Never too old to dream: pair of friends will open West

You’re never too old to follow your dreams. Even if those dreams involve quitting your job to open a bakery.

That’s the realization Janice Caldwell had when her best friend and now-business partner Andrew Reininger suggested the pair open their own bakery.

“I finally get to do this dream that I always thought was just going to be a dream… I never thought that at this stage in life, I’d be able to do something this big,” said Caldwell, a mom of four in her early 40s, who has spent much of her life baking.

Caldwell, alongside Reininger, will soon open a cafe on West Columbia’s Meeting Street.

JJ’s Place Bakery, the brainchild of Caldwell and Reininger, got its official start at Soda City Market a little over a month ago after the pair spent under half a year planning out their business.

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“It’s been something that we had talked about, opening a restaurant,” Reininger said. “And we just were joking one day about it and I said ‘I’ll just buy a building and you’ll open your bakery and I’ll use your kitchen.’ And she was like ‘Actually that’s kind of a good idea.’”

That was in November of last year. By May, the pair had not only found an investor for their business, but had also started selling freshly baked bread on Saturdays at Soda City.

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Each week, they’ve sold 30 to 40 more loaves of bread than the previous week at the weekly Saturday market, according to Reininger. 

Their bakery is slated to open in September and will serve a variety of fresh breads like brioche and sourdough as well as sweet treats and coffee. Eventually, Reininger plans to incorporate sandwiches and cafe-style food into the place’s menu.

“I really liked the community we’re in. It’s gonna be really nice to have the garden outside. And we’ll have a nice back deck. I’m looking forward to just people sitting on the back deck, having tea in the mornings, drinking some wine in the evenings,” Reininger said.

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The pair balance each other out well. Caldwell called Reininger the idea guy, while she focuses more on the little details and making sure they can accomplish the goals in front of them. Caldwell likes to bake, while Reininger prefers to cook.

“He’s the big dreamer and I’m the ‘Okay, but let’s follow these steps first girl.’”

And while neither have much experience in the restaurant industry, outside of a few odd jobs working in the industry in high school, they’ve spent years working on their respective hobbies that they now hope to turn into a full-fledged business.

“I grew up, you know cooking, for church a lot,” Reininger, a Chicago native, said. “Every Sunday, we’d cook for about two thousand people… I just spent my whole life in my kitchen.”

The bakery joins a handful of new businesses on West Columbia’s Meeting and State Streets. Earlier this year Brickhouse Coffee and Tea opened up inside the PRIMAL Gourmet space. And a few weeks ago, Breakfast at Ruiz opened not far from longtime West Columbia spot Cafe Strudel. There’s also Always Original Bakery on Meeting.

But the pair hope that the bakery and cafe will stand out as a spot to get fresh, artisanal bread for a reasonable price. For a 10-inch loaf of bread that feeds roughly six people, they’ll charge anywhere from $9 to $12 and sweet treats like brownies will run around $3.

“We’re working on having kind of the neighbors around us have that be their neighborhood bakery, somewhere to come. A lot of businesses are already excited, telling us like ‘Hey, I can’t wait to come get my morning coffee before work or come get a sandwich on lunch break,’” Reininger said.

JJ’s Place is located at 557 Meeting St. The cafe, which is set to open in September, will tentatively be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.