By Andrew Z. Galarneau
Buffalo has a long history of hippie bakeries, including Yeast-West Bakery, a cooperative bakery whose popular whole-grain bread and other products found welcome buyers from the Lexington Coop to Tops supermarkets before closing in 1996.
Last week, loaves of crusty hearthbaked sourdough bread started appearing on Lexington Coop shelves, along with displays at Snyder’s Farmers & Artisans and Guercio’s & Sons. BreadHive has brought the cooperative bakery back, buoyed by local consumers’ increasing willingness to seek out local, organic food.
“We’re offering something people are very interested in – ‘authentic’ bread that tastes really good,” said partner Allison Ewing. A grand opening, offering a peek inside their operation at 123 Baynes St., samples, and drinks, starts 5 p.m. April 12.
BreadHive’s products are available at those retail locations, or through buying a bread subscription. Those start at $20 a month, for a loaf a week, which customers pick up from the bakery. It’s about six blocks north of Five Points Bakery, which has been setting a new standard for handmade bread on the West Side since 2009, albeit entirely made from whole grain. BreadHive will use some white flour, but mostly whole-grain, and it's all GMO-free, unbleached, unbromated flour, said partner Victoria Kuper.
Ewing, from Atlanta, Emily Stewart, from Nashville, Tenn., and Kuper, from Rochester, sought to tap into the community’s cooperative bakery history before starting their business.
“Early on in our process we made a point to round up as many members of Yeast-West Bakery, and sort of pick their brains,” said Ewing. “What was successful? What would they do differently?”
After research, they decided to incorporate as a cooperative, offering shares to partners. So far, 29 people have invested $1,000 or more for a minor share in the bakery, which includes a year’s worth of bread, and a small return on their investment, among other things. (There is room for more investors, if you’re interested, Ewing said.)
The flagship product is sourdough bread, fermented with wild yeast overnight before it’s baked, in the pain de levain style. You can’t find anything like it in city limits, and East Aurora’s Elm Street Bakery is the closest outlet with that sort of bread, Ewing said.
But close behind are the New York style bagels, presently only available at Farmers & Artisans. The partners know that advertising New York style bagels means they will have to face the challenge of satisfying the pickiest bagel eaters in town. “Bring it on,” Stewart said.
Fermented then boiled, the bagels are labor intensive, but that’s what it takes. “I lived in New York for several years before coming here, and I definitely mourned the loss of a really great, traditional style New York bagel,” said Kuper. “When we were doing test batches we’d bring them around, and people would just bite into a chewy outer crust and soft, chewy interior, and they would breathe a sigh of relief and start telling me about their childhood in Brooklyn.”
Photo: BreadHive sourdough, by Anna Miller