Old World Baked Goods from Petra’s Backstubchen
by Ted Scheffler
A Utah Backstube
Backstube is the German word for bakery or bakehouse. And for authentic, German-style pastries in Utah, look no further than Petra Vigil’s Old Country baked goods at Petra’s Backstubchen. Developed from her mother’s recipes and those from cookbooks she brought with her from her native Germany, Petra Vigil bakes and sells strudels, pretzels, cookies, cakes and seasonal pastries from her home-based business.
Prior to becoming a full-time baker, Petra worked with youth in group homes and foster care situations. “I enjoyed working with kids,” she says. She always enjoyed baking, as well. “It relaxes me,” said Vigil. It was her family and friends who first suggested that she turn her love of baking into a business. She followed that advice and says, “I made my dream come true.”
Know Thy Customer
Customer relations is much more than just a business concept to Petra, who explains, “I don’t just want to sell my pastries. I like to get to know my customers, too. That’s one of the reasons why I like the markets so much. You get a chance to interact with customers, tell each other stories, and even be there for each other. When my sister passed away last year I got the phone call while I was at the Cache Valley Gardeners Market. Vendors and customers were there to help and comfort me. One of the customers went and got me some flowers. That is something you don’t see very often, but you will find here in Utah. That’s why I like living here. I’ve been living in the States for 28 years.”
Building a Bakery
Petra’s Backstubchen was founded with “just a little bit of money,” and Vigil started her business by renting a kitchen in which to bake her pastries, concurrently working three jobs for many years. During a remodel of her and her husband Joseph’s house, she was able to install a commercial kitchen in their home. “Last year I finally quit all my other jobs and just concentrated on the bakery,” she says, adding, “Now I have my commercial kitchen in the house. It’s nice to get up in the morning, have breakfast and then go downstairs and start the work day. I bet a lot of people think I have all this equipment to make it easier for me to bake as much as I do, but the truth is I keep it very simple. Yes, I have long working days but I would not change anything.”
Having been in business for five years, Petra says “People have been asking if I don’t want to open a shop, expand more, hire people. I don’t know if that’s something I want to do. Only time will tell. For now, customers can order Petra’s baked goods from her website - PetrasBackstubchen.com - at all five Lee’s Marketplace locations, and at some farmers markets, Christmas markets and festivals like the Made in Utah Festival. She also does catering and special orders.
Discussing getting her baking business up and running and successful, Petra says “My husband Joseph has been there through good and bad. He’s been a big help. He enjoys the markets as much as I do.”
When asked for advice to wannabe small business owners, she says “Over the last few years I have been talking to a lot of people who have been thinking of starting a business. My advice: Do your research. Don’t jump into anything. Start small and work your way up. It’s hard work but eventually it will pay off.”