Bakery Ventures Bloom in Northeast Ohio

The air in Brimfield Bread Oven is heavy with a steamy, doughy aroma. Jud Smith scores large round loaves of country sourdough and prepares them for baking in the custom-built oven that is central to everything.

unnamed“We thought about building it ourselves, but it’s really an art form,” referring to the 20 ton wood-fired brick oven. “It’s a state-of-the-art design for the oldest way to bake bread,” Jud added, explaining it’s all about the steam – an essential element to producing high quality bread. Jud knows his way around an oven, with experience gleaned from local bakeries Great Lakes Baking Company (Hudson) and Blackbird Baking Company (Lakewood), as well as the King Arthur Flour Bakery in Vermont.

Jud and his wife, Genevieve, opened Brimfield Bread Oven, located just off I-76 near Kent State University’s main campus, in October. The couple sources as much as they can locally, including grains from nearby Breakneck Acres, that may have been milled just hours before.

unnamedLike many small business owners, Jud and Genevieve turned to Kickstarter to bankroll their dream, and raised just over $22,000. “We viewed Kickstarter as a means to raise money, but also as a way to spread the word about the bakery while it was still under construction. We were a Kickstarter staff pick. That, and all the social sharing, helped push us over our goal,” Genevieve said.

That crowd-funding effort, with support of friends and family who helped with the building renovation, enabled the couple to take their home cottage business to a retail storefront. Brimfield Bread Oven sells a dozen varieties of bread, and a tantalizing array of pastries, scones and pretzels. Their breads are sold in Mustard Seed Market and other local stores. Wood-fired pizzas are offered in the evenings Wednesday-Saturday.

An adjacent cheery café adds a much-needed social gathering place for the area. According to Genevieve, “bakeries are the heart of their communities and we wanted to create a warm, inviting place to find friendly faces and bring joy through good food.”

DSC_0382Jud Smith serves as an advisor to Bloom Artisan Bakery and Café, which opened at 200 Public Square in mid-March. Bloom Bakery is operated by Towards Employment, with a mission to provide training and jobs to individuals with barriers to employment, such as a criminal background, limited education, or a lack of support network. General manager Logan Fahey said that the idea of creating a social venture that would serve as a training ground and a source of income for the organization started many years ago. “After researching a number of options, it was determined that downtown Cleveland would be a viable location for a true artisan bakery.”

DSC_0374The street level bakery and café offers a bright and cozy lower level with a fireplace. Customers are greeted with a tempting case of artisan-baked goods that include picture-perfect meringues, strawberry tarts and breakfast pastries, artfully-arranged baskets of baguettes, and six varieties of bread.

Logan and his team sought the assistance of Maurice Chaplais, a renowned artisan bread consultant based in London. Logan describes Chaplais as “a true European chef, who spends every second of the day thinking about baking.” Students are held to a rigorous standard from this globe-trotting consultant who has opened bakeries all over the world – from Mexico to Malta and Bahrain to Bangladesh.

DSC_0422Chaplais will come back a few times each year to train new staff and to assist with product development. Saidah Farrell, head baker, will oversee the day-to-day of the bakery operations at the blossoming company.

Customer response has exceeded expectations and demand is high. “Some of our employees are working 60-70 hours a week right now – a huge change for someone who has not worked for a while,” says Logan, explaining that 60 percent of Bloom Bakery’s employees are based at the baking facility at 1932 Euclid Avenue in the Campus District, near CSU. A second bakery and café is planned at this location in the near future.

— Lisa Sands