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breadness blog

the best reality show not on the food network

(read these in order for maximum impact…)

APRIL 7, 2021 (episode 1)

Breadness Begins ~ from Concept to Concrete…

(to members of our Breadness Buzz list…)

The last time I sent you an update about Random Acts of Breadness was October, 2019. Shortly after that, I was out of the country for an extended project and when I returned, it was a different world.

Fortunately, Breadness was welcomed as a comfort during these times. Unfortunately, the organic bread flours I use were now unavailable from any source. This was a serious problem!

As luck would have it, I had purchased a stash of flour before I left and kept them frozen while I was gone. But that flour was only enough to last for one bake a week for a couple of months. And I had to keep our starter alive at all costs!

I checked my online sources several times a week and scoured the shelves at Whole Foods, all without success. Then, one day, I got an e-mail from Thrive Market that my main flour was back in stock. I jumped on that and ordered 10 bags! The next day I checked to see if it was still available… SOLD OUT!

This was not a good omen, so I went looking for a large chest freezer to store the flour. Turns out, all of the chest freezers everywhere were SOLD OUT! Even the floor models at the stores were gone. Wow… This was a challenging time for an upstart artisan breadmaker like me.

But just like the flour, eventually a chest freezer became available and I ordered one right away. It took several weeks to arrive, but now I had the means to store flour whenever I could find it.

The drama continued when one of my bread flours I sourced from England, was no longer available. This was going to be hard to replace. I hadn’t found this type of organic flour in the United States, which is why I bought it from England. So I began a new quest for this type of flour and as if by magic, I found an option. Unfortunately, the shipping from Canada was ten times the cost of the flour! Bummer…

But I didn’t give up and eventually found a small organic farm/mill in the Midwest that had just what I needed. I stocked up and was pleased that this flour was a suitable replacement for the British grain I used for the past few years.

With freezer stocked, making my bread and giving it away got back on track. But with restaurants closed or limited to take-out and/or outside dining, the prospect of getting my first brick and mortar bakery and bread gift service was not looking bright.

Shortly after Valentine’s Day, a good friend told me about a location that was available and that I should check it out. So I did! It was small (under 12 feet wide) but over 50 feet deep. It had been a bakery so it was already approved for producing baked goods. The rent was quite reasonable, given that food retail lease rates are usually in the stratosphere! But the best part: it’s located two miles from my house, in the center of Burbank! The map above will give you a general idea of the vicinity.

So… the next step in the Breadness journey has begun! It’s been quite a ride since I decided that this would be our first store. There really should be a camera crew shadowing my daily life! This would make an engaging reality show: “So, You Want to Open a Restaurant?”

Actually, that’s one of the areas I’ve had to change, the Longevity Café segment of Random Acts of Breadness. This location doesn’t have dining space. Besides, most restaurants in California are having a tough time in that regard, so I’m going to concentrate on the main segments of my concept: Artisan Sourdough Bakery and Legendary Bread Gifts.

Our production will be limited so I have an idea to set up a Breadness subscription plan for weekly deliveries in the local area. (Anybody know of an electric micro-van that would make a cool Breadmobile?) The above map roughly defines a two-mile radius, which covers Burbank and Toluca Lake. Outside of that area, customers can pick up Breadness at the store, or pay a bit more for a delivery service.

Ultimately, we’d like to be the neighborhood sourdough bakery and bread gift source for this community. And when the demand exceeds our ability to provide, we’ll open another store where it’s needed most.

There’s much more to share about this adventure, like the story of our new artisan steam-injection deck oven being built for us in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as I write. But that will be the feature of an upcoming communication.

For now, thanks for joining me on this journey…

Randall Michael Tobin


NEXT UP: The Breadness Blog, episode 2 ~ “So You Want to Open a __________?”