Hard times require imaginative thinking. Kelsey Munger, owner of Lavender Bee Baking Co., at Monumental Market in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, started baking in 2017. Like her, current business partner Javier Amador-Pena owned a separate business, El Colombiano Coffee. Both got their beginnings selling their products at local farmers’ markets.
They each owned their own separate business, but found that their products, and their passion for their work, complimented each other perfectly. When it was time to grow and expand, they came together and hatched the idea for Monumental Market.
“We started talking. What if we opened a space together?” Munger recalls.
It made sense. Construction and rent can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention the labor costs of staff. If this would work, cooperation and camaraderie were essential.
“It’s all blended, and we each have fun with our concepts,” Munger explains. “It’s kind of a farmers’ market vibe with one POS transaction. We’re in 900 square feet of space, for retail and production.”
They even have a third vendor in the space, a vinyl records store Light of Day Records, run by Chris Antonowich, who is a permanent vendor, not an owner in the venture.
They opened their collaborative brick-and-mortar location in February 2020. They wanted to expand because of surging demand.
“We are all sharing labor costs, and we each have a full functioning store that is cohesive,” Munger explains. “It’s definitely been a wild first year. We are battle tested, and we feel pretty solid. We all help keep other afloat.”
Monumental Market is a Person of Color (PoC)/Woman owned business in Jamaica Plain, creating a vibrant community space with coffee, baked goods and music.
Both owners expect and hope to open additional locations of their respective brands outside of Monumental Market in the next few years. But teaming up to create the first space together has allowed them to get that initial foot in the door with this type of business that was otherwise out of reach for them individually.
Their unique business earned a Best of Boston Award in 2021 from Boston magazine.
Munger specializes in operating as a 100% nut free bakery (peanut and tree nut free). She is not yet 30 years old and already is the owner and co-owner of two successful businesses. She is also deathly allergic to nuts, so she cannot use ingredients that have ever risked coming in contact with them. This is also why she decided to start baking in the first place.
“I grew up loving baking, but couldn’t go into a bakery,” she recalls. “I’ve worked in a lot of kitchens. At the beginning of this project, I wanted to help support small businesses. What we have now is collaborative entrepreneurship, which is the future of the food industry. It’s exciting to see what’s coming next.”
Beyond the brick-and-mortar space, Munger understands the needs, especially now, to examine and expand her online sales capabilities. Her bakery sells a take-and-bake package and makes local deliveries. “I just delivered a wedding cake yesterday,” she says.