We had the good fortune of connecting with Tracy Dempsey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tracy, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
The idea behind starting my business 11 years ago was probably not as well thought out as it could have been. The fact that we were still emerging from an economic downturn as well as the side effects of a pretty major expansion within the company, my decision to leave the position I’d held for nearly 5 years at an independent restaurant that I really loved was two-fold. Given the financial troubles at the restaurant where I worked, I knew that my little dessert bar concept under its umbrella would not be able to come to fruition. In addition, my paycheck and those of my co-workers were not always easily cashed. I knew things were bad and felt it could be the right time to venture out on my own and relieve the company of my salary and still be able to pursue my dream of a small dessert bar. Well, the dessert bar never happened. What did happen is what ended up defining my business. A number of my chef friends opened up their own restaurant concepts and in an effort to keep their payroll, inventory, etc., down, I was enlisted to be an off-site pastry chef to them. This was the beginning of my wholesale dessert business. I rented a kitchen at night from a friend and local restaurant owner where I would produce the desserts for my accounts and then deliver either at night or in the morning. I also created a line a packaged goods to sell at boutique shops. I made a decision early on to not have all my eggs in one basket as it were. I knew I couldn’t always count on those restaurant accounts and needed to diversify as it were. My business has undergone major changes over the past 10 years, some good, some bad. I am constantly reminded that in many ways a business is a living thing and change is bound to happen and it may not be recognizable as the business you initially started. As a result of the pandemic, my business made a complete flip. Whereas, wholesale business was my bread and butter in the past, retail is now our focus.
What should our readers know about your business?
As of 2017, my bakery business has a retail space and it is merged with ODV Wines (my husband’s shop). I think we are unique in that we provide a really great selection of small lot, small production wines from around the world as well as many Arizona wines and best of all, you can get desserts, too. The current global health situation (COVID-19) has made us radically change the way we conduct our business. Initially, I viewed it as a huge challenge and then that gave way to creative and new approaches. We have an on-line ordering system in place (it’s very rudimentary as in you are emailing me and I reply to each email) and purchases are retrieved curbside. With few exceptions, everything we make is to-order from scratch. At present, there are only two people in my kitchen-my assistant and me. The wines we offer are shelved only after Chuck and I have tasted them. Everything we do is hands-on. I am proud of how we have met the many present day challenges and managed to keep our small crew employed at the same time. To say that we did this on our own wouldn’t be telling the whole story, though. Without our community, dare I say, “family” of supporters (our customers), we could not be here.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would definitely take my friend for a walk through the Desert Botanical Gardens after which we’d visit a few of our Farmer’s Markets to gather local produce and products to incorporate into the only meal we’d cook at the house. We’d definitely make a stop at Chula Seafood for some fresh fish for dinner as well. A visit to GenuWine in DT Phoenix for a laid back wine bar experience would provide the perfect backdrop for catching up and sharing stories. An evening stroll around Old Town Scottsdale followed by a cocktail at AZ88, and a dinner at FnB, Rancho Pinot or Pizzeria Virtu would make for a great evening. A trip down south to AZ wine country is a must for any friend of mine (because my friends like wine). We’d stop and taste at Dos Cabezas, Callaghan Vineyards and Lightning Ridge for starters. If you’re going to make the trip down there, you really should plan to stay overnight. We really enjoy staying at Next Door at Dos Cabezas. We may as well bookend the visit with a trip up north to the other AZ wine country. Cottonwood and Jerome are fun places to visit and taste wine as well. Lunch or dinner at Merkin Osteria would be on our list as well as visits to the antique shops and fun boutiques in the area. Back in the Valley, we’d make our way to the Farm at South Mountain for brunch and walk the grounds and garden. A visit to The Pork Shop in Queen Creek and a wine tasting at Garge-East in Gilbert followed up with cocktails and dinner at Cotton & Copper would round out the day.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost, my husband, Chuck deserves so much credit for my success. He has always been my number one cheerleader and supporter (emotionally and financially). It is unlikely that I would have pursued my own business without his encouragement, listening, helping and believing. I am also indebted to the friendship and guidance of Carolyn Ellis (owner of Arcadia Farms Cafe & Marketplace) and Pat Christofolo (owner of Santa Barbara Catering and The Farm at South Mountain). Pat hired me shortly after I moved to AZ in the mid-1990s. Working for her gave me my first taste of working in the food service industry. Carolyn graciously provided me with a kitchen when I started my business. These two are both very successful, creative and have been major influences in my business life. I always think, “What would Pat or Carolyn do in this situation?”.
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