By Brett DeNeve:
Armed with an eclectic variety of fresh bread, bagels, and granola samples, Breadhive Worker Cooperative Bakery formally opened their doors at 5 p.m. this past Saturday; they drew enthusiasts of what Emily Stewart referred to as “old style” baking from both near and far. The evening’s program featured tours of the facility as well as some heart-felt commentary from main partners Stewart, Allison Ewing, and Tori Kuper.
Stewart walked towards the door as she gave one last look around the bakery before leading the first tour. She had came from the back room and passed Ewing slicing up some bagel samples on her right. They made eye contact only for a second. Stewart then looked to her left and saw Kuper behind the sales counter. No words were needed; they knew they were ready to get down to business.
Breadhive, with roots from Fancy & Delicious Bakery, was founded on quality bread baking and the cooperative ethics system of beliefs. They have gathered some much-needed momentum in the community since coming onto the scene in the fall. The hive has notched features in: The Buffalo News, Step Out Buffalo, Buffalo Eats, interviews with WKBW and WBFO and more. They also landed the cover for Buffalo Spree’s April “New Do-Gooders” issue.
A crowd of roughly twenty encapsulated the front entrance of 123 Baynes Street; a handful of skateboarders accented the commotion with kick flips and high fives in the parking lot across the street. Stewart pushed open the door with a smile and began with a brief history of Breadhive: Kuper hailed from Rochester, Ewing is from Atlanta, and Stewart herself came from Nashville, Tenn. She touched on the former F & D venture and told an abridged version of their association with the Nickel City Housing Coop location “Ol’ Wondermoth.”
Stewart wrapped up the flashbacks and ushered the crowd inside; on the immediate right was Kuper. She was working the check out because people had already been squeezing through the tour to score some loafs. Ceilinged by a foil-like material reminiscent of “Doc” Brown’s freshly electrocuted DeLorean, the 900 square foot facility definitely had a feel all its own. The ceiling was open before they had moved in and, to remain in compliance with code, they needed a flush surface that could easily be cleaned.
As the crowd finished to file in Stewart took her post. She was kitty-cornered between their twenty-gallon boiler and massive triple-decker oven named “Bubbles” and “Gretchen” respectively. Here she explained a few of the steps they take in the overall process as well as some of the reasoning behind why they believe these techniques are a positive thing.
“First is mixing and shaping,” she said. The girls had spent Friday from about noon until 11 p.m. that night doing this in conjunction with other general prep work. “This is Bubbles. We boil on average 15 to 25 bagels at a time,” Stewart said. “After boiling we drain, dip, and bake,” she continued. By dip, she is referring to the seeds or toppings on the baked goods.
The goods come out of Gretchen nice and hot, but the process is scientifically far from over in the eyes of the cooks. A walk-in cooler room, located towards the back of the facility, is kept just under 40 degrees via an air conditioning system rigged to believe the room is actually hotter than it is, forcing the machine to work overtime.
“In this environment the gluten naturally breaks down into much simpler forms. This way the bread is much easier on the digestive system. This also allows for the natural flavors to fully develop, leaving less of a reason to want to add flavors such as vinegar or sweeteners,” she said. Because of this process the texture comes out slightly moist while the shelf life also gets maximized. “Our Danish seedless rye will go two weeks on a shelf if you keep it wrapped up,” she concluded.
Although Stewart was concise with her information on the tours, many of the faces in the crowds had been involved in the baking scene before. Idie Ishii is a proud mother of two boys who has resided in the neighborhood for years. She was in full support Saturday, sporting a navy blue Breadhive T-shirt, as she recalled her past with what she thinks is quality bread. “I was part of a bread share back over by “Push” on Grant Street a few years ago. We would drive and by the time we got back to the house I swear we had all eaten at least half of what we had bought,” Ishii said. She purchased some bagels for her boys but knew in her heart or her stomach that the bag would not remain closed until she arrived back home. She is usually partial to the sourdough but could not help herself once she finally got into the bakery. “The rye was calling me today,” Ishii said with a smile.
As 6:30 p.m. neared, Stewart lead the trio in what seemed like a page right out of an elementary school teacher’s handbook for getting their attention during a time of disorder. “If you can hear me, clap your hands once. If you can hear me, clap your hands twice,” she chanted. Kuper and Ewing followed Stewart by clapping after each crowd-beckoning command. “If you can hear me, clap your hands four times,” she said. “Okay, I think I got all of you,” she continued.
Stewart formally thanked the patrons that were there buying bread as well s the investors that made it all possible. She then touched on the ideas of how a coop works in support of the other coops in the area. This was followed by shoushout outs to Lexington Coop for featuring their products recently and more.
“Customers are always coming up and asking about it,” said Dan Demma, kitchen supervisor at Lexington. “We just can’t keep it on the shelves,” he said.
Cody Filari, associated with the Nickel City Housing Coop as well, was one of a few sets of helping hands at the hive’s grand opening. In light of Kuper, Ewing, and Stewart’s past attempts at baking ventures, Filari is not the least bit surprised at their current rise to attention.
“They are passionate about it. They’ve always been passionate about it. I remember when they were working out of an Earth oven and . . . this does not strike me as surprising in the least and I’m really excited for them,” Filari said in between slicing up some sourdough.
Megan Luongo and Alexandria Meranto both frequented the sample table with juxtaposing senses of informality and utter-seriousness. Luongo wore a floral dress and is a rye bread kind of women. Meranto was sporting a pair of black flats with a sunflower pedal painted on the front that her Mother had bought her for Easter last year. She is not expecting another pair.
“The rye was delicious,” Luongo said. “The bagels were wonderful. Coops are great for the local economy and I’m glad to see this happening here,” Meranto added.
Dan and Carol Tirome also decided to come and check out the festivities. They had previously lived in the town of Amherst for 37 years until they moved onto lexington this past January.
“This is why we moved here,” Dan said. “Things like this,” he added.
Looking forward, Breadhive has farmer’s market season coming up and they will definitely be trying to get their products out and available. They are also thinking of looking into restaurant features and even possibly a drive-up window of sorts to be installed on their Baynes Street complex as it is not a sit-and-eat facility.
Their bread share program is called “The Crust Belt” and has bread, bagel, granola, and mixed good options ranging from $20-24 a month with certain amounts allotted for each.
For more information on all things Breadhive, just click here and go straight to their site.