For Rachel Bernier-Green, what began as a childhood hobby has become a fulltime career.
“I grew up in a family where everyone loves food,” she said. “We were always cooking and baking, which is very calming and the perfect way for me to relax.”
Bernier-Green is now the proprietor of ‘Laine’s Bake Shop located in the Morgan Park neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Starting today, her Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownie will be featured in a new Starbucks location that includes a job training center for young people. Bernier-Green’s bakery was selected as the key supplier for this special Starbucks store as part of the company’s overall commitment to work with women and minority-owned businesses in urban areas. In addition, her bakery is supplying baked goods for the neighborhood Whole Foods, which also opened today in the Englewood Square Shopping Center.
Evolution of a Bakery
Bernier-Green was raised in Chicago and homeschooled by her mother, who taught fractions and simultaneously how to bake by following a recipe.
Baking became increasingly important to Bernier-Green after graduating from the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and taking a demanding public accounting job. To relieve stress, she would bake at night and bring treats into the office the next day. Her coworkers began to take notice.
“People at work would question why I didn’t pursue baking more seriously,” she said. “I brushed this off at first, but after a while, I decided to see what could happen if I did focus on my own business.”
While still working full time at the accounting firm, Bernier-Green began baking cookies for special events part-time. After a successful meeting at a local Whole Foods, she began selling cookies there in 2015. This exposure led to an introduction to Starbucks after the company announced it would open an Englewood store and was looking for local food items to feature.
"I'm ecstatic to begin what I hope becomes a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with Starbucks,” said Bernier-Green. “Starting at this location in particular is especially meaningful because the neighborhood has a lot of significance for me and generations of my family.”
“We’re thrilled about this partnership and the chance to engage, inspire and empower members of this community while spotlighting the delicious offerings from ‘Laine’s Bake Shop,” said Carolyn Chinn, Starbucks merchandising lead, Retail Branded Partnerships.
In addition to her collaboration with Whole Foods and Starbucks, Bernier-Green established a permanent home for her business. After years of baking in rented kitchen spaces around town, she opened ‘Laine’s Bake Shop in July 2016 at 11057 South Homewood Avenue in Chicago. The shop’s name pays homage to Bernier-Green’s grandfather, Lane and her mother, Elaine.
“I was shocked at how things progressed. I spent so much time in business school listening to case studies about different companies and all the things you need to be successful,” she said. “I always thought I would be an entrepreneur, but I never thought I would open a bakery. It was fascinating how all the pieces came together.”
A Recipe for Community Change
Bernier-Green, who works side by side with her husband, Jaryd, hopes ‘Laine’s Bake Shop becomes a Chicago-centric national brand. She also wants the bakery to make an impact in the community. They started an internship program at the shop that provides job skills for young people and teaches them the basics of baking.
“I enjoy baking, but that’s not the reason that I get up every day,” said Bernier-Green. “There are a lot of things taking place in Chicago that I would like to help change. One way that we’re hoping to do that is by focusing recruitment and employment efforts around communities that are chronically underemployed.”
“From the moment we met Rachel, we were completely inspired by the work she has done to support her community,” said Kathryn Pentz, Starbucks program manager, Retail Branded Partnerships. “The work she is doing to build her business by empowering the community it serves is not only awe-inspiring but parallels directly with Starbucks goal of building pathways to opportunity.”
Bernier-Green works with a variety of local non-profit organizations including New Moms, Inc. and Growing Home to identify future interns and employees. These organizations provide intensive training for people from a variety of backgrounds, including young mothers, those who have experienced homelessness, have been incarcerated, or have suffered from substance abuse. After training is complete, individuals are placed with companies and Bernier-Green wants ‘Laine’s Bake Shop to be one of them.
“By working with the hardest hit in our communities and providing them with career paths and living wages, we can help ensure that people can afford to stay in our communities as they improve and that is one way that we can create lasting generational change,” Bernier-Green said. “We’re really excited about that.”