Denver artisan bakeries start “Bread Club” to keep business rolling

A phenomenon early in the pandemic was captured on social media: people stuck at home were baking — and proudly displaying — photos of their bread.

“We’ve baked bread for thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest staple foods we have,” baker Zach Martinucci said.

So, there’s bread as sustenance. And Martinucci said that going through the steps of making bread might have helped restore a sense of rhythm to days that grew monotonous for people at home with few diversions.

Martinucci talks about cooking during the pandemic with two hats on: He owns the bakery Rebel Bread and studied culinary anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

His new venture, Bread Club, is intended to help local bakers keep their kitchens humming as consumers and businesses continue to adjust to a shifting marketplace.

Five Denver bakeries are members of the club, a market for local artisan bakery orders. The bakeries are Rebel Bread, Moon Raccoon Baking Co., Sugar Bakeshop,  Pandemic Donuts and  Mile High Pie Co.

Martinucci said the bakeries have a big presence at farmers markets, so their summers are busy. Sugar Bakeshop has a storefront. Rebel Bread has wholesale customers and opens a retail counter on weekend mornings at its kitchen and offices on South Broadway. The other bakeries sell online, to some wholesale customers and at pop-up events.

“I’m hoping Bread Club in the offseason provides a reliable way for people to sample and support these different bakeries that might not have regular hours,” Martinucci said.

Bread Club deliveries go out from Rebel Bread and are available in Denver and some neighboring areas. Customers can also pick up their orders at Rebel Bread.

Martinucci said people like being able to customize their orders and sample pastries, breads and pies from the various bakeries.

“The menu rotates and there’s always something new to try,” Martinucci said.

Sugar Bakeshop has been open for about a decade. Martinucci started Rebel Bread three years ago after working in a French bakery and attending the San Francisco Baking Institute.

The other three Bread Club members are pandemic-era startups.

Tanner Burgard quit his real estate job early in the summer of 2020 to return to his true passion of cooking. He “bounced around,” working for friends in the restaurant industry while trying to learn as much as he could. In February, Burgard started Mile High Pie Co. He settled on pies because of his love of savory dishes, like the chicken pot pie his wife makes. He also wanted to make something that could easily be delivered. “Without a storefront or anything, I knew it had to be deliverable.”

Burgard, who has three regular part-time employees, started with the savory and expanded to the sweet. His latest selection included Southern sausage gravy and bacon pie and walnut, whiskey and maple pie. Burgard’s latest favorite is a beef bourguignon pie. It’s made with red-wine braised beef, mushrooms, carrots, onions, potatoes and red-wine beef gravy.

“It’s quite the carnivorous presentation,” Burgard said. “It’s pretty cool to sit down on a table of people who are into that.”

Bread Club has been an answer to “the big classic question” that small companies like his have when the farmers markets close, Burgard said. “How do you stay alive?”

Martinucci’s idea has been a good way to keep people aware of what the bakeries are doing, Burgard added.

“(Zach’s) energy and enthusiasm for putting together a vehicle to get people exposed to these pastries and baked goods and pies has really just been fantastic for everyone,” Burgard said.

Mile High Pie officially launched on Bread Club in November and the response has been good, Burgard said. Thanksgiving week was “super busy,” with more than 100 orders coming in, he said.

Zoe Deutsch, co-owner of Moon Raccoon Baking, said in a statement that teaming up with the other bakeries and being able to drop off orders at a single location allows the three-member staff to focus on what they love doing.

“I don’t want to be a delivery driver. That’s not my passion,” Deutsch said.

Martinucci said he’s not aware of similar marketplaces and subscription services that involve different bakeries.

“I’m hoping people see this as a way that they can really easily get to sample all these different bakeries as well as know they’re supporting multiple small businesses in one place,” Martinucci said.

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