What Now?

March 26, 2021

Note: We have (finally) revised our Breadfurst.com Website. I hope you find it useful and attractive.

If during the pandemic you have continued to shop at Bread Furst and to step inside the bakery, you know how much we have changed.  Not only because we have been packaging all our foods in cellophane bags.

The biggest change is that we replaced our customers’ tables and chairs with shelving.

Although we sold from the beginning of the bakery in 2014 some foods made by others – olive oil, peanut butter, pasta, cheeses, bacon and the like – we have added to those a much richer selection as well as a lot of foods we never thought of putting out for sale – like candy from Malmo, the home of my Swedish family.

I spent little time at Bread Furst in 2020.   It had not been my habit before to stay away from the bakery; but as awareness of the pandemic and its dangers spread, I was banished by the staff who wanted me not to be around so much.   They had the support of others near and dear.

It’s just as well that I wasn’t there.  Scott Auslander, our general manager, has been a far more creative leader of the bakery than I would have been.  

I would have resisted packaging croissants and cookies in cellophane.  I would not have brought bananas into the bakery for sale.   I might have been too rigid to deliver to the trunks of customers’ cars parked in the rear of the bakery.

Scott did all those things and remade Bread Furst into a neighborhood food store.   

A store!  That’s not what Bread Furst had been.  That is not what I intended it to be.

We were meant to be a neighborhood bakery, a place to which people could come to buy a baguette for dinner, an hospitable joint that made wonderful croissants and good espresso drinks, a meeting place for friends.  

But the pandemic made much of that infeasible.  

Scott understood what the neighborhood wanted when hanging around wasn’t a good idea, and he did what the neighborhood wanted. 

Just a quick note to say that reading your website about how you are adapting to the current situation we are all living in made me so happy to support your business.  We visit BF at least once every weekend – we love everything you make!  And your humble concern for the community is admirable and impressive.  Thank you!

Sarah Jackson

One year later

So then what?   What is to become of Bread Furst?           

We were meant to be a neighborhood gathering place. I loved that. I loved that more than anything. I used to spend mornings tidying up the tables inside and outside, making myself available in case customers sitting with their friends over coffee and croissants might want to talk to me. Some customers had regularly scheduled little clubs that gathered at the big table in the middle of the bakery.  Diplomats from nearby embassies came in small groups to lunch together.  Parents brought their little children to sit in Shivani’s corner and draw on the chalkboard table while the parents sat and talked with each other.

We prepared a dozen dishes for lunch all displayed in platters and bowls.  Customers browsed among them.  You could stand in front of those dishes and say, “A little bit of that, a spoonful of that,” and then sit and eat.  I liked that a lot.  It was an outlet for imaginative cooking and an expression of my commitment to seasonality and to fruits and vegetables.  We could change foods frequently based on what we could get and that’s what we did.

Children used to come in the afternoons with a parent or nannie to select a cookie, just one.  Sometimes ice cream.  Neighbors, walking home from the Metro, stopped in for a loaf of bread and some foods.

I loved all that but it is nearly all gone.  Our indoor tables are now used to display jarred and bottled foods for sale.  Our indoor chairs are in storage.  We package our foods each morning so that customers do not have to linger inside the bakery or fear that naked fingers might have touched what they want to buy.  We discourage waiting and prohibit lines.   At the busiest times, on weekends for example,  we regulate traffic by posting staff at the front and rear doors to admit just a few people at one time.

I assumed that this was the way it was going to be for a long time and so we had shelving built and Scott brought into the bakery large numbers of foods some of which, like cheeses, we had previously stocked in more modest varieties, and canned goods and greater choices of peanut butter and olive oil and baking supplies.  We became more neighborhood food store than bakery.

Our customers approved and expressed abundant approval in their purchases.  Business increased greatly, not in customer volumes but in what you buy during your visits to the bakery.

But soon, we may be able to choose what we are to be.  Already croissants and canales have been taken out of the cellophane bags in which they have for a year languished, losing their crispness.   Cookies and brownies too will be taken out of cellophane bags.  Once again baked goods will be displayed on platters.  Perhaps savory foods as well.  And what else?   I think we need your views about such matters.

Should we continue to be a neighborhood food store or should we return to what we were before, a bakery and neighborhood gathering place?

I confess to you that I have feelings about this.  I want to be what we were before.  But you may not agree.  It may be a long time before you feel comfortable ordering the messy egg on weekend mornings, waiting in a crowded bakery for it to be made to your order, and then hoping you will find an empty table at which you can settle for a leisurely visit with a friend.  

Perhaps I more than you miss the hubbub of families who made a practice of coming every Saturday morning, a treat for both children and parents.   I share your reluctance to be in crowded places.

We want to know what you want.  I am pretty certain that you don’t want to sit arm-to-arm with strangers at a big table right now, but do you think you will want to return to that convivial place?  The table is there still, now covered with foods for sale.  Do you hope that we will bring back the chairs when it is safe for you to use them again?  Do you care whether we do that? 

We used to celebrate weekends with our messy egg and polenta and other dishes.  Those were intended to be eaten hot here although some customers carried them away.  They were always made to order.  Is that something we should resume when doing so is possible?

Do you want a revival of our “antipasti at lunch?”  We have tried to replace it with a larger variety of packaged take-away foods than we used to offer.  But we don’t have hot soup as we used to.  We don’t spread out platters of salad-like dishes.  Do you hope those will return?  Should we look forward to our being once again a luncheon place?

We have replaced what used to be seating on the north side of the bakery with shelving and lots of foods in jars and bottles, foods we buy and then sell to you.  I do not know how important seating is going to be to you in the future.  Do you have an opinion about that?

We are asking for advice.  Tell us if you will whether you think that sometime later in the year or early next year you will feel it is not be dangerous for you to spend time in the bakery.  Will you want to use the bakery as you did before?  Or do you think you will continue to be shy about sitting here?  Are you going to be reluctant to sit near strangers?

And what elements of our new food store would you like us to retain?  Would you like us to make arrangements to sell local fruits and vegetables as they become seasonally available to us?  Should that become part of our repertoire?   Do you like having so many packaged foods, so many oils and vinegars?

I don’t know when it will be safe to restore the bakery to what it was before but it is not too early to ask whether when it is time we should do that?

Please tell us here or at info@breadfurst.com.

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