Local bakery turns to crowdfunding for support

A family-owned business with a long history in Columbus is seeking help to keep its doors open.

Ahlemeyer Farms Bakery, 2034 17th St., operated by Brittany Kiel, has started an online campaign in hopes of raising $20,000 to cover overdue costs and keep the bakery afloat.

The campaign, entitled “Help Save Ahlemeyer Bakery,” can be found at GoFundMe, created on July 22. As of Monday morning, it had raised $9,520.

“I feel mind-blown and so, so grateful,” said Kiel. “I never expected it to take off like it has. But I’m feeling so supported by our community.”

According to Kiel’s message on GoFundMe, the requested $20,000 is to cover costs that the business has fallen behind on in the last three months.

“Multiple utilities are at the point of disconnect, we are three months behind paying our main supplier, and we haven’t been able to pay some of our incredible staff their most recent paychecks,” she wrote. “I haven’t been able to give myself a paycheck in months, so I’m behind on my own personal bills as well. We still need to purchase more supplies to be able to continue baking for our community. I hope to catch up on our debts, pay our employees and regain footing.”

When the pandemic initially hit, the bakery shut down for a few months and focused on “some much-needed cleaning and DIY projects.” The business had no income during that time and had to take out an emergency Small Business Administration loan, which only covered them for so long.

Upon reopening, the bakery added online and curbside options.

“We were able to stay afloat- though barely- through most of the pandemic,” wrote Kiel. “I have said so many times through this time, ‘I feel like I’m treading water with all my might, just trying to keep us afloat.’ And we were staying afloat, if just ‘barely’ breaking even. I kept thinking, ‘If we can just make it around this corner, things will start getting better’. But this year has dealt us yet another set of challenges, and we are finally reaching our breaking point.”

The bakery has had to cut hours due to losing staff and has had to deal with illness. Inflation has also been a serious challenge. Certain supplies have doubled in price during the last three months, Kiel said. For instance, meringue stabilizer has increased from $108 to $200. Increases have come faster than she could raise prices, which she didn’t want to do.

She also speculated that since inflation is occurring across multiple markets, that has likely hurt their sales as people are shopping less.

“We’ve stopped treading water and are drowning quickly,” Kiel wrote.

However, recent shows of support have brightened her spirits.

“We’re only three days in or four days in at this point, and we’re about halfway there, so I have high hopes that we’ll meet our goal and be able to pull through,” she said. “Already I’ve been able to pay a few of our bills that were behind and catch up the payroll, so it’s been so helpful.”

Thanks to the online donations, the business was able to pay an overdue supply truck bill and cover enough on its utility bills to prevent disconnection.

Some individuals have also donated via Venmo or given cash in person, and the bakery’s landlord has deferred rent for a month, said Kiel. Additionally, the day after the campaign was posted, the bakery saw double its usual Saturday business, and a lot of orders have come in as well.

“I just want to emphasize how amazingly great and overwhelming all of the support has been so far,” she said. “I literally have just been blown out of the water.”

Kiel grew up working in the bakery and has run the business for the last three to four years. Before that, her parents ran the shop, and her grandparents worked there as well.

“The bakery opened in 1989 after our family started selling baked goods at their farmer’s market,” Kiel wrote in her GoFundMe campaign. “The baked goods became more popular than the produce, so eventually, they switched to baking full time.”

When Kiel’s parents divorced, they lost the building and almost lost the business. However, her mother was able to reopen the bakery at a new, smaller location. Her landlord sold this building soon after, causing the store to relocate yet again to its current location on 17th Street in 2013.

Since taking over the family business, Kiel has worked to “vegan-ize” her families recipes, and most of the store’s goods are now vegan or can be made vegan.

“Being a queer female myself, I have worked to make our bakery as inclusive and safe of a space as possible,” she added. “Smiles and sweets can (and should) be enjoyed by everyone! When we weren’t struggling, we had a monthly rotation of donating to organizations that aligned with our values, and hope to bring that back if we can pull out of the red.”