In the June issue of Baking & Snack, we introduce Chris Miller and Anne Cookson, the brother-and-sister team behind Baker’s Quality Pizza Crusts, Waukesha, Wis. The second generation of their family to manage the business, Mr. Miller and Mrs. Cookson run day-to-day operations while their parents remain involved as president and vice president of the pizza crust manufacturing business.
As we talked about the challenges the company faced as it tried to startup a new facility in 2020 and strategize for future growth, Mrs. Cookson displayed striking candidness about how terrifying the year was. When asked why she moved forward even as their foodservice customers closed their doors, she replied: “Blind faith, I think. We knew we had a good business; we knew we had a good product. There was no other option for us. We don’t want to do anything else.”
So Mrs. Cookson and Mr. Miller powered through 2020 and took it as an opportunity to pivot into the retail space with their Crustology line, packaging the bakery’s No. 1 product, a cracker crust, in groups of three and selling them direct-to-consumers.
As the sun begins to set on the pandemic, Baker’s Quality Pizza Crusts has emerged a little battered, but definitely better off with its Crustology product line bringing in new business as its foodservice business gradually recovers. Looking back, Mrs. Cookson said she’s not sure she’s far enough removed to identify lessons but was thankful for the faith their employees demonstrated in the business. The company’s entire team returned to work after being laid off due to the abrupt halt in business at the pandemic’s outset.
“I’m grateful for the culture that we had built with our employees, because they all came back,” she said. “They had just as much faith in the business as we did. The second we called them, they were walking in the door.”
And she’s thankful that her family has built a business they believe in and a legacy she and her brother have every intention of honoring as they take it into the future.
There’s a lot of chatter around what we can learn from the pandemic and what we are taking forward from the unprecedented challenges it has posed. As Mrs. Cookson said, the ordeal remains far too near for clear perspective, even as we continue to reflect on what may be learned from this experience.
As we gain greater distance, we at Baking & Snack still will be looking back, hoping to find a path forward. You’ll see this commitment to reflection in Executive Editor Dan Malovany’s feature on the new in-store bakery and Associate Editor Makayla Nicholis’ trends report on pastries and sweet goods. I hope you’ll find these stories as insightful as I did.
As you reflect on this unprecedented experience we’ve all shared, what lessons will you be taking with you into the future?