Smells like Christmas spirit: The holiday shop at Bloom Bakery is in full bloom

When gift-giving, why settle on a fruitcake when you can have a Bloom Bakery delight? The artisanal café-slash-social venture is hosting a Holiday Shop replete with assorted cookies, dinner rolls, and apple pies. Seasonal items like pumpkin roll and pumpkin bread are also on the menu—as well as a showstopper that Executive Director Jill Rizika calls "to-die-for deep, deep chocolate brownies."

Rizika sees the shop as a win-win for both the bakers and buyers. "We really hope instead of giving a gift certificate or a candle as corporate gifts, that [people] might think about ordering through Bloom and get the double whammy of getting a treat while also supporting a second chance," she says.

The "second chance" Rizika refers to is part of the bakery's unique operational model. Its non-profit parent Towards Employment is a 41-year-old workforce development organization with a rich history of helping people overcome barriers to employment through skills training and support systems. Bloom Bakery continues this mission.

Of Towards Employment's 560 job placements in 2016, 14 of them were at Bloom Bakery. On top of that, proceeds from each purchase benefit the non-profit.

Rizika says the idea for Bloom Bakery evolved as Towards Employment worked to place graduates at local businesses and saw the value of paid internships and training programs. “We worked with the board and said, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great if we had our own business that could give them real experience?’" she explains. "So that idea of launching a business that could create training and job opportunities for our graduates was born.”

Bloom Bakery opened at 200 Public Square hoping to serve downtown’s growing workforce, with another café on the campus of CSU, where the bakery’s kitchen is located. As diners order from an extensive menu of freshly made soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastries, Bloom employees gain invaluable training in food safety, food prep, customer service, and catering.

“Right now, we’re actually very eager for other businesses to come and say we’d love to work with you as a business partner, from a catering standpoint or even wholesale opportunities," says Rizika.

For those who want to support the Holiday Shop, there are numerous ways to do so—from buying "goodie boxes" of mixed pastries to ordering a cookie or brownie tray. Orders over $75 can be delivered for free within the downtown area, or people can drop in to buy items a la carte. Says Rizika, "If you come into the shop, there will be already packaged things on display that you can pick up, grab, and go."

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