Boulevard Bakehouse & Market Offers More Than Just A Slice of Life

Bread. Bread and butter.

Baked goods. Sandwiches. White. Brown. Sliced whole wheat. Rye. Pumpernickel. The best thing since sliced bread is – well, let’s be honest

– bread.

Bread is a basic food that has been a lifeline for humanity for centuries. Bavarians used wheat to make two things: bread and beer. Hot crossed buns were sold on the streets in the old country. Flatbread without yeast still supports shepherds and farmers in the Middle East. So why do we have this obsession with bread? Maybe it’s more of a necessity, but whatever the reason for our craving or essential need, bread has stood the test of time.

As a part of our bread fixation we also wonder about the bakers and bakeries that create this delicious and widespread commodity. How do they play into a modern bread revolution? Because despite the bread offerings of grocery stores, local bakeries continue to pop up. Fresh-baked bread is a valued and sought-after product. Little Rock boasts several beloved bakeries, including Community Bakery, Silvek’s and Old Mill Bread, among others. Last month we reviewed a new bakery, Rosalia’s Family Bakery, which opened their doors at the end of last year. There is rumor of a new gluten-free bakery coming to town. And in the midst of the old favorites and new bakeries coming into the spotlight, one of our choice shops, Boulevard Bread, has just opened a fourth location.

We are intrigued by these bakeries, not only because we love bread (and we mean absolutely love bread) but also because in our economy, which seems to leave so many businesses gasping for breath and reaching for customers, these bakeries seem to be thriving. They have discovered a need or a love in the community and are serving that need. The people seem to be crying out, “Give us bread!” and the bakeries are answering.

One bakery that is responding extremely well is a local love: Boulevard Bread. They already have several locations, including the original in the Heights, another in the River Market and one in the UAMS College of Public Health. Recently, they answered the call to open a new store in the SOMA district (Southside Main Street Project) downtown.

“SOMA was created to promote the economic development, historic integrity and quality of life for the citizens of the neighborhood,” said Boulevard’s business manager, Jason Neidhardt. “SOMA consists of the areas of Main Street between I-630 and Roosevelt.”

Boulevard chose the SOMA location for several reasons, but the main factor was long time client Anita Davis. “She has been a loyal customer and friend to Boulevard,” said Neidhardt. “She has been a major player in the resurgence of the SOMA area, creating the Bernice Sculpture Garden, renovating the buildings that Boulevard along with Green Corner Store occupy.”

The location is not only building into a great cultural resurgence, but it has also allowed Boulevard to expand business. “What we love most about the new space is exactly that, space,” said Neidhardt. “For our two kitchen operations to finally have the necessary space and equipment has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for us.”

Boulevard’s bakery manager, Ashton Woodward, said he loves the new location because it gives them room to breathe. “All of the space allows for a better work environment,” he said. “No more crawling over one another. We can operate as a bakery and not a restaurant pulling double duty at night.”

Because of the extra space, Boulevard has been able to better serve their customers. “We have already picked up numerous new wholesale bread accounts,” said Neidhardt. “We have also moved the catering portion of our business to the Main Street location.”

Woodward said the new space enables the SOMA location to produce bread for all four of Boulevard’s locations, as well as to bake for all of their local accounts, which include some of the best establishments in Little Rock. “You can eat our bread at Ferneau, Brave New Restaurant, Chenal Country Club, and the list goes on,” he said. “The bread we sell at our retail locations is only a portion of our daily work. The new, larger facility enables us to fulfill larger orders, but we are still committed to shaping every item by hand.”

The move has also opened up much-needed space in the Heights store because a lot of the large baking equipment was moved to the SOMA location.

“Removing the equipment from the Heights allowed us to bring in an entire new line of equipment that is allowing us to expand our offerings at the Heights store,” said Neidhardt. “We are able to provide a breakfast menu (available Thursday-Saturday until 10:30 a.m.) and multiple dinner options on a daily basis.” They have also brought on a chef with an extensive charcuterie background, so Boulevard now offers their own homemade bacon, prosciutto, pâtés, salamis and more.

But Boulevard has not forgotten their first love; they have plans to increase the types of bread they’ll produce in the near future. “With the move so fresh, we are still getting our feet beneath us,” said Neidhardt, “but we are looking to expand our bread offering in the coming months.”

Woodward said some old Boulevard favorites will make their way back to the menu in the near future. “We are always researching new breads, and without giving too much away, we will soon be bringing back some old favorites from bread menus of Boulevard’s past,” said Woodward. “Look for Pecan Currant Sourdough to make a return, which is my bake staff’s favorite, and also give our new potato herb a try.”

Woodward did not want to reveal much more because he does not want to ruin a truly delicious surprise, but he did say to look for new pastry items as the seasons change, because they will showcase some of our local farmers’ best fruit.

The new location has made waves in the community—waves of excitement and hunger, but we believe the affects go deeper than the stomach.

Boulevard is supporting the local community by growing local businesses that not only serve their community but also give back in many ways. “We are firm believers that it is our responsibility to give back to the communities that have allowed us to enjoy the success we have gained,” said Neidhardt. “We constantly give donations to various charities and community events. Plus, at the end of each day, we donate our leftover bread, when there is some left, to different homeless shelters.”

The local bakery is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination. It is very much alive, and the community is in full support. And while we’re not sure if the people’s cry for bread will be satisfied with this new Boulevard location, we are certainly excited to see where the call of the people leads next and where the next uprising will take place.

A Day In the Life of A Boulevard Baker
“Bread doughs are, by nature, finicky—a simple temperature change or drop in humidity can have big affects on a batch. Taking all of the variables into consideration will give any baker better results, and if I mix everything right, it is all downhill from there,” says Woodward.

2 p.m.  ::  Bakery Manager Ashton Woodward gets up for the day.
6 p.m.  ::  Woodward arrives at the bakery.
7-11 p.m.  ::  Six bakers show up in intervals, the last arriving at 11 p.m.
11 p.m.-3 a.m.  ::  Woodward and his six-baker crew continue to work: mixing, baking, packaging.
3 a.m. ::  Woodward heads home.
3 a.m.-6 a.m. ::  Bakers continue to work.
6 a.m. ::  Bread must be ready for pick up and delivery.

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