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Dec 9, 2005 02:27 PM

Bakesale Betties

  • m

OK, I know there has been thread after thread on Betties but I just want to put in my two cents worth. Met Betty probably two years ago at the Alameda Farmer's market. She was selling her wares from a van. It was spring so there were lots of strawberries and she had a to die for shortcake. There were also the scones, cookies, banana bread. Later on the sticky date pudding of which she gave me one to try it out. Pumpkin bread in the fall. Never was there anything even close to "just good" as far as I was concerned. And, it was my job to buy scones per orders from my wife.

Anyway, my wife was off today so we drove over to her store in Oakland having never been there. Of course the fried chicken/slaw sandwich was a must. Also got some chocolate chip/walnut cookies and the lamingtons having never had those. As she and her people always have been, a extra one was tossed in at no charge.

The sandwich was wonderful, the chicken having just a little bit of cayanne pepper, the slaw very tasty and the bun just soft enough to be used for that type of sandwich. Cookies were as good as I remember and the lamingtons, well, what can you say about something that good.

There is no doubt we'll make that drive again soon and many times to come.

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  1. Um, I LIVE in Oakland and have never heard of this place... It sounds right up my alley!! Where is it??? Nothing came up when I googled it :(

    1 Reply
    1. re: Phobebe
      Morton the Mousse

      51st and Tele. Just down the street from Dona Tomas and Pizzaiolo, across the stree from the Walgreens mall. Google: Bakesale Betty.

    2. I went there last week and I have to say I was a little disappointed after all the talk on chowhound. I got the fried chicken sandwich and a cup of potato leek soup. The soup was the big downer, $4.50 for a small cup of uninspired potato leek which had the main flavor component of salt. The sandwich was okay, the slaw was the best part of the whole thing, and even that was cut a little too coarse for the sandwich application. The chicken was not very juicy and really could have benefited from warming prior to service (it was room temp.). granted I didn't try any baked goods and all the staff was very friendly. I would go back, but I don't see a line forming out the door anytime soon.

      1. I went to BB's today as well. I love her scones. Especially the apricot/almond ones with that hint of almond extract. The ginger pear scones are also fabulous.

        I do have one gripe, though. I wish more things had nuts in them (pumpkin bread, banana bread, even the scones) The counter person said that they don't make the breads with nuts because of all the people allergic to nuts. I thought this was a bit strange, having never heard of an epidemic of nut allergies in Oakland. I wish they would at least put nuts in SOME of their breads. Seems the only item with nuts is the choc chip cookie (and it's great).

        Haven't had anything but breakfast items and cookies. Too bad about the leak/potato soup.

        4 Replies
        1. re: oakjoan

          Nut allergies are a serious problem everywhere. They have become much more prevalent in recent years and nobody knows why.

          1. re: Carl

            Call me cynical, but maybe the amount of people being allergic to nuts is the same. but the amount of attorneys have increased.

            1. re: steve

              Who might be right. Litigiousness sure isn't lacking in today's society.

              But it's a small quibble about the nuts anyway - that loaf of banana bread I bought has been consumed in rapid fashion sans the nuts.

          2. re: oakjoan

            Just dropped by there today during my huge holiday shopping excursion to try out the goodies.

            The lamington was excellent, and the cookies are all very good too. The banana bread is also good, but yeah, I wouldn't mind some nuts in there (but I do understand about the nut allergy thing.)

            I just loved them throwing in a couple extra cookies into my order and giving me an extra lamington "for instant gratification" while they found a bag for my order. I definitely got in mind to try this place for lunch sometime soon.

          3. She has a few nice products.

            Horrible business sense.

            Unfortunately I predict closure within 18 months unless she makes some changes.

            The place does not even have a sign!

            Its on the corner of a busy intersection...yet nobody knows where it is?

            8 Replies
            1. re: Mission

              That's hilarious. Uh, I mean, I disagree. :)

              Every day at lunch the place is jam-packed. They advertise sandwiches from 11a-2p, but often run out around 1p. Several people on Chowhound reported that the back was filled with bakers making pies the day before Thanksgiving.

              I suspect they're doing pretty well. Betty mentioned that they're two people short and are hiring.

