Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery
Oryana and Pleasanton Bakery have a wonderful shared past. Locally-made sourdough bread first appeared on Oryana’s shelves in 1993 when Gerard Grabowski and Jan Shireman started Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery in Bear Lake. They specialized in naturally fermented sourdough bread using locally-sourced wheat baked in a wood-fired oven. Besides the downtown farmer’s market, Oryana was the only place you could buy this special bread until 2007 when they opened their first retail location in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Then in 2013 the business changed hands when Jonathon St. Hilare purchased the bakery.
Jonathon was working in Atlanta and wanted to make a change. He and his wife had vacationed in Ludington so when Pleasanton came up for sale they snapped it up and packed up their twin boys to move to Michigan.
Jonathon still uses the same sourdough started by Gerard that flavors and leavens the signature loaves. Traditional sourdough uses no commercial yeast, thus it takes 24 hours to make a loaf of sourdough bread. The bakery also produces cookies, pastries, breadsticks, tarts, and pizza. A new addition to his business repetoire is a food truck introduced at Little Fleet in Traverse City featuring their pizzas.
One aspect of the business that Jonathon finds challenging is the winter slowdown. Business is steady from April through December but much slower in winter. “It’s nice to get a break but it’s tricky because it’s hard to make only a few loaves of bread.” But winter traffic is gradually getting better every year. What he finds particularly enjoyable in his business is when the racks are empty at the end of the day. “It’s very rewarding. You’re obviously doing something right. People always want to try new things so we work to accomodate that. The Polenta Rye sells really well at Oryana.”
What does the future hold for Pleasanton Bakery? “I like this space here. A second location can be challenging. We don’t want to get too big. I wouldn’t mind doing another food truck. We’d also like to do cakes and maybe gelato.”
Check out more info on their website at pleasantonbakery.com