Beach Lake Bread & Flour Power: local quality, local flavor
Text | Photographs: Nancy Dymond
It is February, the month when warmth is needed and Valentine’s Day sweetness abounds. What better time to get to know your local bakeries? We present two successful businesses that offer a variety of wholesome and delicious pastries and breads for your enjoyment.
Beach Lake Bread: Fashioned to your taste
How does a successful Manhattan fashion designer reinvent herself as the proprietor of a flourishing bakery? If you ask Jennifer Hason, the personable owner of Beach Lake Bread on 198 Delaware Street in Honesdale, PA (570/253-8055, www.beachlakebread.com), she will tell you it’s a complex recipe that begins with a tiny crumb of dissatisfaction and one hugely adventurous spirit. Combine five months of round-the-clock training with hundreds of loaves of artisan breads emerging warm from the oven. Finally, add the secret ingredients of encouragement and support from the local community and sit back to enjoy the enticing wares that emerge from the Beach Lake Bread’s bakeshop.
Already established as a fashion designer and a member of the faculty at Parsons School of Design in New York City, Jennifer felt a call to do something different. Swayed by enthusiastic reports of good friends Will Geisler and Grady Avant, who had already made the move from urban New York and now operate successful businesses in Narrowsburg, NY, she bought a house in Jeffersonville, NY and continued to teach. When Jennifer learned that Beach Lake Bread was for sale, she arranged with the owners to attend their 3:00 a.m. bake. Subsequent talks resulted in Jennifer’s commitment to buy the business.
Jennifer worked as an apprentice at Beach Lake Bread for months, immersing herself in the study of bread.
“I just totally focused my life on bread. I read about bread, ate bread, watched educational movies on bread, read cookbooks. I was constantly studying and I learned it well.”
In August 2007, Jennifer took control of the bakery that was started by Brian and Lisa Woods inside a 1,100-square-foot barn in Beach Lake, PA. She wanted to grow the business while maintaining the integrity of the product with the philosophy that Lisa and Brian had established: “It’s about the grain. It’s about the bread. It’s about the fermentation. It’s not about any fancy additives.”
Jennifer hired more employees and baked around the clock, accepting the new accounts that were calling every day. Jennifer takes pride in the hundred percent growth in sales since she took over the business, seventy percent of that in the first seven months. She says that the phenomenal growth occurred because she allowed her attitude to change. “I just stopped saying no,” she said. Sooner than it had planned, the bakery had to search for larger quarters.
The move to the 5,000-square-foot facility came just as the recession hit. Some of the business accounts pulled back, but new accounts came calling and the Borough of Honesdale, which has enjoyed an influx of new businesses, welcomed Beach Lake Bread. “The support we have gotten from the local people is unbelievable, and we are beyond thankful for that,” says Jennifer. She also gives credit to the Delaware Valley Job Corps, a federally funded training program for students that not only cuts costs for the business, but puts her back in the role of teacher, which she thoroughly enjoys.
In Beach Lake Bread’s bake shop, customers can find tempting artisan breads and delicious bread spreads as well as multiple varieties of pies, cookies, muffins and pastries, and 48 varieties of soup. Jennifer’s tasty bread spreads are all original. Flavors include roasted mushroom bruschetta, caramelized onion, kalamata olive tapenade and hummus. They also carry tuna and chicken salad. “We don’t use any additives or preservatives,” Jennifer says. “Preservatives weigh down a flavor.”
The facilities at Beach Lake Bread include three four-deck convection/steam ovens for heavy crusted breads. Pies, cookies, baguettes, loaves and pastries are baked in the double rotating rack oven. Jennifer hopes to increase the reach of Beach Lake Bread’s products beyond the dozens of regional grocery stores and restaurants they currently supply. Future plans include producing three varieties of their bread frozen in mass quantities to ship nationally.
Look for Beach Lake Bread products in local supermarkets and gourmet food stores, or visit the shop in Honesdale. Hours: Tuesday through Friday 9:00 am until 4:30 pm and Saturday 9:00 am until 4:00 pm.
