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Owning a store is no piece of cake

If she had to do it again, Rebecca Dufer would have waited a little longer,asked a few more questions, saved some more money before she opened thedoor of her Medford bakery and restaurant.

The 28-year-old owner of Rebecca's Specialty Desserts says those lessonsare the bitter realities left over from the sweet dream of small businessownership.

She closed the door of the shop at 844 S. Riverside last month, afterless than a year of offering wholesale, retail and special-order baked goods.

The shop was doing fine, but it was not bringing in enough peopleoff the street to eat, says Dufer, who was profiled in a September1996 Mail Tribune article. I just couldn't do it anymore.

Dufer's restaurant was one of nearly 2,500 businesses with zero to fouremployees in Jackson County, according to state Employment Department figures.How many of those businesses fold every year is unclear; no local agencykeeps such statistics.

What is clear is that Dufer's experience is not unique, that the lessonsshe's learned easily apply to other entrepreneurs as well.

There are as many mistakes that you can make as you can think of,says Robin Brooke, education director for Southern Oregon Women's Accessto Credit, who counsels many would-be business owners.

The economic climate, the location, insufficient start-up capital,it could be so many things. But that's what's exciting about starting abusiness in the first place.

To be sure, Dufer was excited when she sold her Jeep for $6,000, tookout a $5,000 loan with two cars as collateral and invested time, money andenergy in refurbishing the former site of an ice cream and candy shop.

I sponge painted the walls, I pulled up the shag carpet myself,she says. I spent $1,000 on a new floor and I don't even get to takeit with me.

Her excitement dimmed when Medford city officials required a $1,600 sewerpermit and confusion about placement of a range hood delayed her originalopening date by a month.

I feel like they were just picking on me, she says. Fromthere, things kept getting worse, she says. So when her one-year lease camedue, Dufer decided to take her business home, back to her Medford kitchen,where she'd conducted a successful wholesale business for several years.

Her cookies, cakes and other treats are served in some of the Rogue Valley'smost fashionable restaurants, including Alex's in Ashland, Cafe Panino inMedford and the Applegate River House. Plus, she just acquired the contractto offer cookies and brownies at the Britt Festivals concession.

The business is great, says Dufer, who on a recent Saturdayfilled orders for 13 cakes, including eight birthday cakes, a christeningcake, a black forest cake and a three-tiered wedding cake. I justwish I could have stuck it out.

But nearly a year of working 16-hour days and making too little moneytook its toll, says Dufer.

I needed to hire some help, but I couldn't afford to hire any help,says Dufer, whose sister staffed the counter for her. I'm gettingtired.

This is Dufer's second shot at running a bakery; her first store on EastMain Street in Medford closed when her former husband didn't want her torun it anymore ­ and she conceded, she says.

Dufer's persistence is a good sign, says Brooke of SOWAC.

Just because someone closes the doors a couple of times or a dozentimes or two dozen times, it doesn't mean they won't succeed, shesays. It means they're on the road to success.

That's small comfort to Dufer, standing in front of a hand-lettered signreading Restaurant Closed. She says she'll regroup, bake cakesand cookies out of her home, take a little time to think about things.

And then, maybe, she'll try again.

I've been working on this for eight years, says Dufer, lockingthe glass door to her shop. It's really hard to let a dream go.

Rebecca Dufer has closed the doors of her bakery and restaurant and moved her baking business back into her kitchen at home. - Photo by Bob Pennell.</P