You don't have to feel too guilty after devouring a whole cake from The Jar Bar Bakery in Cumru Township.
It may not be the best thing for your waistline, but at least the container is environmentally friendly.
That's because most of The Jar Bar's sweet treats are baked and sold in single-serving Mason jars, which it turns out is more than just a cute marketing gimmick.
After you're done eating, the jars can be repurposed, recycled, even returned to the store for a discount, building a circular economy of sorts around dessert.
The jars also serve as a means to keep the product fresh for longer, though your mileage on that feature may vary, as customers are finding it difficult to practice that level of self-control.
By the end of its opening week, The Jar Bar Bakery was sold out.
"I didn't think it would go this far this quickly," said Ashley Bennett, who launched The Jar Bar on Aug. 8 inside the recently redeveloped Stabon Pond Plaza strip mall right outside of Mohnton. "I picked the smallest space, which I am finding we are already outgrowing."
It helped that Bennett had built a following before opening. Now, her biggest problem seems to be finding enough mason jars to keep up with demand.
How The Jar Bar Bakery was born
Bennett estimates she's baked close to 100 varieties of her jarred delights, from Bar staples such as peanut butter chocolate and confetti cake to an ever-rotating assortment — lemon blueberry and French toast were among the choices on one visit.
"I don't like to make the same thing twice," Bennett said. "Obviously I do have my classic flavors, but I like to make new flavors pretty much every week, if not multiple in a week.
"That's the fun part for me."
The Jar Bar Bakery, located at 360 E. Wyomissing Ave., (visit www.thejarbarbakery.com for hours) also sells parfaits, breads, muffins, cookies, coffee, tea and dog treats.
And to think, the entire venture grew from a single recipe for banana bread.
Bennett, 22 and a Gov. Mifflin High School graduate, said the idea for The Jar Bar began forming while she was attending college at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., and working as a sales associate at Mister Car Wash. She started baking for her co-workers in January of 2019, first the banana bread in her signature jars, before moving on to cakes.
The jars and baked goods they contained were met with rave reviews, and by that spring, Bennett was setting up at craft shows. Before long, she was taking orders for parties, showers and weddings.
"I started to gain a following on Facebook and Instagram," said Bennett, who also found she had more time to devote to The Jar Bar after making the decision to finish her degree online.
Quarantine helped in that regard, too. When COVID-19 brought life in Berks County to a crawl, Bennett was plotting her next steps.
"I probably sat around for three days, then I got really bored," Bennett said. "I had been talking about a store for six months. I just started to take on little projects and saved all the money I could."
Not good for you, but good for the environment
Neither opening a bakery nor starting her own business seems like much of a reach for Bennett.
The Berks native grew up baking with her grandmother and her mom, Joy Bailey, who's an entrepreneur herself. Bailey currently owns and operates Uniquely Local in Kenhorst.
"I get a lot of inspiration from her," Bennett said. "She's a really strong woman. Watching her go through opening a store, all of her business experience, it taught me a lot."
As for The Jar Bar concept, Bennett acknowledges the idea for the mason jars came from a business featured on an episode of ABC's "Shark Tank." However, she's distinguishing herself from other bakeries with her scratch recipes and marketing outreach.
Bennett is planning to hold events such as her Pop the Trunk Hangout scheduled for Sept. 19, where customers can gather by the pond outside The Jar Bar, play cornhole and earn giveaways.
And while the jars were pitched on TV as keeping desserts fresh, Bennett is promoting their environmental benefits, even going so far as to create a compost pit behind the store.
"There's a lot going on in the world right now, and I just try to stay conscious of our usage," Bennett said. "I see so many people throwing trash on the ground, but at least everything I have is reusable."
Customers can also return 10 jars for a free cake, a $6 value. Although, cruelly enough, it's where Bennett and The Jar Bar Bakery are encountering their first major hurdle: a jar shortage.
"People have been great about returning jars, but it's canning season," Bennett said. "They're scarce right now.
"At least I know for next year."
As problems go, not being able to make the product as fast as it's selling is probably a good one to have.