Nearly every day someone takes me aside and tells me about the ethnic neighborhood bakery of their youth where they made that thing that you just can't get anymore and how there was always a line out the door whenever the bread was coming out of the oven. I have a few of those memories, too. They inspired me to create my own neighborhood bakery, a journey I have been on for many years now.
In the most difficult of times, when it seems like an impossible dream, I think about all those immigrants who came to a strange new land to start a new life and did whatever it took to get the business off the ground; there was a bakery on every block of every neighborhood in every city, feeding the community and creating steady jobs for generations. If they could manage it against all of those odds, then so can I. But where have they all gone? Actually, I'm not surprised that so many neighborhood bakeries have gone away. The thing is, times have changed. We don't live the same way anymore. We don't shop right in our own neighborhood. We don't even go downtown on a regular basis. We do our banking online, we shop online, we even renew our car tags online. Main Street does not have a regular predictable flow of people, and if it did, none of them would be able to find parking. So it is not hard to see why we settle for the convenience of the super market or the quick-serve stylized versions of bread bakeries found at strip malls and airports. As many of you know, I haven't always been a bread baker. Before this, I was a web designer, an interaction designer, and a user-experience designer. I focused on how people interact with digital interfaces and how to make that experience less stressful and confusing. The goal was always the same: to help the user find and get what they desire. And now I find myself facing the exact same challenge. I know you want fresh artisan bread. I know you are out there. I just need to figure out how to help you get the bread into your hands. So the plan is to take the idea of the neighborhood bakery into the present and make it work for our hectic, overly connected/disconnected lives. But how does a community support their local artisan bread baker in these modern time?
Bread SubscriptionsThe first part of the solution has already proven to be a great success, and to all of the early adopters who have jumped in already, I am eternally grateful. The idea is borrowed from small local farmers who participate in Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, where people pay at the start of the growing season for a weekly share of the harvest. The community shares in the risks and rewards along with the farmer. The concept is the same for a Community Supported Baker (CSB). Our seasons are scheduled around the university semesters with Spring, Summer and Fall sessions. You can sign up any time, as long as there are spaces available, and pay for how ever many weeks remain in the current session. The best part is that it has given me the chance to try out new breads each week, some of which are sure to make it to our regular menu! Here's a selection of what we have had so far:
- Multi-Grain Whole Wheat
- Roasted Potato Bread
- Semolina Bread with Toasted Sesame
- Pain Au Levain
- Sunflower Seed Bread with Rye Sourdough