Everyone knows that old expression: Necessity is the mother of bread.
No? That’s not quite it? Well, maybe it should be.
When Peter Brown’s business as a corporate recruiter dwindled to nothing in the face of the economic downturn, he and his wife Pearl were faced with a sobering reality. They could either come up with a new way to bring money home, or lose the home.
A family meeting around the dining room table offered a possible solution, farfetched though it seemed at the time.
“We met with the kids and said, ‘What do we do?’ My son said, ‘You make a pretty good loaf of bread, mom,” recalled Pearl.
What seemed a quaint notion that night seemed a little less preposterous the next day.
“People still have to eat,” said Brown, thinking back to that and subsequent conversations.
Buoyed by those two truths – people have to eat, and Pearl made a tasty loaf of bread – the family turned to the staff of life for financial sustenance.
BAKING THE EASY PART
Now, almost three years later, Old Mission Multigrain bread has grown to the point that it serves as the flagship product for the Old Mission Multigrain Café and Bakery.
But it hasn’t been easy. While the bread drew raves from the get-go, the Browns were totally unfamiliar with the rules and regulations of the industry.
“There’s so much to the food industry,” said Brown. “The next weekend (after that fateful family meeting), we went to the farm market at Building 50. The weekend after that the Department of Agriculture showed up. We had no idea you needed to be (licensed). We were ignorant of so much in the food industry.”
But rather than giving up, the Browns became the Ag Department’s best friends, asking questions and finding out the rules, regulations and best ways to proceed. Old Mission Multigrain almost immediately found a new home in the commercial kitchen space of Perry Harmon, home to several different food entrepreneurs over the years.
But the Browns realized that they needed their own space.
“(Harmon’s space) is a warehouse, and it was not warm enough (in winter) for the bread to proof properly, for its second rise,” said Brown.
That led to the location on South Airport west of the Cherryland Center. And with the new kitchen space came the opportunity for both a retail operation and seating as well.
The company has now grown to the point the family business now includes pretty much the entire family. Peter is typically found baking, while sons John and David and daughters Niesje, Johanna and Heidi all take their turns at the café as well.
MANY BREADS, PLUS MORE ITEMS
Old Mission Multigrain now encompasses eight different kinds of bread, with, as Brown puts it, “a few pending.”
The flagship bread is a dense, chewy multigrain bread with organic grains and local sweeteners. She says the recipe was developed over a 20-year period with various additions and permutations making their way into the loaf.
“We’d just say, ‘Let’s add that too,’” she said with a laugh.
Cabin Fever is a sweet bread with pecans, raisins and dates; Drunken Reuben is a rye with onion, molasses, and Short’s Bellaire Brown Ale; Zydeco is Creole-inspired, and includes organic wild rice, veggies, red beans, and a spicy undercurrent; Honey Oat is moist, chewy, and is made with local honey.
Not yet satisfied? Try Classic Sourdough, or its cousin, Cherry Almond Sourdough. And if that’s still not enough, there’s always Bunny’s BFF, a sweet, carrot cake-like bread that’s perfect for breakfast.
In a bit of an unexpected twist, the café also stocks a number of treats from other local food vendors. Try some sweets from Traverse City Toffee Company, or at the other end of the taste spectrum, Lil Terror Hot Sauces.
Throw in scones by Adriana’s Café, including the oh-so-tempting Apricot Cream Cheese, or Blackstrap Molasses cookies from Torch River Cookies, wine jellies from Stone Cottage Fine Foods, cherry butter from Ferguson’s Market, and you’ve got a wide selection of items from which to choose.
It’s all part of the plan to draw in customers by offering the best the region has to offer. And it must be working, as the store was the site for the monthly Cash Mob last weekend.
You can find Old Mission Multigrain bread at numerous stores around the region, including Oryana, MaxBauer’s, Bayside Market, Symons General Store and Toski Sands Market in Petoskey, and Boyne Country Provisions in Boyne City.
Or you can just check out the café, located at 1326 S. Airport Rd. It’s open 8-5 Monday-Friday and 8:30-2 Saturdays. Go online to oldmissionmultigrain.com, but be warned, the website will probably only make you hungry for the real thing.