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Bread and Honey rises up

March 31, 2014

by Justin Porecca

The Pine Hills has a new bakery that should offer some food variety in the community. Bread and Honey Inc, which is an artisan bagels and bread café, is housed at 809 Madison Ave. Owner and operator Naomi Davies unveiled  her new business two weeks ago on a Saturday. Davies’s priority with her bakery is to serve the community.

The bakers of Bread and Honey Inc. Pictured from left to right; Susan Rice, Joanna Johnson, Buddy Beaudoin, and owner Naomi Davies. (Missing from photo Anny Clapp)

The bakers of Bread and Honey Inc. Pictured from left to right; Susan Rice, Joanna Johnson, Buddy Beaudoin, and owner Naomi Davies. (Missing from photo Anny Clapp)

“This really started with WAMC radio, they advertised Honest Weight, and I decided to go there, and the rest is history,” said Davies. She was inspired by Honest Weight Co Op., a natural good purveyor, which recently moved from right near WAMC to Watervliet Avenue. She was working as a consultant on the construction of the store’s new building. Davies learned a lot and acquired a great deal of information about retail and food while consulting. “I gave up realty to make real bagels and make bread from scratch,” she said. “This is the fourth career change for me; I want it to be a really great collaborative experience.”

Davies was born in Birmingham, England and spent the majority of her childhood in England before moving to Manhattan in 1977. She attended The City College of New York and graduated in 1986 with her master’s degree in architecture. At the age of 30, Davies used her architecture degree to get a job as an architect in New York City. After that she changed her occupation and living quarters several times.

At 35, Davies became a construction manager doing jobs mostly in New York City for colleges and universities. She later opened an architectural firm and even dabbled in real estate, before owning her first food business. With these constant changes in careers came constant moving. “I’ve moved several times,” Davies said.

She went from living in England, to Manhattan, to West Taghkanic in Columbia County where she commuted to Albany daily to bring her daughter to school at Albany Academy. Finally, she ended up living in Albany where she’s been for nearly a year now. Davies still has her English accent. However, her time living in England and Manhattan has helped her establish a style and theme for her business. “It (bread and honey) was a treat when I was growing up. Little towns I lived in had bakeries and bakers who would give out bread and they would put honey on it,” said Davies.

809 Madison Avenue the home of the new neighborhood bakery, Bread and Honey Inc.

809 Madison Avenue the home of the new neighborhood bakery, Bread and Honey Inc.

For now Davies has a white vinyl banner, with a graphic of a bagel on it, hanging from the front of the building. She plans on installing a real sign for the building front.

“I’m going to design a sign, I just needed to open and the sign had to wait,” Davies said. Before she designs the sign for the exterior of the bakery, Davies had to use her architectural skills to design the interior of the business. “It was completely raw space. I had to analyze the hell out of this place,” she said.

For now she rents, but at some point, she hopes to own the building. She also had to pay out of pocket for the renovations and fixtures of the building. In the eyes of Davies, this was the hardest part of the bakery assembling process. Davies started renovating the interior and exterior of the building in November of 2013 by hiring contractors to install infrastructure, plumbing, and electric.

Davies saved money to pay rent on the property and renovate it through her jobs as a consultant and realtor. She planned on opening in January, but weather stalled the construction. The interior and exterior renovations on the bakery took nearly three and half months, from November to mid January.

“The City of Albany was wonderful with the approval and appraisals of the bakery,” said Davies. Once the building was safe for occupancy, she hired four employees, and started baking preparations and testing the baked goods. Davies took various courses to improve her baking skills, including a class at King Arthur Flour in Vermont, where she also buys her flour. Once she honed her skills, she taught her staff.  Hiring staff was a challenge for Davies, because she wanted bakers that share the same interests in baking as she does.

“I wanted people that are into baking products this kind of way, as I am,” said Davies. She depends on several old recipes when baking her bagels, baguettes, pretzels and other baked goods. Davies researched bagel recipes online, and found an old recipe from a bakery in New York. She also adapted her pretzel recipes from old recipes she found online. However, the pretzel recipe was refined into a homemade recipe by baker, Anny Clapp.

