Tybee Island, GA is a small community outside of Savannah with a heavy tourist trade. We have amazing restaurants, but most focus on seafood. There's no place to go for a coffee and pastry in the morning (unless you're willing to drive 7 miles to the next island), no good vegetarian options or wifi cafe to serve as a casual meeting place for friends and strangers (unless you're willing to drive 17 miles to Savannah), and no place to go (other than my living room) for help setting up a WordPress site. The Jitterbug Bakery will change all that, and more!
I'm the UX and community lead for WordPress (the open source blogging/web publishing platform they say powers 16% of the web), and I live here on Tybee Island. In my pre-web life, I was a cook/baker and managed healthy cafes and kitchens in tourist lodges. At the Jitterbug, I'll put these two things together to fulfill a community need and extend educational opportunities to kids. Here's the plan:
- Bakery. Everyone in this town wants a bakery. There hasn't been one for years, and people are getting desperate. Muffins and scones in the morning, and treats throughout the day. Think key lime cupcakes, raspberry brownies, bite-size cookies, and rotating baked goods.
- Coffee. Many locals and most tourists wish we had decent coffee and tea, or lattes of any kind. The two breakfast places have nondescript drip coffee and Lipton tea bags. We will offer a custom blend of organic coffee from Perc Coffee Roasters in Savannah, espresso drinks, and a variety of awesome teas.
- Food. Fried seafood is great, but it gets old. We'll have rotating vegetarian specials (think Moosewood) that feature fresh ingredients from local suppliers -- we're lucky to have a number of produce growers and dairy farms nearby. We'll have localish beer, some decent wine, and occasionally stronger drinks like sangria or special rum cocktails* to wash it down. Also, Jitterpacks! Jitterpacks will be yummy pack lunches + a coffee drink to power the road trip when you leave town. We're also looking into kosher certification.
- Genius Waitresses. Okay, not geniuses and not waitresses, but everyone we hire will be proficient with WordPress, so people will be able to ask for help with their website from anyone who's working, including setting up a blog for the first time to post vacation pictures.
- Community Hub. The Jitterbug website will have a section that features blog posts that customers published while at the Jitterbug.
- Meetups. There's no place on Tybee that's good for group meetings -- places are either too loud or don't have wifi. We'll host the local WordPress meetup group, a book club, a knitting circle, and other groups in search of a haven for their meetings. Who knows, maybe even the city council will start having meetings here!
- Classes. In the summer tourist season, there is nothing to do at night on Tybee except go to a bar or drive into Savannah. We'll have free lectures and paid classes in web/WordPress stuff (get that blog going!), digital photography (take better vacation pictures!), cooking (eat like this at home!),and other related interests. In the off-season/school year, we'll do free classes for school kids (the high school computer class is still teaching PowerPoint and Access instead of WordPress and Google Apps) and senior citizens (an increasingly large segment of the online population). Some of the lectures/classes will be streamed and/or recorded and posted to the Jitterbug website and WordPress.tv.
So that's the plan. I've been thinking about it/planning for a couple of months, but the thing that is making me do it Right Now is that the perfect building came up for sale, as a local restaurant owner has decided to retire. It has a restaurant kitchen, a bar perfect for the espresso and baked goods counter, noise-reduction ceiling tiles, indoor seating for 25-30, parking for cars and bicycles, and a great outside deck. It is adorable:
I wrote a business plan, found someone to buy the building and lease it to me, took 10K out of my savings to get started, and began the work of making the vision a reality. But vision is expensive!
We'll need to do some construction/plumbing to accommodate the espresso equipment (and buy the equipment, which is spendy, even refurbished), redecorate with better seating inside, and purchase initial inventory before we start generating income. If we raise $15,000, that would cover most of the new equipment and the related construction. If we get a huge swell of support and can manage to raise $250,000, then in addition to starting the cafe, we could buy the building ourselves and not have to worry about conflicts with the landlord (for example, making improvements to better accommodate the classes). In that case, we'd also have enough padding that we could start offering free classes for kids this year before school lets out instead of waiting until fall.
I know the Jitterbug will be successful, and here's why:
- It's on the road into town, so everyone will see it driving into Tybee.
- It's next door to the post office -- we don't have home mail delivery here, so all the locals will pass by often.
- It's across the street from the Visitor's Center, where the staff are impatient for us to open so they can come over for coffee and send the visitors. Last year more than 30,000 visitors stopped at the center.
- My mother, a retired restaurant manager who recently moved down here (and started a blog!), will do the books and help run the place.
- Everyone on the island is already excited for it to exist.
- Vacation rental managers have offered to promote us to their guests.
- We will fill a big hole in the food/drink offerings on Tybee where there is little to no competition but a big need.
- Having a place to go for help with WordPress is unique and people are already asking when we'll start classes.
- I am a great baker and cook. Ask anyone. :)
We'll be making our debut one way or another with a booth at the Tybee Island Wine Festival on April 14. This Kickstarter campaign will run for 3 weeks, so that all the fundraising wil be done by time we move in to the building. We plan to soft-launch on April 15 with a Grand Opening on May 1. In addition to posting updates for backers here, there's more information and a blog with all the startup progress at buyjaneabakery.com. I've outlined a bunch of rewards at different contribution amounts in the column to the right, from care packages to websites. If you can help make this vision a reality, we'll love you forever -- and the care package treats ill be delicious!
Thanks for your support!
*People who've hung out with me at Automattic parties and/or WordCamps will recognize Mop-bucket Sangria and Malibu Staceys.
If you knew me, you wouldn't have to ask. :)
But yes! We'll have post-consumer recycled/recyclable paper products and to-go containers (vs Tybee's ever-present styrofoam), but will also sell reusable containers at cost to try and reduce the amount of paper waste, and will encourage locals to bring cups/containers from home if they'd prefer.
We'll compost on site, and will probably also teach beginner composting classes once in a while to promote home composting.
We'll be looking into improvements we can make to the building to make it more energy-efficient (especially when it comes to air conditioning) and reduce water usage. While composting toilets won't be in the picture, we can reduce water use with toilet dams right away, and upgrade to fixtures that use less water in the future.
I would like the Jitterbug to be the most environmentally-friendly place to eat on Tybee.
I don't know if we'll have gluten-free baked goods every day, but definitely sometimes. We'll how the demand is. The same will be true for sugar-free, low-carb, and other special diets. If someone needs a special diet accommodation, I'll do my best to cover it. And if someone is coming and can tell me in advance, I can be sure we have options on hand.
It's awesome that people are excited about the Jitterbug and we're already getting emails asking about hiring, but we won't be talking about jobs until early April. The focus right now is the infrastructure of the business, so if you are interested in working here, keep an eye on http://jitterbugbakery.com. When we're ready to start hiring, we'll post the notice there.
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