Company: Amy's Bread
Year Started: 1992
Start-Up Costs: $150,000
1997 Projections: $2 million
There's a risk, and an advantage, to opening a bread bakery in New York City. "People put you under a microscope when you open," says Scherber. "They were coming in to try our bread and critique us."
Obviously, they liked what they saw (and smelled and tasted). As she was busy baking her signature creations-semolina with golden raisins and fennel, black olive twists, and whole wheat with walnuts-the normally finicky New York City media hailed Amy's Bread. When New York Magazine ranked hers as one of the city's best bread bakeries in 1994, it was, says Scherber, a turning point: "It legitimized us with all the chefs and restaurants, and the business took off."
With her bread now available in 30 different stores throughout the city, her wholesale production is booming. Still, many devoted fans go out of their way to personally visit one of Scherber's two retail shops in Manhattan. "It's more tempting to come to the stores, because the counters are piled with goodies and there are windows, so people can see the bread being made by hand," says Scherber, a former chef. "Customers tell me what their favorite breads are, how they use them, how far they've driven."
Scherber can relate. Though she's written a cookbook, hosted a bread-baking series on the Food Network, and hopes to eventually open another store, what she loves best is baking. "Scoring the bread, shaping baguettes-seeing the bread going into the oven, coming out, smelling it, hearing the crust cracking," she says meditatively. "I find it soothing."