How Abby Lavin Started One of the Coolest Bakeries in Brooklyn
Abby Lavin practically grew up in the kitchen, learning to bake at age 6 for her friends and family. Fast-forward to 2016, and the Cleveland native is still baking—this time for a lot more people. After gaining a following (and Oprah's stamp of approval!) for her famous Jam Jar Pies, Abby opened her very own bakery in Brooklyn. Abigail's Bakeshop stocks her signature Jam Jars (delicious ready-to-eat pies and cakes in a jar), but you can also find bread pudding, cupcakes, cookies, and everything else worth eating. Before you get too hungry, see what Abby has to say about confidence and turning setbacks into (literally!) sweet opportunities.
What were you like as a teen?
I was not a typical teenager, though perhaps there’s no such thing anyway as a typical teenager! I was stressed—of course—and worried about my future, but I had great friends and an awesome family.
As an adult, what do you wish you could tell your teenage self now?
I would definitely tell myself to stress less and know that it gets better. I'd also tell myself to take more risks and try to find my confidence a bit earlier. Because, really, to go for your dream, you have to find your confidence.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
I’d have to go way back to answer that question. I have been baking for friends and family since I can remember.
I had no idea I could turn my passion into a career until I took a tour of the French Culinary Institute on a whim, while visiting my sister in NYC. There was no turning back then! Upon graduating, I shyly went into the elite kitchen of Craft Restaurant as a meek unpaid intern. I stayed for three months, giving it my all, but was not offered a job. I then sadly went to frost cupcakes at a popular bakery in the city. I felt like I was wasting my talent and my degree, but I kept a positive attitude and grew more and more confident. After a few months, my chef told me there was a pastry cook position available! I started out as a cook at Colicchio and Sons and worked my tail off to earn Sous Chef in seven months. After a year and half there, I felt like I had learned what I came for—and most importantly, I found my confidence. I began working as a baker at Magnolia Bakery. Two years later, I left to start Jam Jar Bakery in my own kitchen.
What inspired you to start your very own storefront bakery, Abigail's Bakeshop?
A storefront bakery didn’t come to mind until I found my space. It was large enough for a beautiful kitchen, a finished basement for shipping, and still space left over for retail. I never envisioned Jam Jar Bakery being anything other than jar desserts so I decided to name the shop Abigail’s Bakeshop. My Grandmother always called me Abigail, and it feels like an alter ego of sorts, since I always go by Abby.
One very important part of opening my doors is to sell my fellow entrepreneurs' products. I would not have come this far alone, and I see the bakeshop as a community of vendors who deserve a platform to sell their amazing goods. From school to internship to building my career, I have always followed my gut and stayed on course to build my dream of owning a bakery.
What's one thing you wish you had known then that you know now about having a career?
I always knew work would be tough, but the food industry is not a glamorous place. That is something I wish I knew before diving into this industry. It would not have stopped me, but I would have been more prepared to deal with the struggles and hardships that come with the job.
What work advice do you have for teens or for young people just starting out?
Stick to your passion. Work is hard, no matter what it is. If you love what you do, it won’t feel like work. I spend more time in my bakery than at home or with friends or family. However, I love what I do and I feel free when I am here. Do not shy away from an unpaid internship or an early shift you don’t like, or a boss who is mean. Take every opportunity you can, and go running after your dreams.
Anything else you'd like to add:
Your dreams are only as big as you let them become—so dream big!