On the surface, one of the newest storefronts at Crosstown Concourse seems to serve up delicious breads, cakes and other baked goods. And while that’s true, Lucy J’s Bakery is more than a typical bakery. Lucy J’s Bakery plays a small but pivotal role in the lives of once-homeless families working toward a fresh start. Lucy J’s has a mission to provide job training and employment with living wages for parents who are working to transition out of homelessness. It does that by working with the Dorothy Day House to provide employment for current or former resident families.
Dorothy Day House keeps homeless families together. Through its houses, it helps those families get back on their feet while staying together. The connection to Dorothy Day House isn’t by accident. Husband-and-wife duo Josh and Tracy Burgess – owners of Lucy J’s – began volunteering at Dorothy Day House about six years ago, not long after they started baking and decorating special event cakes out of their home on the side of full-time careers. Tracy eventually joined the staff at Dorothy Day House, but the bakery dream didn’t drift away. In fact, it only strengthened. Through conversations with investors they decided to pursue a bakery that serves as a ministry rather than just a business, specifically one that would employ current and former Dorothy Day House residents.
“We wanted an opportunity where our families could find quick employment and build a firm foundation through what we had to offer,” Tracy said. As time went on they decided that firm foundation should also include a living wage of $15 an hour and access to health care benefits through Church Health. “What Josh and I have known is we didn’t get where we are without the help of others. So many people have opened doors for us to help us build our dreams.”
The journey to eventually open in Crosstown Concourse was a process that took a couple of years, culminating in the opening of a kiosk in February. The shop opened Sept. 1. The kiosk only required one employee; the storefront now has six, four of whom come from Dorothy Day House. Big sellers include croissants, loaves of bread, oatmeal cream pie and chocolate and cinnamon croissants. In addition to baked goods, Lucy J’s also sells Ugly Mug Coffee on a pay-what-you-can scale with proceeds going directly to Dorothy Day House.
Lucy J’s Bakery and Dorothy Day House are separate nonprofit organizations, but they work in partnership. A long-term goal for Lucy J’s is an offsite kitchen to take care of production for multiple retail sites across the city. That would ensure even more employment opportunities for Dorothy Day House residents, but also could open the possibility to other nonprofit organizations that assist individuals with jobs.
Lucy J’s Bakery depends on the community’s support to continue providing employment opportunities. Customers are important, whether that’s individuals who live or work in Crosstown Concourse and stop in for a snack or businesses in need of catering for a meeting. “But the best way a larger audience can help us is to promote and patronize businesses with ethical practices, those that really take care of their employees,” Tracy said. “As a community and a city if we want to work toward economic equity then we need to promote those businesses that share those practices.”
For more information about Lucy J’s Bakery, visit lucyjbakery.com.
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