It took San Francisco Bay Area native Lynn Russell almost 13 years to find sourdough bread in Huntsville akin to what she grew up eating.
“It has the right density,” says Russell, a retired schoolteacher. “It’s got the right chewiness of crust, and it’s not as sour as San Francisco sourdough but it’s darn close.”
Russell found her new go-to sourdough via Canadian Bakin’.
Since 2017, this buzzed about bakery has been selling its breads, bagels, etc. at Huntsville area farmers markets, pop-up shops and online orders.
However, since Canadian Bakin’ operated out of a kitchen-only, 500-square-foot space at an Owens Cross Roads fitness gym, customers couldn’t really just pop in on a whim and pick up some bread.
That’s about to change. Canadian Bakin’ is opening a bakery and café space in downtown Huntsville. They hope to have it ready in February. The space, address 501 Church St., was formerly home to restaurants The Eaves, Schnitzel Ranch and, most recently, John Carradine Steakhouse. It’s located behind Church Street Wine Shoppe.
Canadian Bakin’ owner Matt Johnson is a former government contractor employee who quit a desk job to turn his baking hobby into a new vocation.
Last year, the bakery tripled its sales, he says. Johnson signed the Church Street space lease around Thanksgiving. He says he’s most excited to be “having a kitchen larger than a highway. A place where I can actually roll out more bread and it not be falling off the tables.”
The downtown space’s kitchen is about 1,500-square-foot. Since first booting up Canadian Bakin’, Johnson gradually built up kitchen equipment. To this point he’s used a pizza oven to bake bread. For the new space though, he’s stepping up to a steam deck oven better suited to the task. He expects this upgrade to triple output.
Thus far, Canadian Bakin’ best sellers have included bagels (particularly blueberry and an “Everything” bagel with garlic, poppy and sesame seeds and onion) and pretzels. Now, Johnson plans to expand bagel flavorss, as well as adding challah, ciabatta and focaccia to the bread options.
Downtown is going to be about more than bread though. They’ll offer food menus, with breakfast focused on bagel sandwiches and at lunch traditional bread-built sandwiches. Think bacon, egg, cheese and sausage, turkey, etc. “I want to do simple sandwiches just done well with local ingredients,” Johnson says.
The new dining area is around 1,000-square-foot. There, Canadian Bakin’ will wield a full coffee bar, overseen by Rachel Bush, who’s worked for Johnson at the original kitchen since spring. Downtown they’ll offer espresso- and drip-coffee-based drinks, as well as specialties ranging from Chemex to AeroPress to French press. Bush is excited to welcome customers to the new space. “So far, we’ve just been telling people, ‘No, we’re just a kitchen. sorry,’” she says. “Now we can turn that around and say, ‘Yeah, we have a place, come see us, we’ll be opening soon.’ We’re going to be bringing people together the right way in a good spot.”
Johnson hopes to hire for three new positions soon. The bakery’s five commercial clients include downtown restaurant Domain South. Delivering bread there helped increase Johnson’s desire to find a nearby space, which he’s been looking for about a year. He considered locations from cinderblock churches to old warehouses. But finding a downtown spot already built-out for a restaurant proved challenging. They missed out once on Church Street, but after the space became available again, they jumped.
In addition to Bush’s help, Johnson says girlfriend Daniela Perallon, a P.R. pro whose worked with organizations including Arts Huntsville, and his parents have been indispensable in growing business. “Neither is really in the limelight, but the company wouldn’t even be half as far as it is now without them.”
Downtown, the bakery’s décor is aiming for warm and cozy. “It’s very, classic European bakery,” Perallon says. “There’s a lot of very modern (coffeeshop) spaces in Huntsville, very clean lines and minimalist, and this isn’t really going to be that.”
Handcrafted quality has helped Canadian Bakin’ to routinely sell-out wares at farmers markets. And to develop loyal customers. Regulars like Russell, who use the bread to make her beloved tomato, cheese and mayo sandwiches, and Dan Joffee, a local electrical engineer fond of baguettes, brioche and bagels. “This stuff, it tastes great,” Joffee says. “It’s got character, it doesn’t have all the silly preservatives. Years and years ago I went to Paris. Every morning before we’d go off walking, you just go down the street and drop into the bakery and get baguettes. This kind of reminds me of that. It’s just such good stuff.”