by Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, contributing editor
Franklin Street AT A GLANCE
Company name: Franklin Street Bakery
Franklin Street Bakery dedicated 890 sq. ft. of production space to its expanding cake and pastry line.
Franklin Street Bakery's 106 employees produce more than 20,000 loaves of bread daily, accounting for 95% of the bakery's sales.
Wayne Kostroski (left), Mark Dayton and Mark Haugen developed Franklin Street Bakery under the umbrella organization Cuisine Concepts to supply the partners' group of restaurants.
"IF YOU BUILD IT, NO ONE WILL COME," said just about everyone in Minneapolis who heard where partners Mark Haugen and Wayne Kostroski planned to build their new 20,000-sq.-ft. bakery and retail store. The corner of East Franklin and 11th Avenues was known primarily for its exceptionally high crime rate.
In 1999, the number of 911 calls to the area was among the highest in the city.
For Haugen and Kostroski, relocating their then nine-year-old business (12 if you count its first three years as an in-house restaurant bakery) to this notorious address required a major leap of faith as well as $2 to 3 million in loans. The new facility has only been in operation since October 2003, and that faith has already paid off.
After moving from its former 7,000-sq.-ft. space eight blocks away, the bakery's primarily wholesale revenues were around $2.5 million. In a little more than one year in the new location, revenues have almost tripled, to more than $7 million.
Franklin Street Bakery produces more than 120 types of bread, mostly fully baked, frozen loaves as well as some par-baked artisan varieties for wholesale distribution in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. The owners predict that the company will have nationwide distribution within the next five years, and are negotiating with new accounts that could double the bakery's current business.
Most surprising has been the almost instantaneous establishment of Franklin Street Bakery's 400-sq.-ft. retail store as a foodie destination. The store is attracting customers back to the downtown area, Kostroski says. While bread makes up 95 percent of Franklin Street's total revenues, it only accounts for 12 percent of sales at the retail store. Cakes are the big retail sellers, bringing in at least 30 percent of sales.
Original creations, such as Chocolate Ancho Diablo Cake are "unlike anything else available in the Twin Cities area," Haugen explains. The tantalizingly smoky tang in the five-layer confection's buttercream filling comes from dried chili powder. The bakery also has added innovative new twists on classics, such as carrot cake garnished with Monkey Business, a crunchy mixture of walnut praline and coconut, and German chocolate roulade, topped with milk chocolate, neoclassic buttercream (with egg yolks) and sprinkled with shavings of roasted fresh coconut.
At its former wholesale facility, Franklin Street produced a limited number of cakes and pastries for retail, as well as desserts for several local restaurants owned by Haugen and Kostroski under their Cuisine Concepts corporate umbrella. To expand Franklin Street's sweets selections for both retail and wholesale, the partners hired pastry chef Michelle Gayer-Nicholson.
In addition to generating additional sales opportunities, the retail pastry collection adds cache to the Franklin Street Bakery's name, Haugen says. "It also helps to establish us as a company that's cutting edge, but not so over-the-top and flashy that we scare people off," he adds.
Under Gayer-Nicholson's guidance, the 860-sq.-ft. production area dedicated to cakes and pastries turns out at least 75 different products every day, ranging from cinnamon buns to "adult" cupcakes with ganache fillings, sour cream icings and elaborate chocolate curl toppings. Franklin Street Bakery customers also seem to have a taste for the unusual, making menu staples out of items such as the savory brioche with fillings like goat cheese, mushroom and thyme and the sweet-savory, scone-like rosemary polenta cakes. A number of the new pastry selections also are featured at Franklin Street Bakery's retail shop.
One always-in-demand favorite, twice-baked croissants, originated as an economic measure, Gayer-Nicholson explains. To rescue still-fresh croissants that remained unsold after the morning peak, she sliced them, stuffed them with a combination of chocolate cake crumbs, butter and sugar, baked them again and topped them with ganache.
Customers now specifically ask for the twice-baked treats, which Gayer-Nicholson sometimes fills with ham and cheese, or caramelized onion and Brie with apple salad, or any other combination that might pop into her head.
Gayer-Nicholson also is introducing-some customer favorites in new formats. For example, she is hoping that customers who traditionally order cake slices for dessert might prefer 3.25-oz. cupcakes filled and iced with their favorite flavors.
"It makes sense that customers would rather have a fresh, singleserving-size cake made just for them," Gayer-Nicholson says. "It's also better for us because then we don't have to cut up whole cakes that might eventually dry out and go to waste."
