A Sweet Career Change: The Making of Marker Coffee
Marker Coffee sits unassumingly on a quiet Crown Heights corner. Inside, chocolate chip cookies, cheddar scallion scones and lemon poppyseed poundcake decorate the display case. From the multicolored mugs to the handwritten coffee menu, everything about Marker Coffee makes you feel right at home. For co-owner Kerry Walden, opening a bakery has been a dream a long time in the making. Check out our interview with Kerry below.
Can you tell us about your career trajectory?
I started out working in banking, even though I always knew I wanted to start my own business. After a near death experience, I sat down and really thought about what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to have a bakery/coffee shop. I love interacting with people and being part of a community and I love to bake so I wanted a combination of the two. I went to school at the Institute of Culinary Education to hone my baking skills and worked at several different bakeries, chocolate shops, and coffee shops over several years to learn the industry. Then, I started small with selling cookies to a couple coffee shops in Manhattan before taking the leap to open a storefront here in Crown Heights.
How did you first get into baking?
I always loved baking. I learned most of what I know from my grandmother. She was an amazing baker and I feel like I’m always striving to be as good as she was. I realized it was something I really wanted as a career when I was working at a bank and spending most of my time there looking up recipes that I would make after work.
Can you tell me about the Marker team?
I love the Marker team! We have a small group (there’s 5 of us total). We have all been working together for years and really work well together. Everyone here works hard and makes sure to help each other in getting the job done. Because we’ve all worked together for so long, we all have a lot of trust and respect for each other. And we simply like each other so it’s nice to come and work with your friends every day.
What are some of your favorite things to bake?
My favorite things to bake are the biscuits and scones. We make both the biscuits and scones in small batches so we make them by hand. I really love working with my hands and those are the most textural. I also love making the caramel pieces for our toffee cookies.
How would you describe the vibe of Marker Coffee’s storefront?
Our storefront is located in a very residential area, which I really like. We see the same customers almost every day and have gotten to know and love so many of our neighbors. It’s really nice to be part of the neighborhood and have a good sense of community. I want every customer to feel welcomed and treated as a friend. Also, I never liked the pretentiousness that some baristas have about coffee. We serve high quality coffee and espresso, but would never make a customer feel ignorant if they don’t know what a cortado is.
What was it like starting and continuing to run a business with family?
Starting out was a bit more stressful than I realized. With family members (aka my husband) we spoke a lot more freely than you would with a regular business partner, which led to a lot of fights about how to run the business. Luckily, continuing the business is a lot easier than starting out and there are less things to stress about. Now that we have all our systems and practices in place, running a family business is great.
If you were to give your younger self advice, what would you say?
If I were to chat with my younger self, I’d tell her to start earlier. I wish I would have had the guts to start out my career in this field. It is a really tough and not very lucrative career path, so I was scared to make the leap. It is so enjoyable though. I wish I would have started out in this career instead of spending so many years in commercial banking.
Fun Fact: Kerry is a St. Louis Native and offers a spin on her hometown's classic with Gooey Butter Tarts!