If you’ve ever wondered how an entrepreneur can make a good living doing what she loves best, meet Jessica Duggan. She’s the owner of The Vintage Baker and its pie-making subsidiary, Crust. The companies are based in Puyallup, but the custom-baked goods they produce have captured the hearts of many people far beyond company headquarters.
Once a receptionist, Duggan knew she wasn’t destined to sit behind an office desk. “I would feel something when I’d sit and make menus,” Duggan said. “I knew in my heart, baking was what I was meant to do.” So, she went for it.
Her path to success wasn’t smooth. Initially, Duggan and a baking partner built a thriving bakery operation, but the two owners realized they were chasing different goals and parted ways amicably. Around that time, the business was selected to compete on season four of the Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship.
Duggan accepted the challenge, making it through to the fourth episode. The show didn’t air until after her first business closed, but it didn’t stop her from forging ahead. “I decided to start a new business six days after the bakery closed, and within two weeks, I was baking again,” Duggan said. “I promoted on Facebook and met people at the corner store — just like I was dealing, but with cookies.”
Duggan officially launched The Vintage Baker in April 2018, debuting her recipes at the Puyallup Farmers Market. Unsure what to expect, she and her team were greeted on opening day by a long line of customers stretching around the perimeter of the market.
“I was so shocked at the bigness of it and the demand,” Duggan recalled. “People would spend more than $100 on bags of baked goods, and we would consistently sell out in 45 minutes.”
The overwhelming demand prompted Duggan to rethink her business strategy and consider how to scale without alienating loyal clientele. In response, she purchased a 1965 vintage Shasta sleeping trailer, retrofitted for counter service, and took her show on the road.
“I didn’t want the overhead of an actual bakery, so I thought it would be a perfect vehicle for selling my baked goods,” said Duggan. A friend painted a logo on the trailer, and once Duggan started promoting its availability, requests for appearances began flowing in. “My first pop-up was literally in front of a dentist’s office,” she said, chuckling.
Next, Duggan decided she wanted to focus exclusively on pie-making. “Just as I’d decided to stop making pastries, the owner of Anthem Coffee called to explore a baking partnership,” she said.
Duggan responded by hiring and training a dedicated baking team to support the partnership under The Vintage Baker. Meanwhile, Duggan personally bakes and sells her Crust-branded pies from her vintage trailer.
“I think business is never static, and it’s ever-changing,” Duggan said. “Ideas are always coming up, and you have to have an open mind, because complacency doesn’t succeed.”