In total, Franklin Street Bakery employs about 106 people, 38 of whom have been added since last April. The majority of these employees work in bread production under the guidance of manager Elias Simbana.
Every day, Simbana and his crew work around the clock to produce at least 20,000 loaves (full-size and mini) of bread for the bakery's fully-baked, thaw-andserve sandwich and par-baked artisan bread lines. Of the more than one dozen sandwich loaf varieties, the top sellers are Franklin Street White and two types of wheat bread, one made from 100 percent whole wheat and an American-style made from 40 percent whole wheat.
Three types of sourdough range in tang from very sour to mild to American. "The mildest of all is made with a liquid starter," Simbana says. Crusts are kept softer, to suit customer taste, by minimizing oven steam while baking and then bagging the loaves while they are still warm.
For its primarily restaurant clientele, Franklin Street Bakery pre-slices its sandwich loaves into 1/2-in. or 3/4-in. slices. Artisan varieties, available in loaves, boules, pan breads and rolls, undergo long fermentation times for deep flavor and are par-baked to allow customers to determine their own levels of crunch and color.
Popular varieties include baguettes, in traditional Parisienne as well as rustic and roasted red pepper styles, ciabatta, sourdough boules and New York rye. Native Minnesota wild rice stars in its own demi-baguette as well as a cranberry-studded loaf.
Focaccia is produced in half-sheets, in herbed (basil, chives and sage) 4.5-in. or Asiago tomato 12-in. rounds, and in 2-oz. herbed dinner rolls. In response to the growing interest in natural bakery products nationwide, Simbana is currently working on developing natural whole wheat and rye loaves.
Rolling up sales
Creativity also is the key to the success of Franklin Street Bakery's lines of hamburger buns, sandwich and dinner rolls, with about 30,000 produced per day. The 4-to 4.5-in. buns come in golden egg as well as traditional styles and are available topped with white sesame seeds or sliced onions.
Primarily made for wholesale, the sliced hamburger buns also are sold in four-packs for one dollar at the bakery's retail store. Franklin Street Bakery has recently stepped up production of its hamburger buns with the addition of an automated line that can cut between 8,000 to 10,000 buns per hour, as opposed to the 2,000 that could be cut by hand.
Seven-to 8-in. hoagie rolls are available in potato, wheat French and wild rice varieties. Ciabatta dough is turned into 6-in. sandwich rolls and 2.5-oz. dinner rolls; and sourdough into 2-oz. dinner rolls.
Franklin Street Bakery also develops and produces customized products for wholesale accounts as long as they order in quantities of at least one pallet of 300 2-lb. loaves or 3,000 hamburger buns, according to Simbana.
Over the next year, Haugen and Kostroski say they plan to invest in roll and bread lines to automate the slicing and packaging processes, while maintaining the handcrafted artisan characteristics. They also plan to install a silo.
Gayer-Nicholson is getting set to use her pastry prowess to expand the company's frozen dessert and muffin lines. Currently, the bakery offers several varieties of specialty cakes, including Chocolate Ancho Diablo, Sour Cream Cheesecake, Bailey's Irish Cream Cake and White Raspberry Torte, as well as muffins, 5 ozs. for coffeehouses or 2.8 ozs. for hotel continental breakfasts.
Franklin Street Bakery's large new corner facility has done much more than expand its production capacity and retail display area. It also has expanded its employees' outlook by giving them a light and airy workspace and unobstructed view of the revitalization of their community through large picture windows. At the same time, the windows help passersby feel a more intimate involvement with their energetic new neighbor.
"Conventional wisdom said that we should have moved to the suburbs with their industrial parks, larger available land tracts, parking lots, and business-friendly tax structures," said Kostroski. "It would have also made more sense to build an industrial-style box with far fewer windows for our wholesale operation to make year-round temperature control easier."
However, more compelling to Haugen and Kostroski was the fact that 90 percent of the bakery's employees live within 10 blocks of the facility's new location.
Support for staffers
"It gives our employees an incredible sense of pride in their work and in the company to know that we are an integral part of the impetus of change in this community," Kostroski observes.
The decision also is indicative of an underlying employee-oriented philosophy that has been integral to Franklin Street Bakery's success and growth. To encourage better communications, the company offers English as a second language and Spanish as a second language classes to employees and management.
"Hiring and keeping the right people is any company's best quality assurance," Haugen notes. "And we're determined to maintain the environment, training programs and incentives that enable Franklin Street Bakery to attract the cream of the crop."
A SAMPLING OF Franklin Street's PRICES
Muffin, 5 ozs.......................................$1.95