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Five Points Bakery expanding, looking for like-minded business

Five Points Bakery, the whole-grain bakery, local foods emporium and West Side toast specialist, has bought real estate and is expanding their Rhode Island Street campus.

Led by owners Kevin and Melissa Gardner, Five Points has bought the property across the street from the bakery, which opened at 426 Rhode Island St. in early 2009. It's named after the neighborhood's main intersection, where their building was once a bodega.

Though not exactly convenient to suburban shoppers, the Gardners live in a city of bread lovers. They've have won customers over with their loaves, and their do-it-yourself aesthetic, and sold a lot of bread, cinnamon rolls and more. Not to mention toast.

"Bring your dreams to Five Points!" the bakery announced today on its Facebook page.

"There is a adjoining space to Five Points Bakery's new development that is for rent. It has 1200 sq ft, shares a side with the new courtyards as well as 40' of street frontage. Parking available. Ideally looking for someone starting a small neighborhood grocery coop, or natural health and wellness business. Will kick in $20,000 in free rent to offset costs of build-out." 

Behold the power of bread.

(Interested parties may contact Five Points at [email protected])

From The Buffalo News, May 19, 2010:

Nothing but natural: Buffalo couple's bakery uses locally grown, organic and fair trade raw materials

By Andrew Z. Galarneau   

    The sign beside the tray of fudgy brownies on the Five Points Bakery counter said "Brownie." 
    But nothing at Kevin and Melissa Gardner's bakery, at 426 Rhode Island St., is that simple. 
    The brownie's chocolate is organic, a "fair trade" product that promises the Dominican farmers who grew the original cacao beans were fairly compensated. The eggs are from free-range hens, kept by one of the local farmers the Gardners have found to supply their obsession for local ingredients. 
    Most notably, the flour is not just flour. Every scoop of flour the Gardners use they grind themselves. From organically grown wheat they hauled by the truckload from local farms and cleaned, by themselves. 
    That's a lot of thoughtful work behind that $1.50 brownie. As shoppers' hunger for local food and organic ingredients continues to sharpen, many bakeries would alert customers to the premium ingredients. 
    But Five Points isn't like most bakeries. "I love that sign," Kevin Gardner said. "It doesn't say it's fair trade organic chocolate. It doesn't say free-range eggs." At Five Points, you don't have to hunt for the whole grain breads, he said. "You don't have to ask if this is local, or look for the natural food section," he said. "We are the section." 
    For their fans, the Gardners' hands-on approach is part of what makes Five Points bread feel more wholesome. For the bakers themselves, the labor is how they keep their prices reasonable while insisting on using premium ingredients like the $4-a-pound local butter. 
    "That's how we make our margin with all these great ingredients," Kevin Gardner said. "It's the number of middlemen we cut out." 
    Three years ago, the Gardners were baking for Dolci on Elmwood Avenue, turning out biscotti, white bread and other bakery standards while caring for their four daughters. They wanted to see if a bakery making the kind of bread they wanted to eat -- whole grain, locally sourced -- could provide them with a livelihood. 
    Today, a year and a month after the Gardners opened in the former bodega, the bakery draws a regular clientele of whole grain lovers to its West Side location. More than 70 have signed up for Five Points' bread subscriptions, paying $200 for a year's worth of weekly handmade loaves. 
    "At a bakery, you throw away an incredible amount of bread," said Melissa Gardner. "There's no way to determine how many people will walk through the door and buy the bread." Now, the Gardners have standing orders for 130 loaves a week, enough to cover most of their bills. 
    At a bakery that depends on two or three wholesale customers, the business can be threatened by one person changing their mind or getting offered a cheaper alternative, Kevin Gardner said. 
    "We have 70 wholesale customers," which is a more sustainable alternative, he said. Every year, they're going to lose bread subscribers, and every year they're going to gain them. If you appreciate what the Gardeners are doing, you're not going to find a cut-rate replacement elsewhere. 
    On Thursdays, subscribers line up for their bread. Treats like cookies, apple cake and squares of focaccia enriched with tomato sauce and ricotta crowd the counter. 
    Customers can also grab other local providers' work from the coolers: items like naturally raised beef and pork, homemade lard from heirloom pigs, cups of ice cream made with local milk and cream and more free-range eggs. There are bags of the same local organic beans the Gardners use in their bean-and-cheese burritos, jars of local oats they rolled themselves, and house-made brown sugar. 
    "In our business plan, we planned for $20 to $40 a day retail, because we just didn't imagine anybody would come here," Kevin Gardner said. "They would only come here if we got them to pay ahead of time." 
    So far, it's working. Five Points Bakery's collection of local ingredients has been selling well, and the bakery is not losing money, the Gardners say. It's not making them wealthy, either. "One of my personal goals is to get this place to a point where we won't qualify for food stamps any more," Kevin said. "That's like a dream." 
    When they looked up the official poverty line figure for a family of six, about $30,000, "it seemed like a lot," said Melissa. "A ridiculous amount of money. What would you do with all that money?" 
    When they met down the street at the Essex Street Pub and fell in love, the Gardners were punk kids. 
    Melissa was an Army brat, most recently from Atlanta, who shouted out the words for Assinine, a punk band. Kevin grew up in Riverside before hitting the streets as a "gutter punk," or as he describes it, "living in drainage ditches, going to shows and sleeping in parks." 
    For money, he juggled flaming batons, working the crowd that gathered for spare change. "Didn't take a lot" to survive then, Kevin said. "You've got no rent. Just getting money for food and for beer." 
    From that perspective, the Gardners have been pretty normal since they got married in 1999. They own a small house, can walk to work, and can shape their work life around their family, they said. 
    No cell phone. No television. No matter, they said. What they do have is the chance to shape their life to their own standards. 
    When they decided they wanted oats, they searched for the right grower, then got a $250 hand-cranked oat roller and made it happen. When they wanted to sell blueberry muffins, they packed up the kids and went blueberry picking, hauling the fresh fruit home to freeze themselves. 
    Those blueberry muffins were popular at the Elmwood Village Farmers Market on Bidwell Parkway. "We were selling too many," Kevin said, so they had to buy some locally frozen fruit to supplement their own. 
    At Five Points, the customer is not always right. The Gardners refuse customer requests to add items like Italian bread, from white flour, even though they could sell plenty of it. 
    "People want us to have food, like a cafe with salads and soups," said Melissa. "We say no, and the more we say no, the more people respect us." 
    "Not everybody," Kevin interjected. 
    "Not everybody," Melissa said. "But that's OK. If you try to please everybody, there's that core group of people who love what you do, and you're going to [tick] them off because you're trying to make a buck. It's not sustainable." 
    Instead of looking to expand, the Gardners say, they will focus inward. 
    "We always say it's not necessarily the best thing to get bigger, but to keep refining what you have, and it'll shine like a jewel box," said Melissa. "It'll be small, but you can keep tweaking it, and polish it, and make it better and better and better, until you have this absolute gem." 
[email protected]

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