MANCHESTER, NH – Over the past two years, Jose and Angela Mojica have been on a wild adventure, one which shows no signs of slowing down as they pause for yet another detour: Without warning they’re losing their lease on their West Side bake shop.
Now they’re relying on word-of-mouth and a lot of prayer, as they scramble to find a new place, preferably one they can buy.
In 2015 they invested their life savings in launching Dulces Bakery, a Spanish-themed sweet shop on Amory Street and dream-come-true for the young couple. Angela transferred her custom cake-baking skills as a home baker into a commercial venture, and Jose left his job with Jet Blue to help manage the business.
In 2016, armed with all they’d learned in the trenches of entrepreneurship, they were ready to expand operations. Instead, they adjusted to the joyful news that their family was growing by one adorable baby daughter, who arrived in September to join her siblings, ages 6 and 4, as official taste-testers of the family business.
That didn’t stop them from winning big at the annual Chocolate Lover’s Fantasy competition at the Radisson. On June 5 Dulces Bakery earned two top prizes – People’s Choice for Angela’s sumptuous tres leches cake, and Best Booth, for their variety of samples and kick-ass display.
Just when they were wondering whether they could keep things going with baby three on the way, the big win was like a sign from the heavens, and bolstered their resolve to make it work.
Again they adjusted themselves to their new normal, and celebrated another anniversary of change, with thanks to God for sustaining them.
Which brings us to last week, as the Mojicas found themselves reflecting on all they’d learned with another year under their cooking tool belts:
1. Good help is hard to find.
2. Equipment failures – and diapers – can be costly.
3. Renting a space means you’re at the mercy of a landlord who might decide to make other plans for the place you’re poured your heart and soul into.
And so here they are now, grappling with that third thing, as they again try to figure out how to turn a mountainous hurdle into a molehill.
Through sheer determination and a powerful prayer chain, Jose Mojica managed to keep the shop going for two years, even during Angela’s pregnancy and maternity leave, when they struggled for a time to keep up with the rent. When Angela returned to full-time baking this fall, they not only caught up with the rent, but began to see demand for their baked goodies and expanding menu items increase. Traffic into their little Amory Street shop was so good, there were people knocking on the door, even during off hours.
They recently hired a second baker, and Jose took on a job outside the bakery to help make ends meet. The plan was to pull out all the stops for 2017.
But last Saturday Jose found out there was a catch to the Amory Street lease, which should have been under contract through November of 2017: Because they fell behind last year, Jose signed an agreement giving the landlord an early escape clause.
“I didn’t read it – it was on the bottom of the notice. I guess he needs his property for something else now,” says Jose. His out-of-town landlord gave him 45 days to vacate.
Jose is going to ask for 30 more days beyond the 45, hopefully enough time to raise a little money via a GoFundMe page, Saving Dulces Bakery, to help with a down payment on a new place, one they can buy rather than rent.
“I’m pretty sure the landlord has no idea about what we’re doing here, or what’s going on around us. We’ve watched so many other businesses come and go. But we’re going to respect that, and comply. I just need a little more time to find a place. We have already started looking for another shop where we can move in quickly and get back to work,” he says. “We have a couple of leads. We’ve come too far and worked to hard to give up now,” he says.
As usual, the Mojicas are choosing to look at this hurdle as an opportunity.
If they can find a place that’s right, and make it their own, they can continue to expand their menu to include Spanish cuisine, beyond his wife’s delectable tres leches cakes, and the empanadas they recently started serving.
“We also just launched our French macarons, and added cheese cake to the menu. We met a chef from Puerto Rico who we’d love to bring on once we move, so we’re excited about the possibilities. It will be good especially for those in the city’s Spanish neighborhood,” says Jose.
“We’re also exhausted. It’s been a journey, but we’re going to keep going until we can’t do anything else,” he says. “We have no regrets – well, maybe one: leaving the West Side. But we know we have to be smart about our next move. Purchasing a place would be better than renting. We want a place to call our own.”
You can support the Mojica’s GoFundMe here.