Company bakes up loyal fan base in Ashland“I think the local community has been really supportive of our product and making changes in their lives to buy it,” said Kealy White, Ashland Baking Co.’s general manager. “It’s a change to buy your bread here instead of at County Market.”
By: Will Ashenmacher, For the News Tribune
ASHLAND — The first bread baker arrives at Ashland Baking Co. at 4 a.m. each day.
A second comes at 5 a.m., a pastry chef arrives at 6 a.m. and a cake artisan clocks in at 8 a.m. But it’s the regular stream of customers arriving throughout the day that really keep this artisanal bakery running — a feat made more difficult by Ashland’s population of just about 8,000.
“I think the local community has been really supportive of our product and making changes in their lives to buy it,” said Kealy White, Ashland Baking Co.’s general manager. “It’s a change to buy your bread here instead of at County Market.”
“There’s a lot of businesses that have been able to benefit from that,” White continued. “There are a few niche businesses that our community really values.”
Honore Kaszuba turned a former pharmacy at 212 Chapple Ave. into the warm and floury Ashland Baking Co. in September 2001. She had opened the Black Cat Coffeehouse across the street in 1995 and was looking for a larger kitchen so she could pursue catering opportunities.
Calling on a college semester spent in Aix-en-Provence, France, she decided the bakery would take a more European approach and make bread and pastries that did not have preservatives and so had to be purchased daily. The Ashland Baking Co.’s first motto was “The Daily Bread” to underscore the idea that its product was fresher and so had a shorter shelf life.
Adopting this business method was a step, however, that she took with a little trepidation.
“A lot of it, for us, was the unknown as to whether this area would be open to a style of baking that’s a little different,” Kaszuba said. A few “doughnut, white-bread bakeries” in the area had folded because they couldn’t compete with grocery stores.
Because of that, it was hard to find financing.
“It was very difficult for us to even get a foothold. It was definitely a little bit of a risk, not knowing whether Ashland would embrace this.”
So far, so good: Ashland Baking Co. is now selling 1,100 loaves of bread and 500 pastries a week and supplies restaurants and bakeries in Hayward, Bayfield and Cable. Locally, the Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth and the Red Mug Coffeehouse in Superior both carry Ashland Baking Co. bread.
Kaszuba said the Ashland Baking Co. does face a large disparity between summer, with its influx of tourists to Wisconsin’s South Shore, and winter, when customers are fewer.
“We definitely have a really strong local following. They’re our bread and butter. They keep us going, and we are really thankful for that. In summer, we have our strong local following and we have on top of that a lot of tourists,” she said. “In winter, we do fine — we just hope we don’t have any major equipment repairs, like a $5,000 bill to repair an oven or something.”
White said things pick up around Thanksgiving, drop off in January — “When people are really fresh into their New Year’s Resolutions” — and spike again around Valentine’s Day before entering the slowest period in March and April. Ashland Baking Co.’s more out-of-the-ordinary offerings, like Kalamata Olive Sourdough or walnut cake with pumpkin mousseline and brown sugar Swiss meringue, keep its clientele interested.
“We offer a lot of artisan breads I’d never heard of before I started working here,” said deli chef Magenta Burton.