By Kristen Cook Arizona Daily Star, photo by Mike Christy
Hey, Barrio Bread fans, consider this your ultimate bread alert.
Artisan baker Don Guerra’s loaves — which are available at different pickup points for customers who’ve signed up for his emailed “bread alerts” — may be sold at a retail location as soon as November.
Guerra plans to move into the former Sugar Sweet Bakery, 18 S. Eastbourne Ave., and expects to open Nov. 1.
“I’m ready,” said Guerra, who started Barrio Bread in 2009.
Using a community-supported agriculture business model, Guerra wanted to take his time and grow Barrio Bread slowly. The married father of two focused on e-commerce and nontraditional distribution sites like Sam Hughes Elementary School and Metal Arts Village, even a local swim team’s facility, to sell crusty, hearth-baked loaves that include cranberry-walnut, jalapeño-cheddar, available-on-special-occasions chocolate-cherry and varieties made from Southern Arizona heritage grains.
Guerra, who has one part-time employee and an army of volunteers, maxes out at 900 loaves a week made at his home bakery, which operates under the state’s cottage industry food law. About 1,200 people subscribe to his online store, Barriobread.com. Typically, mere minutes after the bread selections are posted online at 7 a.m., his entire inventory is wiped out.
“The demand is there,” he said. “It’s one reason I just need to move forward. More people are calling me daily.”
Guerra, who was named one of the top 10 bakers in America by Dessert Professional magazine earlier this year, received a $100,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture local food promotion grant because of his work with local grains and farmers, including Marana’s BKW Farms. That grant — which was awarded last year — along with his savings and an ongoing GoFundMe campaign will go toward equipment and remodeling the bakery.
At the store, customers will be able to watch bread baking in a new state-of-the-art Italian deck oven made of glass and stainless steel that can handle 100 loaves at a time.
“It’ll be interactive,” Guerra said. “People will see me unloading bread and putting it on the racks. It’ll be visually striking. That’s what I wanted — to be transparent. People can see where their food is coming from and where it’s made.”
Guerra, who’s been working 80-plus hours a week, said the new facilities mean he can hire a baker and bump up production to 1,200 loaves. His new digs, though, have the capacity to make about 2,500 loaves a week. The expanded operation also means Barrio Bread will be served in several local restaurants including North Italia, Agustín Kitchen, Cup Cafe and Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, Guerra said.
Barrio Bread will be open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 9 a.m. until it sells out or 5 p.m., Guerra said. He’ll continue to have a few community pickup points and to sell bread to people who preorder and prepay through the website, too.
“I want to move forward and kind of spread my wings a little bit,” he said. “It’s what needs to be done.”
Contact Kristen Cook at [email protected] or 573-4194. On Twitter: @kcookski.