Nathan Chandler

Nathan Chandler, who made the finals on an episode of Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” that aired in December 2019, is opening a new pastry bakery inside of Flowers by LD on Main Street in Pocatello. He has benefited from federal Paycheck Protection Program funding.

POCATELLO — Nathan Chandler is close to fulfilling his dream of opening his own pastry bakery, which will be located inside of Flowers By LD in Historic Downtown Pocatello.

Thus far, he’s been working from the kitchen of his own home under a cottage food license, baking birthday and wedding cakes, cookies and other confections to order.

Given the small scale of his current operation and the fact that he employs no staff, it came as quite a surprise to Chandler to learn that he qualified for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, offered to help U.S. businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic.

He’s received $4,000 from the program to help him cover lost business and to launch his new shop, Confections Bakery, and the loan will be 100 percent forgiven once conditions of the program are met.

“I always assumed that payroll is plural, that you have to have a payroll to get (a PPP loan), not independently owned with one employee, being myself,” Chandler said.

Chandler learned about his loan eligibility from Dave Glaser, president and CEO of MoFi, which is a community development financial institution. Glaser’s Montana-based program specializes in making loans to small businesses that would have a tough time qualifying through traditional lenders.

“Nathan got a loan from us last fall to help expand his business,” Glaser said. “Because he’s a borrower of MoFi we ended up talking with him and asked him if he’d applied for a PPP loan.”

Glaser said the Paycheck Protection Program is intended to help businesses cover payroll costs and adding personal protective equipment necessitated by COVID-19. He explained that small business owners with no staffs still have to protect their own incomes.

PPP loans facilitated by MoFi are capped at $250,000. Glaser and his staff have already helped more than 200 businesses obtain PPP loans, and another 650 businesses have pending applications through MoFi.

“If they use (the loan) as the law requires, they get it forgiven,” Glaser said. “What we’re trying to do is make sure every business owner in Idaho is aware that the program exists and that it is a super good way to get through this (pandemic).”

Business owners may file applications at MoFi.org.

“It’s an easy application process,” Glaser said.

Chandler hopes to have his commercial bakery open by sometime in February. He’ll have a small display area inside of the retail space at Flowers by LD, 715 N. Main St. Chandler is also remodeling the kitchen in a former apartment above the flower shop to serve as a commercial kitchen.

He envisions both businesses and their customers will benefit from the synergy of having a bakery and flower shop in one location, given that people often buy a cake and flowers together for celebrations. Flowers by LD also offers home decor and decorating services.

Chandler said COVID-19 has affected his sales. Several weddings and birthday parties have been canceled. However, many customers are still finding creative ways to celebrate, such as having guests drive by and pick up a slice of cake and light refreshments. Others have bought small cakes from Chandler to drop off on a friend or family member’s front porch.

“Fortunately, there have been a lot of drive-by baby showers,” Chandler added.

Chandler’s baking received some national exposure on Dec. 16, 2019, when he competed in the Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge.” He made the final round of the program.

Chandler explained that now more than ever, baked goods are being treated as works of art. For example, he’s made some geology-themed cakes with icing “fault” lines. He’s also created hollowed cakes with rock randy geodes.

“I’m certainly grateful to be opening a bakery during this more artistic side of things,” Chandler said, adding that many customers simply ask him to bake them something “really cool.”