Sharon Butler and Mary Pat Pace, co-owners of the Bon Bonerie Fine Pastries in Cincinnati, OH, have been in business for 30 plus years. Throughout its existence, Butler and Pace have always taken a creative approach to the way they promote the bakery. Always budget conscious, they’ve used their wits and keen sense of opportunity. For them, it’s not always about selling the most product possible, sometimes the goal is to simply make the Bon Bonerie and interesting place that people want to go to, and it doesn’t always cost a lot of money.
Butler and Pace do not have a set amount of funds to spend on advertising and promotions, they don’t do regular blocks of radio and print advertising, but that’s not to say they aren’t on the radio or in print sometimes.
Instead of buying blocks of radio and print advertising, Butler waits for the right opportunity. “With the radio for instance, let’s say there was a fundraiser on public radio, we would donate food and maybe do a matching grant for people that would call in during a certain period,” she says. “With magazines, I would pick and choose. They do just the wedding issue for our Cincinnati magazine for instance; I would always participate in those and have an ad because they would normally do a story about cakes or bakeries in general.”
Often times, smaller operations may find it easier to get involved in something that brings good publicity to their business, or more importantly, gain some free advertising and promotion. The Bon Bonerie has partnered with one of its local children’s theaters for the last two years. For the production of Pinkalicious, the Bon Bonerie designs cookies for that specific production in the shapes of the characters and pink cupcakes for the theater. It will also serve Pinkalicious tea in the cafe.
“Bigger operations have to spend a lot of time figuring all that out, marketing it and researching it, but if we do 100, that’s okay for us,” Butler says. “We’re easily adaptable so we can respond more quickly.”
For the last seven years, Butler and the Bon Bonerie have involved themselves in “The Art of Food,” at the Carnegie Arts Center. “After participating in it, I ended up coming to the conclusion that the effects that pastry has on people is bigger than I thought,” she says. “It was very meaningful.” This led to a promotion that got considerable attention from customers and non-customers alike.
“I started interviewing people about their birthdays and how much they meant to them,” Butler says. They held a contest wherein people drew a picture of their most memorable birthday cake and what that cake meant to them. “We got hundreds of papers about this. After we looked at all of them, we came up with a winner.”
There were first, second and third place winners for the contest. First place received a pastry for a whole year, runner up got a cake decorating party, and third place won a birthday cake for themselves or somebody in their family.
“The main thing we do is things that have to do with the community,” Butler says. “I feel like I’m trying to create an environment where it’s interesting and I’m not always trying to sell something, that’s kind of our theme.”
The Bon Bonerie makes everything from scratch. Even the price cards on items in the store are handmade made. The owners, bakers, decorators and every employee pays meticulous attention to the details of craft and artistry. “I feel like it’s subconscious that people see that you care enough about the detail, it just kind of swims through the whole subconscious.”