Keene bakery has expanded twice since opening three years ago
KEENE - For more than two years, loaves from The Bread Shed have been popping up in local retailers and restaurants, but the bakery has its heart rooted in the Keene Farmer's Market and that one-on-one customers interaction, says owner Brittney Migneault.
"That's the best place to try new products because your customers give you honest feedback," she said.
She also spends time in local retailers sampling her products, and generally finds her all natural, no-preservatives-added breads are what people are looking for.
"People want to support local food ... and they want good food in their bodies," she said.
Since the 25-year-old Keene native opened the bakery nearly three years ago now, it has rapidly expanded - moving from its original 400-square-foot bakery on Washington Street to an 1,100-square-foot facility on Park Street to its most recent home: a 2,000-square-foot space on Krif Road. She also employs three full-time and three part-time workers now.
Migneault started in small local retailers and restaurants and has expanded into Hannaford and Market Basket and food co-ops in the Monadnock region and in Brattleboro, Vt.
She now bakes for about 20 retailers and about seven restaurants, and hopes to expand into the Bedford area next.
"Small local restaurant owners have been so supportive. It's because their customers want to see it on the plate," she said.
Migneault was inspired to become a baker by her uncle, Glen Loati, founder of La Panciata, Vermont's largest independent bread bakery.
"We used to go up to his house on the holidays and whatever bread he had extra from that bake, he would have in a box," she said. "And all of us cousins would dig through it, hoard it, take it home, freeze it. Because we didn't have bread like that here."
But after graduating from Keene High School, Migneault said, she was hesitant to start a business so she attended the University of Southern Maine, where she earned a degree in recreational therapy and then worked in the geriatric field.
"I'm not a huge risk taker," Migneault said.
She enjoyed the work, but knew it wasn't for her. So she apprenticed with her uncle for six months before opening The Bread Shed.
"I went to bake for him, and within the first week, I was like, 'I love this,'" she said.
Now that she has settled into her new bakery on Krif Road, Migneault plans to make the entrance more retail friendly.
"Right now we do have people coming from about 4 p.m. to about 9 p.m.," she said. "A lot of people want fresh bread on their way home from work so they'll stop in."
The Bread Shed bakes popular Italian breads such as Italian garlic, toscana and ciabatta as well as sliced honey oat, cinnamon raisin, jalapeno cheddar, cranberry pecan power bread and organic sunflower flax whole wheat.
Surprisingly the cranberry pecan loaf, which was meant to only be seasonal, has recently become the bakery's biggest seller.
It's not sweet or dense, which you would expect from a cranberry pecan loaf, she said.
"Ours is actually nice and fluffy and light, light but hardy at the same time," Migneault said.
She continues to rely on her uncle for advice and guidance as she creates her own recipes as well as her parents, who have helped her from everything with balancing the books to making deliveries as well as customers in the region who have been supportive, she said.
The Bread Shed is currently slowly rolling out a new mini loaf, and Migneault plans to start selling baguettes in the next few months once she has perfected her recipe.
So perhaps starting a business at a young age was a good idea.
"I have incredible enthusiasm and passion for what I do. I don't know if it's my age. But I always want to learn," Migneault said. "I'm excited for where we can go and what we can do."