Flour Power Bakery: The sweet business of tarts and tortes
Awash in a day-glo palette of peace and love, the decor of the Flour Power Bakery on DeBruce Road in Livingston Manor (917/747-6895, www.flourpowerbakery.net) reprises the happy mood of the mod 1960s. Take two steps inside and the sensual aromas of baking bread and pastries warming for customers waft and mingle in the sun-drenched shop and cafe. Proprietors J.R. Rowley and his wife Denise have created a unique space in which to practice their exquisite craft, which is part baking, part decorating, part socializing and part business.
A Parisian by birth, J.R. Rowley left home in 1977 and landed in Manhattan to seek his version of the American Dream. Because he was French, he felt it was natural to look for work related to cooking and baking. “If you are French, you cook!” he says, smiling broadly. Trying on different hats, J.R. cooked for Le Bec Fin, worked at two city bakeries and earned a living for a time as a maitre d’. His interest in food took a new twist when he met Denise, who was working as a prop stylist. Denise brought him along to a photo shoot of food and J.R. traded hats once again, embracing a career as a food stylist.
For years, the couple balanced commuting from their work in the city to the country home they have owned for 25 years. But after 9-11, things changed. “A lot of our clients moved out of the city and there was less work there,” recalls J.R. “We were not sure of the future. Then I woke up one day and said, ‘I think I’m going to do cookies!’” J.R.’s spontaneous idea of baking cookies and selling them at local farmers markets succeeded so well that eventually the pair was able to make a full-time move to the country. Leasing local kitchen facilities, they ramped up their output and were soon selling bread and pastries as well as cookies at five farmers markets. “Summer is our busiest season,” J.R. notes. “Farmers markets are a big draw in the ‘shop local’ movement. People like to buy from the local farmers, artisan bakers and cheese makers rather than shopping in the big box stores.”
Denise’s discovery of the building they first leased and now own, which formerly housed a restaurant and then a resort, was the natural next step for Flour Power. There is an air-conditioned pastry room where they ganache the cakes, cool the cookies and work with the creams that need a colder environment. At the head of a colorful staircase is a large room that can be rented for small parties and special events with catering provided by Flour Power. The bakery offers call-ahead orders on rolls, bread, pastries and special-occasion cakes. The busy kitchen has a schedule of “bakes” to accommodate each product’s particular needs. J.R. summarized the process. “Baking bread starts at 3:00 a.m., Danish and pastries at 5:00 a.m., then cookies. Tarte tatin is the last thing I do because you have to pay attention. I have six tarts going at the same time. You have to be right there because the caramel can burn in seconds.”
At the Flour Power cafe, where local artists’ works hang on display, customers can sample seasonal soups, savory bread pudding or quiche for lunch. For dessert there’s an infinite variety of luscious sounding treats: chocolate mousse cake, fresh berry tarts, fruit clafouti, pecan torte, even J.R.’s grandmother’s secret-recipe almond cakes. And don’t forget to take home several loaves of hearty breads or a tarte tatins, an upside-down fruit tart. Flour Power dessert products are, in the European tradition, less sweet. “You want the flavor of the fruit, the almonds,” J.R. says. “You don’t want to overpower with sugar and kill the good flavor that’s in there already.”
Look for Flour Power Bakery products at local farmers markets when the season commences and, in the meantime, get thee up to the Manor for a visit to the café. Winter hours: Saturday 9:00 am until 4:00 pm and Sunday 9:00 am until 2:00 pm.
Local bakeries abound in the Upper Delaware River Valley. In addition to our featured bakeries, here are others to indulge your sweet tooth and your desire for artisian bread products.
1235 Main Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
1023 Main Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Branko’s Patisserie du Jour
501 Main Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
The Alpine Bakery – Honesdale
The Alpine Wurst & Meat House
1106 Texas Palmyra Highway
Honesdale, PA 18431
The Emerson House at the Hotel Fauchère
403 Broad Street
River Edge Restaurant & Bakery
951 Route 17B
Mongaup Valley, NY 12762
De Filippis Bakery
Monticello, NY 12701
Floyd & Bobo’s Bakery & Snack Palace
98 North Main Street
Liberty, NY 12754