New downtown bakery provides 'fresh' bread and provisions
Camden — On June 5, Camden welcomed a new addition to the downtown food scene when the restaurant Fresh opened the new Fresh Bakery and Market. The boutique bakery is adjacent to the restaurant on Bayview Landing but has an independent entrance and small seating area for patrons. Fresh Bakery and Market offers a selection of sweets, espresso and coffee drinks, assorted provisions and breakfast pastries but it's clear that their artisan bread is baked — and offered — with pure enthusiasm.
Barb Alpern moved to Camden from Michigan when she was hired as head baker and bakery manager of Fresh Bakery and Market. Alpern said she saw the job posted on a website for artisan bread bakers and jumped at the chance to embrace her passion for baking bread in a place she said she had "really great memories of" after spending two non-consecutive years living in Maine earlier in her life. Alpern's diverse background includes a graduate degree in creative writing and nearly a decade of experience baking at the nationally recognized Ann Arbor-based bakery Zingerman's Bakehouse. Alpern got her start baking at a "tiny" bakery in college, she said she learned a great deal about baking from her years at Zingerman's.
"I've loved baking since way back in my college days," she explained.
With four sons all in their 20s Alpern said she "wanted to move somewhere beautiful" and Camden fit the bill.
"It's so beautiful here," she said.
Alpern came to Maine armed with her own rye and sourdough starter. She said ingredients are of the utmost importance to her and Fresh Bakery and Market sources many of their flours locally. They use ingredients that do not contain preservatives and obtain rye flour milled at Morgan's Mill in Union and some flour from Fiddler's Farm in Belfast. She said many of the breads she bakes are inspired by the bread styles she worked with at Zingerman's Bakehouse.
"I love baking bread," she said.
During the initial weeks in business Fresh Bakery and Market has been "very well received" and has already had lots of repeat customers according to Assistant Manager MaDonna Reed. Reed said the bakery furnishes breads and desserts to Fresh restaurant next door and staff hopes to expand their client base to include other local restaurants and markets as wholesale clients. Reed said Fresh Market and Bakery also provides the daily fresh baked breakfast items — bread, pastries and muffins — for the Grand Harbor Inn and Lord Camden Inn.
Alpern said because of the semi-open layout of the bakery — which includes a viewing window for curious customers — she's able to interact with the public some. She said she's enjoyed meeting the local customers and hopes to spend time interacting with clientele when she's able. Presently the bakers are in the process of perfecting the production side of things as the busy summer season begins.
Fresh Bakery and Market is presently offering hot and cold sandwiches and paninis to complement their selection of a la cart items. Alpern said the bakery will soon branch out to offer pizzas. She said having Fresh restaurant next door is a benefit.
"It's nice to have chefs right next door," she said, adding the chefs have been helping brainstorm menu ideas including pizza offerings.
The bakery will also add items including fruit salad and eventually soups in the colder months. Alpern said she's also perfecting a selection of gluten-free items that will be added to the bakery's product mix in the near future.
Samples are readily available — all a customer has to do is ask, Reed and Alpern said.
Alpern said she's also open to suggestions for new breads.
"I want to make what people want," she said.
Reed said the opening has gone "very smoothly." The bakery presently employs nearly 15 people and June 22 they began the summer schedule of remaining open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Reed said the bakery is oriented to providing great customer service and educating consumers about the array of products. Alpern said she was drawn to the friendly, hands-on spirit of the bakery's staff and owners. She said it has been amazing to watch the transformation of the interior of the bakery.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.