Lara Bruhn

Lara Bruhn is the owner of Prantl's Bakery in Pittsburgh and contributes to Pittsburgh Quarterly Magazine with Op-Ed articles of varying subject matters.

The Path to Growth

My 13-year-old son is growing taller by the day. I asked him jokingly when he would stop and he replied “If I had my way, never.” He said it felt good to be achieving “new heights” even if he knew it would come to an end some day. The same seems to be true of …

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Time for a change

I can see the eye roll coming. How did I become the old shrew? Was it the cumulative effect of all those times I naively worried that an absent employee had been in a car wreck only to have them show up 30 minutes late with a mochachino in hand complaining about the line at …

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Getting away from it all

“You need a vacation.” It’s bad enough when we hear it from our family members, worse when our employees feel compelled to tell us, and downright embarrassing when a regular client or customer points it out. Despite our best efforts, the physical and mental wear and tear of business ownership can take an obvious toll. …

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A Call from Campus

Diligent MBA students mine their schools’ alumni databases for possible internships and jobs. The value of networking and information gathering is a given. I’m sure they frequently contact alumni from investment banks, management consultancies and Fortune 500 companies, but as the owner of a retail bakery in Pittsburgh, I am blissfully unencumbered by such requests. …

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The Two Sides of a Sale

I can’t decide which is more awkward, selling to someone or being sold to. I’ve been on both sides, and when the sale is right, there’s nothing better. An opportunity is identified, a plan is hatched, and both parties benefit. But as a small business owner, I spend a lot of time trying to extricate …

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Pass the adrenaline, please

You might be tempted to call 911. It’s 2 a.m. and a 40-something woman sitting in her Prius in a public parking lot is pounding her fists on the steering wheel and bellowing to an invisible companion. I confess to being that woman, co-owner of a bakery on one of the biggest days of the …

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The sweet trouble of success

The hazards of good fortune in business are many: the physical toll of the added work, the mental toll of rethinking everything you’ve come to know, the psychic toll of raised expectations. They combine for a perfect storm that one feels guilty begrudging because the upsides of fame and fortune, while perhaps fleeting, seem so …

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The Equilibrium Illusion

Balance, n., a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. What an elusive state. Just the constant weighing and evaluating required to attempt balance is exhausting. My mind races: I should be working on improving the bakery’s website… no, I should be at my kids’ soccer game… wait, I really …

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Angry customers

I am yelling at you because it is so rare that I can ever speak to anyone in charge!” the customer bellowed before ultimately chuckling. So, I’m the whipping boy for every bad customer service experience that corporate America has ever delivered? That’s a heavy burden, and I’m not ideally suited to shoulder it. I …

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The D.I.Y. dilemma

I am intrigued by my customers and their behavior. I watch as they choose between the red velvet and the tiramisu, their faces betraying them as they try to resist temptation. Their eyes scan the cases, and I wonder how much the display itself influences their decisions. One of my favorite things about being a …

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Credit card fraud

“Lara, I’m at the checkout at Restaurant Depot and my credit card has been declined,” says our delivery driver on the other end of the phone. Ugh. I know what this means. It’s not that the bakery is short on funds. It’s that one of our credit cards has been compromised. Again. Of the four …

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Choosing our city

We all have a unique personal introduction, the thing a friend always says to get the ball rolling. It’s the arms around the shoulders at the cocktail party followed by “Have you met Andy? He’s from Argentina.” Mine is “This is Lara. She’s one of the owners of Prantl’s Bakery.” This elicits a short gasp …

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