THE RISING COST OF EVERYTHING: Cheyenne Resident’s Dreams of Opening a Bakery Slow to Rise Due to Inflation
Baker keeps lid on expenses with wedding plans under way
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Oct 08, 2022
By Jake Sorich
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Becky Steele, a Cheyenne resident, loves to bake. She’s attending Escoffier Auguste School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colo., and has already launched a home-based business, Broadway Cakes and Creations.
But inflation has made her dream of being a full-time baker, with a storefront and staff, harder to reach.
The good news for Steele: Her business is gaining traction, and she now has at least two orders a month for wedding cakes, cookies and her most popular item—Earl Gray cupcakes. But the bad news: With the price of ingredients steadily increasing this year, Steele now charges between 5 to 10 percent more for each order to turn a profit.
Steele tries to purchase flour, butter and frosting in bulk, but even those items are pricier in the wake of record-high inflation. Retail prices for wheat flour, white flour, and all-purpose flour have shot up 7 percent in the past few months and 44.8 percent from the same time last year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Steele is ready to open a storefront, but can’t find a space that fits in her budget. She needs a shop between 500 and 1,400 square feet, ideally near the theater in downtown Cheyenne, but she said property costs have spiked almost 17 percent since 2020. Another obstacle is the cost of a commercial oven, which runs from $2,000 to $3,000.
“. . . Trying to find a commercial space to rent, not counting the materials I would need like ovens and things like that, has been the main reason I operate out of my house,” said Steele, 30. “I mean, there’s a few spaces I could maybe try to rent, but then with the cost of everything else, it’s just slightly ridiculous.”
In the meantime, Steele pays the bills by working 40 hours per week at the Laramie County Courthouse in Cheyenne as a Deputy District Court Clerk and another 20 hours per week making cookies at the franchise bakery Crumbl Cookies. Her fiancé, Mason Wilbourne, 31, works at the Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County’s ReStore shop as the donations specialist and assistant manager.
Still, money is tight for the couple in spite of their multiple paychecks. Plus, they’re getting married in December, and the bills for everything from utilities to Steele’s baking ingredients—chocolate and flour, in particular—are piling up.
To keep monthly expenses down, they couple stopped dining out except for special occasions and dropped cable TV.
“We’ve been planning this wedding and weddings are expensive anyway, but with the cost of inflation it’s just been really like ‘What can we do to cut costs here and here,’” Steele said. “It’s just been, you know, much more expensive than I thought it was ever going to be.”
Steele and Wilbourne got engaged and started planning their wedding last fall. While they had hoped to serve prime rib at their wedding reception, the price has rocketed from $30 to $60 a pound, so that’s no longer feasible.
Instead, they’re serving roast chicken for $36 a plate and salmon for $40 a plate—the most affordable choices, Steele said, for between 80 to 100 guests.
Another way they’re saving money is by doing much of the decorating and planning themselves.
“I got a lot of items from my aunt and the rest either from Habitat for Humanity or Hobby Lobby, but only when things were on sale,” Steele said. The table centerpiece, arch, invitations and other decorations have run them around $500, she said.
Steele and Wilbourne also will use crowdfunding to help pay for their honeymoon in Orlando, Fla.
One thing Steele won’t do is bake her own wedding cake. “I thought about it, but (Mason) said, ‘As much as I love your cooking, I would like to keep you as stress-free as possible for the wedding,’” she said.