Local bakery Milk + Honey held an opening for its pop-up at Bløm Meadworks, an Ann Arbor cidery and meadery on S. Fourth Ave., after a month-long soft opening. The event, held Saturday, featured an extensive menu of sweet and savory baked goods along with drink pairings from Bløm, flowers from Bhakti Flowers and pumpkins and fall vegetables from Slow Farm.
Milk + Honey is open on Fridays and Saturdays at Bløm with a new weekly menu. In addition to the baked goods, Milk + Honey serves loose leaf tea from TeaHaus and drip coffee from Anthology, a coffee shop in Detroit. The bakery was started two years ago by Rachel Liu Martindale to help fund a homeless ministry she and her husband were helping in downtown Ann Arbor.
“Every week we were feeding the homeless, and it was coming out of our own pocket so we were just like, ‘Oh, we should probably have a different way of helping out with that,’” Liu Martindale said. “So I started selling cakes to friends and family and then through word of mouth it spread from there.”
Milk + Honey became a custom bakery selling cakes for weddings and baby showers, but Liu Martindale wanted to explore pop-ups to open up to the general public. Her first pop-up at Bløm Meadworks sold out in two hours this summer. Liu Martindale said everything for the bakery is made the day before or morning of, and she focuses on finding creative flavor combinations.
“Everything is made fresh to order, everything is 100 percent made from scratch,” Liu Martindale said. “I try as best as I can to do really creative flavor combinations like the black sesame raspberry cake that I did recently or trying to incorporate more Asian flavors especially. I also like to be seasonal too, so buying ingredients from the farmers market and making sure that I’m supporting local farmers and businesses.”
After plans for a storefront fell through, Liu Martindale decided to work with Bløm again for a longer-term pop-up. Bløm co-owner Lauren Bloom said she was excited to collaborate long-term with Milk + Honey after the successful summer pop-up.
“I was really excited to do a one-time pop-up,” Bloom said. “And then as we got to talking and developed this relationship and friendship, I learned that she was looking for brick and mortar space and had been pursuing one. But I think as a startup business, and especially as a sole proprietor, it can be really challenging to find a space. We’d done a lot of pop-ups before, so this felt like a natural intersection to continue working with her.”
Milk + Honey held a month-long soft opening period before its grand opening, which Bloom said is helpful for when a business wants to prepare for a larger-scale launch.
“It’s a great way to work out the kinks and make sure that it’s running smoothly,” she said. “And that way you know how to manage a crowd, what kind of volume it will be and what kind of flavors people will gravitate towards.”
LSA senior Sree Jambunathan attended the grand opening after hearing about it through her recommended events on Facebook. She noted the use of social media to market both Milk + Honey and the event.
“I heard about this event on Facebook,” Jambunathan said. “So I saw a lot of people were interested in attending. You know how it shows up on your news feed like, ‘Oh, so and so is interested.’ I love visiting all the different cafes like Teaspressa and TeaHaus so I thought it was cool there’s a new place on campus.”
Milk + Honey also posts its weekly menu on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram the Thursday before each pop-up weekend, which Jambunathan appreciated.
“A pop-up is definitely a good idea,” Jambunathan said. “And I like that they are giving a different menu every time ahead of time, to show people what they can expect beforehand.”
Proceeds from the pop-up go to Ozone House, a community-based, nonprofit agency providing shelter and support for runaway, homeless and high-risk youth and families. Liu Martindale chose to work with Ozone House because she wanted Milk + Honey to not just be a way of making money, but a way of supporting the local community.
“I want my business to support something that I believe in, and to benefit the community as a whole,” Liu Martindale said. “Because we were already working with the homeless population, Ozone House just seemed like a really natural fit.”
Liu Martindale is also using the pop-up to determine her future plans for the bakery.
“I am not 100 percent sure how I want to do the business in terms of a storefront or pop-up situation,” Liu Martindale said. “So this is actually kind of like my trial run experiment to be able to see if I want to have my own place, or if I want to expand the days of the pop-up. This is what I'm doing to see what kind of balance of things I want to do between custom orders, a store front and wholesale.”
Bloom said she wants Bløm to host more pop-ups like Milk + Honey’s to continue to foster community collaboration and help small local businesses.
“Our customers get to interact with that business maybe for the first time and be exposed to something that they might not find or seek out otherwise. And that business might bring in people and customers that otherwise might not have heard about Bløm, so really, everyone is benefiting in this scenario,” she said.