Everyone who lives in Westhampton Beach is familiar with Beach Bakery, but I must note that it’s not only the locals who love this bakery but also people from other towns and cities. The bakery is famous for its delicious food and homey atmosphere.
Earlier this week I visited the Beach Bakery and I had a nice chat with the owner, Simon Jorna. I asked him a few questions about his passion for baking and the bakery itself. Read my interview with him below.
Where are you from?
I am from Holland. I came ‘88 I came to Montauk for two years, I worked in a Montauk bake shop, ‘86, ‘88 I came here, so thirty years ago.
What about Westhampton Beach, when did you move here?
I arrived here ‘88, opened some Patrick’s Day parade, ‘88. Been in business ever since then.
What inspired you to become a business owner?
I went to baking school in Holland. I learned that I do not like working with others, I like to work with myself. I wanted to work by myself. So this business just happened, and thirty years later I’m still here.
You had the passion for the baking right away?
I baked since four years old. I was four years old and I would bake cakes and cook. My parents tried to make me cook, but I wanted to be a baker. They tried really hard to make me cook.
Why Westhampton Beach?
Luck. We were in a motel, and my boss and I, we were upstate, we looked at Cape May, it was too close to the casinos. I didn’t like to be too close to the casinos. Then we had a place in — Then we found this place a couple days before Christmas, and two days later we bought it. I think we saw it the 21st, and the 23rd we signed the contract. I walked in here, I right away liked it. It was a really small place, just homey, small village, I liked it.
Was there a bakery before you set up here?
There was a bakery before for like a year and a half. They didn’t do that well so we took over.
Tell me about your baked goods; what are your best sellers?
Everyone knows that the fried croissants are the best ones, they sell the best. July 4th, I sell the July 4th pies, there are stars on them, and then the black and white cookies are very popular as well. During Christmas, the whole month of December, it’s all cookies. And next week, it’s going to be a lot of chocolate and a lot of cookies for the holidays.
What are the benefits of this business ownership?
There’s a lot of money to make, in the baking. It’s a lot of money to make. That’s basically the only advantage. All the people live here are rich. So they go travel, they go to Hong Kong, they go to Rio, they go to Miami, they go to the cities. The Hong Kong people recognize me, people recognize me in Geneva. You can really become like, well known and stuff. I’ve been doing this for so many years. I know I’m tall, I have a big essence, and I work hard, I always work hard. There are some disadvantages to people knowing you and some advantages. It’s nice that people know you, but it’s also a disadvantage that people know you all the time. I know nobody, that’s the scary thing. And they all say ‘hi Simon’, and I’m like, ‘hi.’ And I see them by face, I don’t see them by name. The only time I see a name is when they place an order, and then I have no idea except the order. It could be, ‘John, order for pita,’ you know, I don’t notice, I only see their names on order sheets.
Who do you seek business advice from? Is there anybody that you look up to?
I think I trust my staff a lot, I trust their opinion. I promise if the owner asks an employee’s opinion, and you don’t do what they say, they think you are going to, so be careful, you cannot ask too many opinions either, but I do trust my staff very much. My manager has been here twenty years, my other guy has been here twenty years, fifteen years.
What tips would you give for running a successful business?
Work your ass off. You have to work hard. Don’t spend before you’re making it. In my experience, the first dollars are hard to make. After you have a lot of money, it’s easy to make more money. I think it’s also down to the taxpayer. In the beginning, nobody pays that much taxes. But, because of that, you have to get successful, and when you get successful, you pay a lot of taxes. So right now I pay more taxes in one year than I made in sales the first five years. So that’s the difference. So work hard, don’t be cocky, and try not to say no. Try to say yes to all the answers.
Do you have a favorite quote or saying?
One of them is, ‘don’t ask a question when you know the answer is no.’ Another is, ‘a lot of little steps to go up, but only two steps to go down.’ So it really takes a long time to get up there, but make one mistake, and it’s gone. And I know that from experience. We all know that. A lot of people think they can live at the edges and just go over once in a while. I live on the edges, but I don’t go over. I made a pH scale a few years ago in my mind, you know what a pH scale is? Everything below a certain level is deadly, everything above a certain level is deadly? So it’s the same with over the edge. I’ve never been over, never. You can live on the edge, but you can’t go over. A lot of people think [they can], but no, you cannot yell at a customer, you cannot steal from a customer, you cannot mistreat a customer.
What is your number one goal for your business?
Selling it. It’s not sad, it’s a happy thing. People are sad that I go, they should be happy that I go, they should be happy for me, that I made it after thirty years, I worked a shop. For thirty years, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My husband wants to go back to Europe. I’d like to go back to Europe. We have a place in Berlin, and I have a place in Miami. So I always want to keep Miami. I love Miami. And then we have our place in Berlin, so it’s nice.
Address: 112 Main St, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978
Phone: (631) 288-6552