              Word of mouth marketing can be a lot more effective than a big, ugly sign. Think, for instance, how many people have posted here saying they've gone across town to try it.

              1. re: Mission

                WRONG!!! Was a piece of cake to find, have no idea about "nobody knows where it is", that's certainly not what I feel from all the threads I've read. She is delightful to deal with and has something that so many businesses today completely forget about, CUSTOMER service.

                When I walked in Friday two of the people I've dealt with at the farmer's market immeditely knew me and greeted us like long lost friends.

                At the Framer's market she always had free samples of every product and made sure you got one or two. Business sense, a good sample equals purchases and from what I saw, BINGO, it worked.

                1. re: Monty

                  Ohhh....she gave me a free cookie, she is a marketing genius!

                  Unfortunately that will not work when she has to make her rent payments every month.

                  1. re: Mission
                    Morton the Mousse

                    Most bakeries have to throw out a lot of goods at the end of each day because nobody wants to buy a day old cookie. It is extremely hard to predict what demand will be on any given day, especially when you are just starting out and building a clientelle. So it is not like sampling is having a significant, negative impact on her finances.

                    What sampling does is build legions of loyal clients. Sampling causes people to try something they wouldn't have tried otherwise. If they like it, they will come back and buy more. Sampling causes people to feel special. It turns a good bakery experience into a great one. Sampling establishes regulars, the lifeblood of a bakery, and those regulars bring in more regulars, and so forth.

                    Most importantly, sampling is a nice thing to do and Betty enjoys it because it's a nice person. You don't open a bakery with the intention of becoming a millionaire, you do it because you love food, and you love giving people good food. Betty probably gets more joy out of seeing people's happy responces to those samples than she would out of the few dollars she could have saved on ingredient costs.

                    In Betty's case, sampling is good business sense. She has probably made more regulars spending her money on samples than she would have spending it on a sign. Word of mouth advertising can do far more for an eatery than a sign. The mob at Bakesale Betty's (and Pizzaiolo down the street) demonstrate just how unimportant a sign is.

                    I could give you a laundry list of succesful food businesses that encourage sampling. Costco and Whole Foods are the big two. Locally speaking, Cheeseboard and every gelato place in town come to mind. It is a good business practice and will help Betty succeed in the long term.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      The bakery grew out of a farmer's market stand. It is in a location where nothing similar is near by in a neighborhood that can support that type of business. On my last few visits it has always been packed.

                      Doesn't sound like bad business to me. Even though some of what BB makes is a little sweet for my tastes it is a regular stop because the product line is always expanding and there is always some delicous new item.

                      And it is just nice to have a business that is happy to see you walk in the door.

                      I'd make a lot of money if I could place a bet that BB will be going strong many years from now.

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        Here, Here!!!! Exactly correct. Spend money on excellent ingrediants and workers. A big sign costs lots of money and word of mouth costs nothing. I know here samples at the Alameda Farmer's market created legions of customers. Her table was always busy and if you were a bit late, that favorite apricot/almond scone was nothing but a wonderful thought.

                        She's a lovely person who i think knows exaxtly what she is doing.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Someone told me sampling is more common in small-town bakeries than in major metro areas, maybe because of differences in rent expenses. Not sure how true this is but I've never seen anyone else around here do what Betty does (not just putting out little bite-size morsels on a tray but actually offering free product). On my first visit, she gave me an extra scone with the purchase of a brownie and a scone.

                    2. re: Mission

                      I hope she is doing better than you imply. The other posters suggest that her business is doing well.

                      I kind of agree about the lack of an obvious sign. So many people pass by there every day, and I'd bet that less than 2% are clear that there is a bakery there.

                      Vanity prevents me from being a frequent customer, but I have visited half a dozen times since she's opened. Despite being phobic about very sweet pastries, which I agree that they are, I have really enjoyed everything I've tried. I particularly like the scones and the chocolate chip cookie, despite the fact that I usually really only like oatmeal raisin cookies.

                      The fried chicken sandwich is great.

                      The only thing I have not loved was the split pea soup. It was still okay.

                      Good luck to Bakesale Betty.