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Yesterday, Kim Ima, the sparkly proprietress of the Treats Truck, spoke with us about everything from cops who like cookies to why being a food truck owner can sometimes feel like being a three-card monte player. Today, our interview continues with talk about her real, live bakery, her upcoming cookbook, and being a one-truck gal.
How’s the bakery you’re planning to open on Court Street coming along?
We’re still working on the work permits. We’ve been working on them for quite a while. I have a great architect, but it’s been a very slow process getting the permits in order. Originally, before we got in, he told me seven months. Now I feel I have to roll with it and see how long it takes. The city has a lot of requirements for building permits.
Do you have any idea when you’ll open?
It will be 2011. I’m going to have to see how the build-out goes, and see what will happen. My original thought was I wanted it to be around Valentine’s Day, the same as when I wanted to open the truck [which didn’t open on Valentine’s Day]. I thought, maybe this will be my Valentine’s Day opening. But it should be sometime in the first half of 2011. The front will be a retail bakery and production kitchen, and there will be an outdoor space in the backyard. Before you can get to the backyard, there’s an area where you can sit that’s split between part of the production space and seating area so people can watch the baking. It’ll be called the Treats Truck Stop, and will also be the production kitchen for the truck and events.
What made you decide to open a storefront?
I felt ready for it. I also felt like people were asking for it. I think it was a combination. It reminded me of when someone wants to have a baby, you have the idea but you’re not sure of the timing. I was looking at real estate for many, many months. We were looking around and when we found this space we said, “This is it.” It’s a great space and it’s something I can afford. And I love the area a lot — there are lots of great places like Buttermilk Channel. It has a really fun energy to it, and it’s up-and-coming, almost a throwback to earlier days in other neighborhoods that are now well-established. I’m excited to be a part of the community.
You’ve also talked about putting another truck on the road. [Ima currently operates out of one truck, called Sugar.] Is that still a possibility?
Not in the immediate future. For a while I did have two trucks on the road, Sugar and Dot. But I have one truck on the road and I’m looking forward to having two out, but there’s no set time because right now there’s so much going on. And staffing the truck with people who have the correct license is not easy. So I’m a one-truck gal for right now. The family’s big enough. It’s a real step for me having the store; in a way, it’s also pushing me to get even more organized and better staffed because there’ll be so much to do. I can’t be one crazy lady and some cookies. [Laughs.] It’s a fun image and not so far from the truth.
Where are you baking until the bakery’s up and running?
[After] we were kicked out [of their last production space on Columbia Street], Margaret Palca took me in. She’d never shared before. It’s like you’re used to living alone and you invite someone to be a houseguest for a few months. She’s been great, and luckily we’re making it work.
When you first started out, you did a lot of the baking yourself. Is your staff any bigger now?
My staff is bigger and there’s more production and I’m trying to free myself up a bit more. My hours are still really long. I do less baking than I used to, but I do some and oversee [the other bakers]. Also, I have so much other stuff going on: I’m the main driver and seller on the truck, and do a lot of correspondence.
And now you have a cookbook in the works.
The cookbook came from a Times article — an agent saw it and contacted me. In July, I got a book deal with William Morrow. I have a lot of vintage cookbooks that I’m very inspired by, as well as those little pamphlets from the ’60s. The book should come out almost exactly a year from now.
On the rare occasion when you’re not working, where do you like to eat?
My hours are so long that it’s such a treat when I get to go someplace else. I’ve been a professional eater my entire life — I love food and I love going out to eat, but often I get home so late that I rarely get to sit in a restaurant. But any time I do go, I go to Shopsins. It’s hard because our hours are so similar — there has to be a torrential downpour or a snowstorm for me to go. I have a special soft spot for places that are up-and-coming and new. Any time I pass a place that’s not a sit-down place I try to make a point of going in and buying something. I know my $2.30 isn’t going to make or break them, but I know how it is and I know that people do that for me, too.