with Community Mindset with Community Mindset

Kim Baker is the owner of River and Rail Bakery, a bakery and café in Heritage Station in downtown Huntington. As of March 28, she is now also the proud recipient of the 2018 West Virginia Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year Award. The West Virginia Small Business Development Center awards female business owners with the award on an annual basis to women who have made deep impacts personally and financially within their community.

Baker opened River and Rail Bakery on March 1, 2011. Now in her seventh year of business, she cites a strong sense of community as her key to the award and business success.

“What it really takes is community,” Baker said. “That’s the absolute most important component of everything that I do. It’s the community that’s the customers, it’s the staff and my team. It’s the business community, the foodie community, that’s the single most important component of my business.”

Baker is a Marshall University graduate who has a background in politics and social activism. She is one of the founders of the West Virginia Environmental Council and a former employee at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. She has been on several campaign management teams, including John Huntwork’s State Senate campaign and Ken Hechler’s Congress campaign.

She opened River and Rail with zero background in business or food administration, armed simply with a passion for community and baking bread.

“I was looking for something to do,” Baker said. “I felt that a bakery was something that was needed in the community, and I didn’t know any better. I thought, ‘I can do anything,’ you know? And I did, and here we are, seven years later.”

Baker mentioned several inspirations that led her to the idea of opening the bakery.

“I love bread,” Baker said. “When my kids were little, we didn’t buy bread from the grocery store, we made our own bread. And I’ve always loved making bread. Bread was always kind of the brainchild of the whole thing. Bread led to pastries, and pastries led to coffee. It started with those three components and grew from there to breakfast and lunch and catering.”

Baker has three children, and they are pictured up on the wall of the bakery making bread. Each of the three children help to manage the bakery in some way or another.

River and Rail is one of the many recent success stories of local restaurant business in Huntington that are continuing to grow. Alongside the recent renovation of The Market in downtown Huntington and Black Sheep Burritos and Brew’s new location, downtown Huntington is quickly becoming a popular foodie destination for travelers.

“The one common piece of advice that I give everyone is don’t rush it,” Baker said. “I allowed myself to rush things, and I paid for it. It’s definitely a good idea to fully develop all of your processes and to really scrutinize your budget and expect everything is going to cost more than you’d expect. You need to develop really good processes and get them written before you open.”

River and Rail crafts handmade bread and pastry recipes alongside its coffee to feed their customers. Baker told a story of a couple in their 90s who had been daily regulars since her business had first opened. The couple came to River and Rail every day, and Baker would even call on them on days they did not come to make sure that they were alright.

“My husband had open heart surgery,” Baker said, “And I was sitting in the waiting room, and in they came.”

Baker said she loves developing that sort of personal relationship with her customers, not because of the financial gain, but because of the personal gain and the contribution to her community.

Baker is a Huntington native, and River and Rail is simply her most recent form of community activism. She sees it as filling a need that the city has, and she said she wants to continue to improve her community however she can.

Amber Wilson works with the West Virginia Small Business Development Center’s Huntington office each year to determine the winner of the West Virginia Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year Award.

“Kim has done an exponential amount of work to support our local community, and that’s what we want to promote with this award,” Wilson said.

Baker said she hopes to continue her proud tradition of making Huntington a better community each and every day.

“It’s all a process. I just want to make sure that I’m doing it right,” Baker said.

Zach Stevens can be contacted at [email protected]



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