Tucked away in a small building off Camino Carlos Rey, the heady scent of baking cinnamon bread gives away the precise location of one of the city's rare commercial kitchens. Now home to a small startup called Shure Bakehouse, the kitchen became available at almost the precise moment the baker got contracted with Whole Foods Market.
"When we got into Whole Foods in early 2010, I needed a new kitchen fast," Amy Shure said during a recent visit to her cluttered office next to the kitchen. Only a few months before, in the summer of 2009, she had embarked on the business of baking and packaging her great-grandmother's signature cinnamon and chocolate breads, working all night in the kitchen at the now-closed Copa de Oro restaurant in Eldorado.
The prospect of a rapid expansion required not only a larger kitchen, but a handful of part-time employees to help bake, bag, label, deliver and offer taste demonstrations of her sweet breads — all of which she had been doing herself until then.
"My husband is a chef, and we knew what we were up against; we have a lot of friends in the restaurant world," Shure said, adding that opening a business in the middle of the recession was a "frightening" prospect. "Do you know the Hebrew word beshert? It means 'meant to be,' and that's how we felt about it."
While she — and several generations before her — grew up with the spicy, dense bread at holidays and special occasions, Shure said when her mother passed away in 2006, there was no one left in her family to make the bread anymore. She and her husband, Brian Nelson, had been working 60 to 80 hours a week in Manhattan, Shure in the garment industry business and Nelson as executive chef.
"We lived in Greenwich, Conn. We were newlyweds and our young son was being raised by a nanny. We both lost our parents in a short period, and we realized life is short; we were missing everything and chasing our tails," Shure said. They made the decision to move to Santa Fe in 2006, and after adjusting to the whirlwind of change in her life, Shure started to bake again.
"My mother and grandmother always told me, if you ever need to make a million dollars, use this recipe," she said, noting that at least four generations of her family had grown up with the traditional braided challah bread, modified with a generous helping of cinnamon and allspice or cocoa.
Two summers ago, she baked up a batch and took it to the Eldorado pool; her friends immediately encouraged her to sell it at the Eldorado Farmers Market, where a table only cost $10. She sold out week after week, and the wheels began turning to shift into serious business mode.
"My idea was just to help out my husband's business," Shure said, noting that he had left an executive chef position at a local resort to start a catering business. A visit from a baker at Whole Foods convinced her to up her game, and she applied for a processing license from the state Department of Health. By the end of the year, she had established an account at Kaune's Neighborhood Market, and considered it a dry run for what she knew would be expected if she got into Whole Foods.
"On April 15  I got accepted at Whole Foods; we moved into the new kitchen on May 1, and I made my first delivery on May 7," Shure said.
A year and a half later, Shure's breads, in a number of sizes and packages, and biscotti, are also available at Vitamin Cottage (eventually all 42 stores in the region) as well as Ohori's, La Montanita Co-op, Las Chivas and the Eldorado Supermarket. Some local convenience stores are also carrying the bread products, and she's in the midst of a packaging and branding redesign to take advantage of her sudden growth.
The new kitchen could accommodate fourfold increase in production, Shure said, while also housing Nelson's catering company. It's also open for business for customers who want to come in for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll.
"The ingredients are the same ones my great-grandmother used, the same things you find in your kitchen," Shure noted, ticking off flour, milk, butter and spices. "It's not organic yet but it's 100 percent natural; we use nonbromated flour and cage-free eggs. There are no additives or preservatives. That's really important to us."
While the bread's all-natural content is one of its primary selling points, Shure said that in-store tastings, while stressful to her operating costs, have become her ticket to success. "They taste it, they buy it," she said.
IF YOU GO
Where to buy:
Market, Whole Foods Market, Vitamin Cottage, as well as Ohori’s, La Montanita Coop, Las Chivas and Eldorado Supermarket
or visit shurebakehouse.com
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