Friday, April 11, 2008

The Story of Gerry Newman’s baking company

I want to highlight some of the local businesses who have been wonderfully supportive of Betty. So here is the first in the series

The other day my son was reading a book of his latest interest, Chemistry, which stated: “Chemistry is the science of change.”

Gerry Newman, the baker extraordinaire of Albemarle Baking Company can aptly be described as a chemist: changing flour, water, yeast and salt into a virtual staple in the diets of Charlottesville’s residents. You cannot go anywhere without running into Gerry’s tasty baked creations: whether it be a sweet pastry from Java Java, or morning pastry from Mudhouse, your lunch sandwich at Feast! or your pre-dinner bread and butter at C&O. His baked goods are ubiquitous in this town. For good reason.

After Gerry enthusiastically agreed to sponsor our bread event, I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to talk about how he made his dream of owning a bakery come true.

I came away with a specks of flour on my clothes, like pixie dust, in awe of how he magically transforms five simple ingredients into some of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever seen. I nod when he tries to explain long fermentation, the importance of retaining hints of rye, for example, and the micro-adjustments he must make for humidity and dryness depending on the season. He is speaking his language: the language of bread. Before long I’m asking to come in for the midnight to eight A.M. shift, which I imagine can be downright magical.

The idea of owning his own store began brewing in his head long before he arrived in Charlottesville. He was in Seal Beach, California at a Swiss bakery working as an apprentice baker. Then he and his wife decided to journey to the East. This is before kids. After working at the Homestead, he went to work at the Boars Head Inn. At one point he approached them about doing more baking, but they dismissed his idea. I could tell he was more than a little put off. At one point he said to his wife, “I’m passionate about this!” This vision for a new kind of bakery in Charlottesville. His wife slept on it and the next day told him they had to do this. She was pregnant with their second child. “If we don’t try, we’ll never forgive ourselves and we don’t want to be 50 years old saying, What if?”

Twelve years later, they have a wonderfully successful business at the Main Street Market. They pump out between 300 and 700 baguettes a day, using between 3000 and 3500 pounds of flour a week!

When I asked him what the business of making bread has brought to him above all, he said, “More than I can put into words. It’s made me more disciplined, more nurturing, much more patient.” From behind his spectacles and curly hair, his smile conveys the passion and the pleasure of taking something as simple as flour, salt, water, yeast and making something beautiful, delicious, and nourishing.

Thank you, Gerry, for sharing your story with me.

Teri and BWB

1 comment:

Harry Landers said...

I used to be satisfied with almost any bread. Not anymore. Since Albemarle Bakery opened for business, no other bread is good enough. This bakery belongs in the "Charlottesville's Greatest Hits" collection. A great asset to the community.