets Logical Sip offers.
“She has the culinary experience that I don’t have,” Keane said. Each morning Hayward makes homemade biscuits, quiche, muffins, donuts and more. She makes the batters for the products the day before baking primarily from Keane’s recipes but also with her own. Keane comes in a couple of hours after Hayward and helps with the baking and prepares breakfast items, from eggs to blueberry sausage.
Keane’s main focus when hiring employees for her new business was on their customer service skills and personality.
“I was nervous about being a boss because I’m not an assertive person, but I try to be the kind of leader my employees want to follow. If they like their job, respect me and come in here every day liking what they do, there’s a huge value in that,” she said.
Each day her employees help make the business run smoothly, helping her do everything from making breakfast sandwiches and paninis to mixing up flavored hot coffees, cold brew coffees, smoothies and smoothie bowls.
Baked goods at Logical Sip can be purchased from the display case at the business. Right now, the selection is limited, but Keane hopes that with more customers, it will expand and she can add more displays. The display case also varies in its selection everyday. Among the selection? Chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, brownies and cinnamon rolls — but availability varies.
Keane also offers bulk orders, featuring items including but not limited to breads, rolls, biscuits, donuts, cookies, cupcakes and even whole pies, and she asks for 12 to 24 hour advance notice.
Keane sources some of her items locally. The bakery uses Bakewell Cream from Hermon in the biscuits, blueberry sausage from W.A. Bean & Sons in Bangor, granola from Lucy’s Granola in Blue Hill, Vintage Maine Kitchen potato chips in Freeport and gluten-free items from The Whole Grain Bake Shop in Brewer. Her coffee is also from a Maine provider, Seacoast Coffee Company out of Newcastle and Portland.
Though Keane has been working day in and day out to make sure her business succeeds, it hasn’t worn her down yet. Her family has helped any chance they can, from renovating the space to helping wash dishes.
“I’m not tired. The adrenaline is carrying me through,” she said. “There’s the physical work and there’s the mental work, and there’s just so much to it. Eventually it all came together. It’s so nice now to finally be open and settling into a routine.”
By Shelby Hartin, BDN Staff
Posted May 16, 2016, at 6:09 a.m.
Last modified May 16, 2016, at 6:55 a.m.