“It’s much more expensive, but I’m trying to keep a high quality dough,” said Davies. The dough must first be made, and then the process of rolling and forming the dough into its pretzel shape can occur. The pre-dough is made a day before and then it is mixed into the final dough. After that, it takes roughly two hours to properly prepare the pretzel, including the formation of the pretzels shape and baking. The bakers usually fit six pretzels on a large cookie sheet for baking. Davies buys her ingredients and goods from Field Goods, which provides fresh foods from fresh farms, and delivers the products straight to the bakery. She also buys her eggs from Feather Ridge Valley located in the Hudson Valley and her honey from Big Woods Wildflower in Greenville. After the ingredients were purchased, bakers were hired and trained, and goods tested and sampled by Davies and her bakers, which was a process that started in early February.

Bread and Honey Inc. is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2:30 or 3 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 2:30 or 3 p.m. on the weekends. Since they opened on March 15th, the bakery has closed early several times after selling out of baked goods. Davies does plan on expanding the hours of the bakery and offering more goods.

The store provides seating for eat-in customers and take out service as well. While customers, dine in they also have the opportunity to watch the bakers make and roll the dough, and bake the bread through a glass window.

“We will give out samples of what we are making that day,” said Davies. Through the first week, the two most popular and frequently purchased items on the menu were the bagels and baguettes. However, Davies is implanting new items to the menu daily that are typically unique and unheard of. Items such as the doughnut muffin and more recently the bagel bomb, which is a bagel shaped in a ball stuffed with bacon scallion cream cheese, are very unique to the bakery.

“She specifically goes out and eats at places to find things and make them better or create new food items,” said baker Joanna Johnson. Davies also posts their wares on Bread and Honey’s Facebook page. Customers can also visit the bakery’s Instagram account. She also plants to build a web site soon.

“I do want to do delivery once everything is setup, I want to deliver by bicycle locally,” Davies said. Her motivation behind this has to do with her former life in Manhattan, where several small food businesses would use cyclists to deliver goods. Someday, she also intends to set-up a sidewalk café, a teaching kitchen, and add an addition to make the location half bakery, half grocery.

The new menu creation at Bread and Honey Inc. The bagel bomb.

The new menu creation at Bread and Honey Inc. The bagel bomb.

“The kitchen is going to turn into a teaching kitchen, and I will offer classes with another baker from Thursday to Saturday,” said Davies. Plus, while the teaching of future bakers is going on in the kitchen, the bakery will still be open for customers to buy baked goods or coffee and they can watch future bakers learn the art of baking and making bread.

“The priority is to serve the neighborhood, the rest just follows,” said Davies. She also hopes to develop a student discount program for locale college students and she is talking about featuring student artwork on the walls.

Since establishing the bakery, Davies has played a big part in the Pine Hills business community. She has built a nice rapport for herself in the neighborhood. Davies has set up collaborations with food businesses inside and outside of the Pine Hills area.

Davies has slices of an everything bagel topped with cream cheese ready to be sampled by customers

Davies has slices of an everything bagel topped with cream cheese ready to be sampled by customers

“She’s just great to work with,” said Linda Kindlon, owner of Bake For You. “I really love working with her, she is really educated with bread. She’s perfected her bread, and it gets better every time,” said Kindlon. Davies and Kindlon also share the same philosophy when it comes to ingredients. Other than Bake For You, Davies and Bread and Honey have a collaboration with local Pine Hills business, Chicken Joe’s.

“She is trying to do a style of business that no one else is doing in the community,” said Mike Sorbella, manager at Chicken Joe’s. Bread and Honey will be making a southern style corn bread for Chicken Joe’s, which will then incorporate the corn bread into the menu in the near future

. “It’s great to have another business that shares the same business values as you do,” said Sorbella. Not only has Sorbella and Chicken Joe’s set up a business agreement with Bread and Honey Inc., but he has become a frequent customer. “She is great, I’ve been here every day since they’ve opened,” said Sorbella.

Davies has appreciated the warm welcome she has received in the neighborhood.  “The people of the Pine Hills area have been so incredibly nice.”

“I love the people I’ve hired and the people that have come in so far,” said Davies. The same respect and affection Davies gives her customers, she gives to her fellow bakers and in return receives it from them.

“Naomi is really encouraging and patient,” said Johnson. And worker Buddy Beaudoin said.:“She gives us freedom. She trusts us to work independently.”

The social media aficionado on staff has had a revelation: “Working here has awaken my taste buds,” said Susan Rice, a baker .  “The customers are very welcoming and excited about being here, it’s great.”

Davies has found her niche  “This is my life, it actually is, there is flour on my shoes and all over me,” said Davies. -30-

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