Trent Schuler, third-generation owner of the bakery, cited long work weeks for some of his employees and changes to the federal EBT (food stamp) program as contributing factors to his decision.
“I want people to understand that this wasn’t something that has just happened because of the labor market shortage, but rather because of a long-term, well-thought-out plan, maybe it was just more relevant now to go ahead and implement this, but I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long while,” Schuler said.
Schuler’s focus is on providing a better work environment for his employees. The bakery has three locations in Springfield and one in Urbana.
“We have tried to create a better work environment for our employees which has included updates to many policies & procedures,” Schuler wrote in a Facebook post, announcing the reduced days of operations. “My focus has been to ensure that the infrastructure we have built will allow Schuler’s Bakery to continue to flourish and provide excellent products and memories to future generations in Springfield and surrounding communities. Now our focus has fallen on ways to create a better work environment for our most valuable asset, our employees, without whom we would cease to exist.”
Schuler said the seven day work schedule was hard on employees and had done more harm than help to the bakery staff.
“The challenge with that is that when you have your best people show up all the time, they’re the ones that get penalized for that seven-day schedule. Like my retail managers, for example, when people don’t show up on their (the managers’) days off, guess who gets called into work? That’s not good for the business, and it’s not good for them, because there was a point with people not showing up, or we couldn’t find new hires, I had a manager who worked three or fours weeks without one day off,” Schuler said.
The owner said he could empathize with the toll being open every day was taking on his staff.
“I wouldn’t want to do that job, and I don’t expect them to either, and so one of the ways we determined that we could make that better for the employees is to go to a five-day-a-week schedule, where my key people are there every day,” Schuler said. “As we looked at the analysis, the logical thing was to close on Mondays, because Mondays are always known to be our slowest days for the bakery. On the best Monday, we probably break even,” Schuler chuckled.
Schuler said he decided to close on Sunday to give employees the opportunity to spend at least one weekend day with family.
“The other day I personally wanted on to close on, because of my personal beliefs, is Sunday. It’s historically been a good business day, like with people coming in after church, but I want my employees to have the opportunity to go to church if they choose, or to have a day with their families during the weekend. So now, we know that our key people won’t get called in on their selected days off, because we won’t even be open on those days anymore,” he said.
Schuler said he believes the shorter work week will improve morale and make the bakery “an even better place to work”.
Schuler said changes to the EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) program, the process in which SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly the food stamp program, has had an impact on the bakery and raised questions from customers.
He said the bakery can no longer accept EBT payments due to federal changes to the rules regulating the program.
“We’re sorry about any inconvenience, but this wasn’t our choice. I’d still be accepting it today if we hadn’t been kicked off the program. They changed the rules, and I don’t have any control over that. I gave them my feedback, but you know,” he said.
Schuler says he hopes to ensure that business will be around for years to come.
“I’ve spent several years really building the infrastructure of the business, to make sure it’s sustainable and will last well into the future. We’ve bought new equipment, we’ve set up new facilities and locations, the whole thing has been an attempt to make it not just better for the customers, but to also make it better for the employees,” Schuler said.