Since moving to the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, in 2003, Dara Reimers had been in search of a retail bakery to purchase. The frustration of not finding a suitable place pushed her to nearly give up. In 2005, she went to visit her sister in West Hyde Park, N.Y., to reassess her plans. By coincidence, Reimers' sister lives a stone's throw away from the Hyde Park location of the Culinary Institute of America.
“I'd all but given up, but when I saw that the Bread Bakers Guild was involved with one of the prep courses, I went to check it out,” she said. “It turned out to be a design course, and I fell in love with design that day. Plus, the Guild was there to seek entries to compete for a spot on team USA in Paris at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie.”
She signed up for the program, and after winning a couple of regional competitions, found herself on the podium next to Solveig Tofte and Peter Yuen at Camp Bread 2007 being named a member of the team that would compete in Paris in April last year.
After a brief rest from two years of training and travel for the Coupe, she continued her search for her own bakery. Reimers' persistance quickly paid off when she spotted an ad in the newspaper for a local bakery for sale. She went in at 9 a.m. one morning to investigate and emerged at noon with a deal in place to purchase the equipment and take over.
The small 1,000-sq.-ft. bakery was nearly a turn-key operation; the bakery only needed a convection oven and minimal remodeling. While getting the shop in order, she hung a sign over the old bakery sign that stated simply, “Artisan bread coming soon.”
“The newspapers who had covered me on my trip to Europe immediately got wind of the sign and called me to see if the new bakery was going to be mine,” she says. “Next thing you know, I have an article about my store, which I named The Bread Shack, in the newspaper.”
The news of a world-class artisan baker in the neighborhood didn't fall on deaf ears. The Lewistown/Auburn area is home to Bates College, attracting a customer base of educated, well-traveled clients who appreciate good bread.
The bakery focuses on artisan bread and offers some pastries and tarts. “I see myself in the situation of being the only artisan baker in my immediate area, and there's a real market for it,” she said.
Business has grown enough since opening this summer that Reimers hired a night baker after a nationwide search. She was surprised to find Ryan Musgrove, a baker trained in Germany, less than 30 miles away.
“I called him and told him, ‘Get in here!'” she said. “He's added some German rye, and it's really nice to have such a capable person right in our backyard.”