Books, Baking, and Queer Things

Alternate Title: Alex is finally starting the gay bake/book shop she keeps threatening to.

“This looks long and I just want to know what you’re up to.” Me and Lily are starting a gay bake and book shop, we’re asking for money for inventory and groceries.

I’m finally getting some use out of my general-purpose article site again, this time to talk about what I’m up to in Wichita most recently: me and my wife are starting a queer bake and book shop! A little differently than we first anticipated, but hopefully with the same end result.

Chocolate chunk and toffee cookies

As some background, I was first working on getting a queer-focused bake and book shop going back in early 2020, which proved to be a problematic time to be considering such a thing when the pandemic kicked off a few weeks later. The idea has been on a low burn ever since then, consulting with advisors every so often and researching business strategies. After two years and some major life events (I married a cute girl in the mean time!), I think there’s no time like the present and we’re going forward with the idea.

As it stands, Wichita has a sore lack of queer-focused businesses, bookstores or otherwise, despite boasting a very healthy queer community; it isn’t necessarily uncommon to find book stores that have queer sections, but there are shockingly few businesses geared specifically toward the community with books and resources that might be harder to obtain or are simply more “niche.” I believe there is a proper market for this sort of thing (a belief bolstered by my research), as well as a general need for local queer shops. Too often, it feels like this sort of thing only belongs on the coasts or “big cities,” alienating the community here and leaving folks feeling like the community is much smaller than it really is.

My goal then was and is to create a social space, someplace you can grab a snack and browse through books you might not otherwise be able to find. Unfortunately, that requires commercial real estate, which is in a strange place right now; after the initial wave of business closures during the early days of the pandemic, most leasers have become more risk-adverse to signing contracts for new businesses that don’t have an established business history. After talking to commercial agents in Wichita, six to twelve months is becoming the standard before leasers will start to look more seriously at letting you rent their space. A similar story appears for most traditional means of business financing; getting startup money, much like applying to entry level jobs, often involves already having some time showing the business is at least initially viable.

Coming to the present, Kansas has in the last year revamped its cottage industry laws, allowing for substantially more flexibility in what sort of business you can run out of your home. We are fortunate enough to have a house conducive to inventory keeping and general-purpose baking, which means we can realistically and effectively start the business in our home and operate out of it for the initial growth phase of the shop. While not the “perfect” start we’d want, this does offer us much more flexibility to sort through our inventory in the beginning days, build up our recurring customer base, and (hopefully) give time for vaccination rates to continue to rise and the pandemic to begin to settle down.

Which brings me to the ask part of this little pitch. In order for this to happen, we need funding to pool inventory and to get through the first couple months of establishing the business. The basic infrastructure is already mostly in place, our online platform Shopify has the options we need to run the e-commerce bits optimally, which just leaves actually getting books and initial bulk ingredients in stock to begin the day-to-day functions of the business. We’re initially aiming for $10,000; based on our projections and discussions with publishers, this should be sufficient to ensure minimum order quantities are achieved while providing for the first few months’ overhead. Obviously, any excess helps develop the business further with more stock and upgrades.

I’ve been able to do a lot in my adult life thanks to the help of others, and help folks in turn. It’s my hope in this, beyond just having a business that keeps the bills paid, that me and my wife are able to provide a resource for queer folks in the Wichita metro, and maybe make some folks happy with good food in the mean-time.

A PayPal Pool for donations can be found here, or you can Venmo @MzMouse_ . Thank you for reading this far and thinking about supporting us!

Social media links (expect updates to primarily come through these accounts):
@SweetReadsICT, official Twitter for the shop
@humvadev, my personal twitter
@MzMouse_, Lily’s personal twitter