Choosing Capitol Hill a piece of cake for baker

Published Thursday, July 19, 2018
by Molly M. Fleming

A baker whose resume includes Vast and Flint has opened her own shop in a historic district.

Sara Miller has spent the last 10 years working her way around the metro’s restaurants. She went to Platt College, where she learned how to cook savory dishes. But while spending time in restaurant kitchens, she learned how to bake sweets.

“I’ve had several amazing opportunities to work under great chefs,” she said.

In addition to Flint and Vast, she’s worked in the kitchens at Ned’s Catering and Meatball House, and was last the general manager for Coolgreens.

She said she has wanted her own shop since she first started in the restaurant business. She tried a couple of times in the past, but it didn’t work.

This time, she was able to get a loan from the city’s Commercial District Revitalization Program’s Revolving Loan Fund. She is the first recipient of a loan, though the program was created with a Community Development Block Grant in 2015.

The main purpose of the program is to help create low- to moderate-income jobs in the city’s commercial revitalization districts.

Miller received $35,000 from the program to open her shop, La Confection, at 213A SW 25th St. in historic Capitol Hill – Calle Dos Cinco.

“The program is designed to assist risky businesses that could not go to a bank for some reason or another,” said Amanda Alewine, who oversees the revolving fund.

Alewine underwrites the loan, then presents the application to the neighborhood conservation committee, which is composed of City Council representatives. If the committee is interested in funding the business, then it goes to the entire council for approval.

The application is expansive, Alewine said.

“We’ve had a difficult time with applicants getting through the process,” she said. “We tried to make it shorter, but when you’re doing riskier loans, you need more information.”

Applicants’ collateral, credit, and amount of funding are reviewed. Their strengths and weaknesses are weighed as well. If granted the money, the applicant also has to keep up and report how many jobs are created.

For Miller, her experience was her strength, said Alewine. Miller also had her own money to put into the business.

“A startup bakery is risky,” Alewine said. “That experience outweighed the risk of starting up.”

La Confection’s menu changes daily, but often includes cinnamon rolls, muffins, macarons, and cupcakes. The items are all made from scratch, using her own recipes that’s she put together by working with other pastry chefs. Her chocolate cake recipe is her own creation, though.

Miller said it hasn’t hit her yet how scary opening her own business can be, but she said if she hadn’t put her saved money into the business, she would have spent it on something frivolous.

Instead, she’s spent it on bringing her business to the area where she was raised; coming to Capitol Hill is a homecoming. She attended Lee Elementary and is a graduate of Capitol Hill High School. She boxed at a gym at S. Robinson Avenue and SW 24th Street.

“There’s a lot coming to this area,” she said. “It just made sense to come here.”

Historic Capitol Hill – Calle Dos Cinco District Executive Director Donna Cervantes said she’s excited to have a new bakery in the district, especially one that’s owned by someone from the neighborhood. She said the beautiful storefront is a welcomed site in the district.

“The pastries are not your average pastries or doughnuts,” Cervantes said. “It’s a very nice shop. I think she’s done a nice job with making it very attractive, a little upscale, and offering coffee.”

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