When Frank d'Amore opened his bread and pastry bakery in Port Townsend, Wash. six years ago, he knew he was facing an uphill battle. Despite having worked as a baker in the area for more than 20 years, business can be tough in a town of 8,000. But while the baking industry as a whole is grappling with tough economic times, Pane d'Amore has increased sales 30 percent this year, and is earning five times more than projected after five consecutive years of growth.
“I knew that if I didn't go overboard for people, I'd be in trouble,” d'Amore says. “A population of 8,000 would normally be too small to support us, another bakery and the local supermarket in-store bakery. I had to do something different.”
So overboard he went. He decided to make individual loaves for each person who came to his store. That is, he developed such a diverse product selection that customers select the precise type, shape, flavor and size of bread they need. Pane d'Amore started with 12 separate doughs, and now produces 18 different doughs every day. Those doughs are baked in 38 different shapes, making the possibilities almost endless.
“Most people say we're nuts,” d'Amore says. “Some great bakeries will do up to six or seven doughs, add various inclusions, and shape them in up to 15 shapes. But I cover the entire spectrum, making something for everybody and having everything anyone could possibly come up with. I never miss a sale because I don't have the right products on hand.”
When customers come to the bakery, they end up purchasing more than they intended because the variety is so great. Pane d'Amore's sales increased exponentially with the increasing variety. “I don't think we are exceptional in our style or technique,” he says, “but you can't push yourself any harder than we do.”
With so many loaves filling the retail storefront, stales are inevitable. D'Amore works closely with the charitable groups in Port Townsend, and credits much of his success to setting himself up as an invaluable member of the community.
With business booming, d'Amore opened a commissary outside of town. All bread is produced in his 950-sq.-ft. retail location, while all laminated pastries, cookies, muffins and strudel is baked in the production facility. With his partner, Linda Yakush, d'Amore has his sights set on a town 20 miles to the west for a second retail location, and down the road, a second production space. They are currently at production capacity as it is, but d'Amore understands the need to develop the market in the new town before committing to the 4,000-sq.-ft. space he is dreaming about.
“We opened the doors here with no bank account, we just were passionate and kind of crazy and decided that we didn't need much. We've been rewarded for our willingness to look more at our customers needs.”
Cannelle an instant hit
Frank d'Amore discovered cannelle, a unique French patisserie he calls “portable cràme brûlée,” at Europain earlier this year. He bought the copper moulds while still in Paris and perfected the product when he returned home. The crunchy, creamy pastries have become a local favorite; he sells out daily. D'Amore is the only baker in Washington to offer the rare item.