FUQUAY-VARINA — Main Street was struggling when Josh and Katie Dies opened the doors of Stick Boy Bread Co. in 2008.
Most of the buildings around them were shuttered, and Stick Boy was the only coffee shop in town.
Those early days were lean ones, and Katie Dies said it was their willingness to be transparent that kept them in business.
“We sent out newsletters and admitted that we were struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “We told our customers that the cup of coffee you buy really does matter.”
Loyal customers began to think of Katie and Josh as family and continued to support their hometown bakery.
Today, Stick Boy – along with Main Street in Fuquay-Varina – is thriving. Katie Dies said every table in the shop is full on most mornings.
She credits quality products and great customer service with keeping the small business going.
Katie Dies was a student at Appalachian State University when she was hired part time at the original Stick Boy. When she and her husband moved to Fuquay-Varina for his engineering job, the one thing they missed was a great coffee shop and bakery like the one they loved in Boone.
Eventually, they formed a partnership with the Stick Boy owners and opened the Fuquay-Varina bakery with Josh as head baker and Katie running the shop. Katie’s brother is the pastry chef.
“Josh is passionate about it,” Katie Dies said. “Bread baking is an art. He went to San Francisco not too long ago to study at the baking institute.”
The couple work opposite hours, which allows one of them to always be home with their 19-month-old son.
Sticky buns are especially popular at Stick Boy, and sour dough bread sells out almost daily. The bread won Best in Show in the State Fair in 2009.
An invitation to participate in an event at Cary Towne Center led to a an expansion of the business.
“We were handing out samples and met the owner of The Meat House,” Dies said. “They contacted us later to see if we would let them sell our bread in their store.”
That exposure opened doors to opportunities with local co-ops, and Stick Boy’s wholesale business took off.
“It has been a challenge,” Dies said. “Things exploded in the past 18 months, and we have had to hire more staff.”
Despite its popularity, there are no plans for more stores.
“We like having one store,” Dies said. “It is a sense of family, and we are able to invest in people. We have grown the wholesale aspect as a way of expanding our customer base. This works so well because the community knows us.”
Do you know of a local business that you’d like to see featured? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.