Brandenburg Bakery finds right mix in Sullivan County

LIVINGSTON MANOR – When Sullivan County native Errol Flynn was laid off during the auto-industry crisis in Germany in 2010, instead of dwelling on the misfortune, he and his wife, Sarah, saw it as an opportunity.

A new job in the same industry likely would have meant a lot of travel, which neither he nor Sarah wanted. Sarah, meanwhile, felt unfulfilled working her job in sales.

They decided to move to the United States and start their own business so they could work together.

“In hindsight, we should’ve been nervous,” Errol said. “For some reason, at the time it just seemed the logical thing to do, and we did it.”

Moving to Sullivan County

Errol had moved to Germany after graduating from Alfred State in 2003 with a degree in robotics and computerized automation. He later met Sarah through a coworker at a Therapy? concert. They saw each other again at a party a few months later, and then began dating.

They got married in 2010, which turned out to be a pivotal year. Errol was laid off in March, Sarah quit her job that summer and they moved in September. The Flynns traveled more than 3,700 miles from Aachen, Germany, which borders Belgium and the Netherlands, to Kenoza Lake, Errol’s hometown.

With $5,000 to their names, the couple set their sights on opening a bakery. Sarah already had acquired the necessary skills while growing up in Germany, where she got a degree in baking and worked for a few years as a pastry chef in restaurants and bakeries.

But she wasn’t satisfied with the industry’s long hours and low pay and didn’t feel challenged.

“I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing, because a lot of bakeries use mixes and stuff,” Sarah said. “I thought I didn’t want to do that anymore if I can’t bake good stuff.”

For their bakery, they vowed to make everything from scratch.

One of their first business decisions was one that they admit was not the smartest move.

They found an oven on eBay, bought it sight unseen and sent it to Errol’s parents’ house in New York.

Errol said he had to rewire the oven before he could hook it up in the kitchen, but it worked fine.

Going to Plan B

Sarah and Errol, now both 35, drafted a business plan while still in Germany that they thought was a slam dunk.

But a trip to the Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center in Kingston quickly brought them down to Earth.

Sam Kandel, an adviser at the center “ripped it apart,” Errol said.

They learned that their plan was too optimistic and didn’t account for potential problems, according to Errol.

“We went home with our tails between our legs there after that first encounter,” he said. “In hindsight, we really appreciate all the criticism he gave us.”

With a more conservative plan, Sarah and Errol secured a loan to lease a space on Route 52 in Jeffersonville, where they opened Brandenburger Pastry Barn in March of 2011. Later they changed the name to what it is now, Brandenburg Bakery.

The business got off to a rocky start.

They had advertised a grand opening to the public and were two days from opening when a health inspector gave them the news: They needed to install a $2,500 ultraviolet treatment system in order to use the building’s well water to cook.

They still opened the bakery as advertised, but weren’t allowed to sell food. Instead, they put out a tip jar and hoped for the best.

“That first weekend, we ended up giving everything away,” Errol said.

They earned enough from tips to get a tanker truck of potable water so they could get their health certificate and officially open. They used the truck for close to a month.

From there, Errol and Sarah baked for as many farmers markets, festivals and events as they could.

As they approached the end of their three-year lease in Jeffersonville, the business had outgrown the space and the couple soon had their sights set on buying their own place.

In March 2014, the Flynns were back in business at 66 Main St. in Livingston Manor after renovating the building themselves.

They live above the store and envision being there for awhile. They take pride in making more than 60 different products, including cakes, cookies, turnovers and breads that incorporate influences from Sarah’s native country.

Above all, everything is always fresh, said Errol.

They look forward to upgrading the bakery by adding a larger display case and adding to their menu.

And they’ll be doing it without their first oven since they upgraded their equipment when they moved to Livingston Manor.

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