This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 10, 2020 to add comments from Jenny Smith
The Kensington bakery JennyCakes has announced that it will close next month.
In an email to customers on Monday, owner Jenny Smith wrote that the bakery’s last day will be Sept. 19.
Smith, who opened JennyCakes in 2012, wrote that as business slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, she thought about how the business had grown from a smaller, community operation to a larger one.
“Thanks to the amazing support of so many of you, the business became much bigger than I ever could have imagined. While this was exciting and rewarding, it meant the number and complexity of issues relating to staffing, orders and a multitude of other logistics grew as well,” she wrote.
Smith wrote that she became stressed due to the increasing demands of her growing business.
“It became more and more challenging to manage, and harder and harder to enjoy or foster that original community feel,” she wrote.
Smith added that she also missed spending time with her family due to her commitment to the bakery.
Smith said that from Aug. 18 through the bakery’s closing, it will be open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The bakery is closed through Aug. 17, according to the website.
“We are still able to take cake orders but we have scaled back the rest of our menu a bit. I’ll post updates frequently on Facebook and Instagram so it’s clear what we will be offering for any given week,” she wrote.
Smith thanked the community for its support and said she has enjoyed getting to know customers and seeing a “steady stream of dogs” in her store.
“We’ve loved being a part of many Kensington community events, especially the Labor Day festivities, Antique Row Holiday Open House and Food Truck Nights. We’ve loved being a part of so many celebrations and the incredibly kind emails we’ve received from customers thanking us for their cakes and other goodies,” she wrote. “I’ve loved experimenting with new recipes and getting such wonderful (and honest!) feedback from the community so that you were a part of the whole process.”
Smith wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat Monday night that profit margins at JennyCakes were always tight both before and during the pandemic — so much so that she never took a salary.
“This was OK during regular times but during the coronavirus situation it was pretty scary how quickly my little cushion of funds disappeared. I was able to get a [federal Paycheck Protection Program] loan though which helped a lot and I was able to keep the business going by holding occasional sales that were staffed by my daughters and I,” she wrote.
Smith wrote that she had thought about closing the business, even before the pandemic started, due to the difficulties of maintaining a staff large enough to accommodate a high volume of business.
“It was a pretty hard decision because I knew I would be letting so many customers down. I knew all my staff would be able to find jobs but I hated ending the tradition (in some cases an 8-year tradition) that so many families had of ordering JennyCakes stuff for birthdays and other celebrations,” she wrote.
Smith started her career as an attorney before leaving the profession to be at home with her four children.
She later worked for then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s campaign and later as the bookkeeper for A Wider Circle, a local nonprofit that works to combat poverty. She said nothing could have prepared her for the demands of running her own bakery.
“Most, if not all of the time, I think I succeeded at keeping things together but it took a toll after 8 years,” she wrote.
Smith hopes to operate a baking business out of her home, but she’s not sure what it will look like. She wrote that she hopes it will include pop-ups, online ordering and baking banana bread for local shelters.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org