By Hollie O’Connor | Waco Trib
A shiny new bakery has rolled into downtown Waco and is serving up “monster” ice cream sandwiches, cookies, cakes and other decadent desserts.
The Vanilla Bean Bake Shoppe is housed inside a 1971 Airstream trailer parked in the 500 block of Franklin Avenue. Owner Becky Chollett bakes a variety of goods full of rich ingredients, such as bourbon vanilla and high-quality chocolate.
“I love to bake and eat. The cupcake market is pretty well covered, but I love making cookies, cheesecakes, poundcakes — you know, the fattening things,” Chollett said with a laugh.
Chollett left her job of about 31 years at Baylor University, most recently as the law school’s assistant dean of admissions, to follow her dream of being an entrepreneur about a year and a half ago. She threw around a couple of ideas before deciding on a mobile bakery. After the long process of obtaining a trailer and getting it up to code, Chollett started selling her food at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market last month.
“I’m from the generation where you don’t switch jobs once you’re rooted, but I wanted to do something different, to follow my dreams and heart, and have the gumption to take a leap of faith,” she said.
The job has also allowed her to spend more time with her family. Her husband, Galen, takes most of the orders and does maintenance on the trailer, which their son, Garrett, affectionately named “Bob.”
“I’m the ideas master,” Garrett, 10, said of his role at Vanilla Bean. He also makes chalkboard signs for the shop.
Becky Chollett said by opening the shop, she’s setting an example for Garrett.
“I want to instill in him that it’s OK to take a risk,” she said.
The risk is starting to pay off. Her desserts, especially the salted caramel chocolate chunk cookies, sold well at the farmers market, and eventually developer Peter Ellis invited her to park the trailer across from the Praetorian Building, where Vanilla Bean has been since last week.
The business has also allowed her to give back to the community. Vanilla Bean’s leftover baked goods at the end of the day are donated to St. Mary’s Catholic Church of the Assumption for its ministry that provides sack lunches to the homeless.
Steve Surguy, director of the Small Business Development Center at McLennan Community College, said mobile eateries are becoming more and more popular. He’s seen several clients inquiring about opening their own.
Surguy said getting food trailers to meet all mandated health and safety codes can be a challenge, but the versatility of a trailer is a major benefit.
“You can go where your customers are, and with the advent of development in downtown Waco, and with the new Baylor Stadium, I see that as a growing trend,” Surguy said.
In the future, Chollett said she plans to do more catering events. Vanilla Bean has been invited to be a vendor at Baylor’s Labor Day Movie Extravaganza this fall.