Walking into one of the three Scarlet’s Bakery locations in Louisville, your eyes may be drawn to the bright, open-floor seating or to the freshly baked goods at the front of the store. You’ll notice the black uniforms the female bakers wear and the large smiles that they display like the cookies at the counter. What you may not first see is that Scarlet’s Bakery is much more than a bakery with tasty treats and friendly customer service; it has also become a home for numerous women who have faced exploitation and abuse and who are looking to transition toward new paths in their lives.
Scarlet Hope, the non-profit parent organization that supports and helps restore the lives of women in the adult entertainment industry, first created Scarlet’s Bakery as a social enterprise in 2014. Rachelle Starr, Scarlet Hope’s founder and executive director, brought her own passions for baking and catering to her company with the original idea for Scarlet’s Bakery. She envisioned the bakery as a place for women with backgrounds of abuse and exploitation to have a fresh start and a chance to change the course of their lives by giving them a new career and opportunities through different programs.
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Not only does Scarlet’s Bakery offer these women a safe place to work and a stable career, but the founders also look to aid the women with their life and leadership skills through their Career Development Program. Scarlet’s Bakery has employed 30 women since 2015, and they currently have seven women in the Career Development Program, an 18-month program at the bakery that helps prepare the women with skills for the work world and gives them the confidence to make this drastic transition in their lives. Additionally, Scarlet’s Bakery offers therapy and case management services for the women throughout the program so that they are able to both heal and discuss new interests that they may explore now that they are in a safe environment. The staff also want the women to have the opportunity to find new careers after their time at the bakery, and many women have been able to take the life skills they learned through the Career Development Program to find success at other workplaces. The bakery acts as the flame that ignites the fire; it is only the beginning of the journey.
Scarlet’s Bakery places a large emphasis on the work the women do each day. Rachelle and her staff want to create an environment where the bakers can thrive. A large part of their mission is having the women feel comfortable in a positive and motivating setting and to see how their work makes an impact in the community, thus empowering them and honoring their personal dignity. In embracing this newfound power and using it as a force to drive their work, the women find hope and stability in the welcoming atmosphere at Scarlet’s Bakery. It is a place where they are able to grow and learn, both while being shown complete respect and appreciation from those at the company who are there to aid them in all aspects of life.
The first Scarlet’s Bakery location opened in December 2015 at the corner of Oak and Shelby Streets in a building that was once a pharmacy. The modern white interior and the airy atmosphere is welcoming, and the friendly words on the painted brick wall remind customers of what Scarlet’s Bakery has accomplished — and continues to strive for — with each woman they help.
“We don’t hire people to bake cupcakes. We bake cupcakes to hire people.”
Now, Scarlet’s Bakery has three locations throughout the city: their original location on Oak and Shelby, one in St. Matthews, and one on South 5th St. in the heart of Downtown. Each location offers a number of baked goods at quick access, including blueberry orange scones, red velvet crinkle cookies, and their renowned cinnamon rolls with icing that melts in your mouth. They also offer a menu with light bites, like sandwiches, salads, and soups, with fan favorites like the classic grilled cheese or the cranberry walnut salad. Plus, they have fresh coffee and lattes every day in addition to any catering needs that guests may have. Each meal is made by one of the female bakers that Scarlet’s Hope has helped and trained.
While Scarlet’s Bakery continues to focus its mission on changing women’s lives at their bakery locations and being a resource for them, they have also looked to promote their own message and bring more awareness to the issues facing women to the local community. One way the company has begun to do this is through partnering with the opera Carmen, which comes to the Brown Theatre with the Kentucky Opera on September 20-22, 2019. Carmen tells the story of a strong Spanish gypsy named Carmen, who struggles to overcome difficult and unthinkable circumstances similar to the abuse that the women who work at Scarlet’s Bakery have endured.
Rachelle says that Scarlet’s Bakery learned about Carmen through Randy Blevins, the Marketing and Media Consultant at the Kentucky Opera. Randy contacted them and, “thought it would be a great partnership to shed some light on domestic violence and women who have gone through abuse and how they can conquer that, but also how the opera sheds light on that,” Rachelle shares.
Knowing that Carmen brings awareness to similar issues as the bakery made it easy for Rachelle and her team to fully support the show and partner with the Kentucky Opera to both promote the opera and the work being done at Scarlet’s Bakery. Scarlet’s Bakery kicked off their collaboration with Carmen last month at 21C Museum Hotel at the “Unblaming Carmen” event, where a panel of speakers sparked conversations around Carmen’s story that helped guests understand intimate partner violence, intimidation, and domestic abuse. Scarlet’s Bakery had a booth with promotional materials and free samples, including samples of opera cake that they specially baked for the event.
Two weeks later, Scarlet’s Bakery hosted their main event — Carmen On-Sale Event — in partnership with the Kentucky Opera at the Shelby Park bakery location, where samples were served as well as wine tastings, live music selections from Carmen, a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour and an opera cake decorating tutorial with the members of the cast of Carmen.
On show days, which, again, are September 20-22, Scarlet’s Bakery will have a booth with more free samples and promotional materials at the Brown Theatre.
While the screenplay for Carmen was written in 1875, the overarching problems of abuse seen in the show unfortunately still exist. Scarlet’s Bakery hopes to bring awareness to the public on these difficult topics and what can be done to make a change, including supporting the bakery and promoting what is being done for the city. By collaborating with the Kentucky Opera and with the show Carmen, specifically in regard to the themes it entails, Scarlet’s Bakery is able to promote both their mission as a company and the social issues that affect our world today.
Rachelle expresses her gratitude for this collaboration, saying, “This is just a really cool opportunity to collaborate with community partners in the arts, and we feel like this is another way to collaborate with people who are doing really cool things in the community. They want to also shed light on the social issues that help our mission but also help individuals.”
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