In its sixth year, the annual Bread Bakers Guild of America’s Bakery Open House event on June 25 provides an opportunity for local bakers to give current and potential customers a look inside of their operations. For the owners of Field & Fire Bakery
at 435 Ionia Ave. SW, the event creates an avenue through which they can not only connect with their community, but their community can also form a deeper connection with them.
“You think of a business and you don’t necessarily think of people, but there are always people running them,” says Shelby Kibler, who opened Field & Fire Bakery alongside his wife Julie a little over three years ago at the Downtown Market. “If I meet the owner and know the faces of some of the people who work there and dedicate themselves to making whatever it is that’s so special, it matters more, and makes me more inclined to go spend money at theses places.”
The event comes as a preface to the opening of Field & Fire’s second location, slated to open sometime in September on the ground floor of 616 Lofts at Monroe, located at 820 Monroe Ave. NW.
Field & Fire Bakery will join current retail tenants City Built Brewery, Fido and Stitch, CKO Kickboxing, and Essence Restaurant Group, who have committed to building a new restaurant location next to the development.
“We have essentially a pretty empty space, and we have to build a sizable kitchen in there with everything that a bakery or restaurant needs, so it’s a little more expensive than one or the other, but I feel pretty confident we can get it done within 70 to 80 days once we start,” says Kibler, who is still waiting for approval on permits from the city to begin with the build-out at the new location.
The new location won’t be using a wood-fire oven like the one at the Downtown Market, he says, but will have a different focus on food, including pastries, breakfast foods, and brunch on the weekends.
Plus, the new location finally affords Kibler the opportunity to move forward with a part of his original business plan that fell by the wayside due to cost concerns — a large bread mixer and flour mill, which at the start will create a higher quality product by closing the gap of time between when the grain is first crushed and when it’s added to the mix.
“One you grind it, the smell — the aroma and the flavor — are really strong and noticeable at that time, and every day after that it kind of decreases a bit,” he says. “There’s a vitality you get when you mill something and put it right into the mixing bowl … I think that makes a difference for the healthfulness, fragrance and flavor that you’re going to get out of that grain.”
Secondly, having an in-house flour mill works toward an even greater goal the Kilbers have always had.
“I have this long-term goal in engaging a few farmers in the area to grow specific crops for us that we can contract and pre-pay for, so they’re not having to swallow a terrible year alone — we can share the cost that goes into a failed crop season,” he says. “It’s as local as you can get and more sustainable than what has been happening over the last 100 years in the country. It truly used to be like that all of the time…it’s not like that anymore, but there’s definitely a trend toward that and the mill is a crucial component to making that happen.”
For more information on Field & Fire Bakery, or to stay updated on the opening of the new space, visit www.fieldandfire.com
or find Field & Fire on Facebook
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Downtown Market