Philadelphia, PA

Chestnut Hill's Night Kitchen Bakery is Thriving Despite the Pandemic -- What's Their Sweet Secret?

Roz Warren

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("Pride and Prejudice" birthday cake from the Night Kitchen Bakery. Photo used with permission.)

Bakeries and restaurants were hit hard by the pandemic. Many have closed for good. But Chestnut Hill’s Night Kitchen Bakery is thriving. I recently caught up with co-owner Amy Edelman to see how this popular local bakery has managed to stay in business. 

“At first, we were hit hard,” Edelman told me. “Custom cakes are a crucial part of our business. Brides and grooms order wedding cakes, and people order big fancy custom cakes for birthdays and showers. Mother’s Day cakes. Father’s Day Cakes. Graduation Cakes. We’ve built up a solid customer base over the past twenty years and we’re known for our fabulous cakes, so we could count on a steady stream of orders.” 

Then the Coronavirus hit.

“Last March, customers began canceling cake orders,” says Edelman. No weddings, parties or picnics meant no custom cakes.” 

Cash flow slowed to a trickle as COVID-conscious customers stopped visiting the bakery. As the pandemic worsened, the bakery had to limit service to curbside only. 

The methods and practices Edelman and her staff had been fine tuning for two decades to run their successful bakery in the heart of Chestnut Hill was no longer relevant. “What on earth do we do now?” she wondered. “Do we remain open? Can we reduce our hours? How do we operate? Will people still want cake??”

Yes. As it turns out, people still wanted cake. But Edelman had to quickly retool the way her business operated to provide that cake to her customers. 

She reduced the selection to a “best of” curbside menu and began taking orders at the front door and same-day phone orders. She applied for and received pandemic-specific government loans to keep staff on the payroll and keep her business afloat. 

She also reached out to customers for support. They rallied to the cause by purchasing Night Kitchen Bakery gift cards for future use. Regulars flocked to the shop to buy birthday cakes, sticky buns and cookies. Organizations that order boxed lunches and cakes for hospital workers and non-profit volunteers throughout Philadelphia began placing orders.

“A year later, we’re still here and and business is good, ” says Edelman. “We’re open 7 days a week."

And the best news of all, for both Philadelphia and the Night Kitchen Bakery? Custom cake orders are picking up again.

Edelman is grateful for the continued support of the Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy community. “These are challenging times for everyone,” she says. “The bumper sticker on my car says Keep Calm and Eat Cake. With enough good will and enough good pastry, we can all get through this.”

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.

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