2nd Story Bakeshop
Toasting a new chapter
I didn’t notice it when I first met Cailin Bryant back in 2014.
I’d bought a loaf of her bread at the Los Gatos Farmers Market and was so taken with it I returned to interview her, notebook in hand. At the time, she and her business partner, Christy Ikezi, were renting kitchen space at a candy shop, and Bryant could only bake 10 loaves at a time. “We’ve had to turn down wholesale orders because we didn’t have the bandwidth,” she’d told me, hopeful that one day lease negotiations on a downtown San Jose space would come through.
Come through they did, and in March of this year the duo opened the doors to 2nd Story Bakeshop, their own space on East Santa Clara Street. It was on my return visit that I noticed the toast tattoo on Bryant’s right calf. Never has ink seemed more fitting.
A Dream Fulfilled
Bryant and Ikezi work unrelenting hours and handle complementary aspects of their jointly owned business. Bryant, the bread baker, oversees production of the shop’s long-fermented, high-hydration loaves in flavors like whole wheat and sprouted sunflower; buckwheat blue cheese; super sesame with tahini and olive oil; maple miso; rye cheddar; “bloody Mary” (a play on the cocktail); and a signature baker’s loaf.
She’s a flurry of movement: covered in flour, a painter’s cap pulled low on her head as she moves from dough bucket to prep table to scale, weighing, stretching, shaping the dough with fluid, practiced rapidity. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, the 32-year-old native of Auburn, California, works close to 18 hours a day. “I try to sleep from 3pm to 9pm if possible,” she says.
Ikezi, 43 and the mother of two middle schoolers, founded the business back in 2012. The 2nd Story in the bakeshop’s name refers to baking as the second chapter (or story) in Ikezi’s life, not the bakery’s location. (It’s on ground level, for the record.)
Ikezi, who earned a geology degree from UCLA, spent more than 13 years at Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park before deciding in 2010 to shift focus. She began thinking more deeply about food, read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (“It changed my life,” she says simply), bought a KitchenAid mixer and started baking. She considered culinary school but didn’t want the debt, so she honed her skills on the job, taking a position at Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz. It was here that she met Bryant. “She was one of the smartest people I’d ever met,” Ikezi says.
Today, Ikezi oversees the shop’s pastries, which include a variety of cookies and bars (and superb granola) while Bryant focuses on breads. A new Local Producer Grant, awarded in July by Whole Foods Market of Northern California, has expanded the availability of the shop’s breads into several local Whole Foods. (See sidebar.)
According to Patrick Wyman, local purchasing coordinator for Whole Foods Market Northern California and Reno: “Th ree things made 2nd Story Bakeshop a great grant candidate: our shared mission to support and expand local, organic food production; their commitment to quality, using ancient baking methods including fermentation to bring out the best flavors and health benefits of their ingredients; and finally, their business model and strategies. Their early success shows customer engagement and support from the community.”
With this sharp uptick in sales, the pair is stretched thin. At the time of this writing, they were splitting the pre-dawn delivery duties, crisscrossing the region to drop off over 100 loaves of bread themselves. They’re looking to hire a driver so the two can concentrate on baking, but as small business owners they’re committed to filling in whatever gaps arise.
Bread and Pastries as Foods of Celebration
With the holidays coming, hosts and celebrants are used to ordering their turkeys and hams far in advance. But bread, while beloved, may not bubble to the top of a feast wish list… and yet, it should. In fact, Bryant says, bread is incredibly grounding, a staple whose very design encourages sharing and unselfishly allows the other elements of a meal to shine. “Though we do get fancy with some of our loaves,” she adds.
Ikezi picks up the thought. “Here, we really think about the bread and don’t push it to the side of the table. It’s so nourishing.” And don’t even get started on the need for seasonal, celebratory pastries whenever a feast’s in the offing. Currently, the pair are planning to sell pie cookies, pumpkin breads and other seasonal sweets. “It wouldn’t be a feast without bread,” she says. “Or some dessert.”
Where to Find the Goods
Visit 2nd Story Bakeshop’s retail location at 138 E. Santa
Clara St. in downtown San Jose.
Shop hours are Tuesday–Friday 6:30am–1:30pm.
You can also buy the shop’s loaves at the following stores: Whole Foods Markets—The Alameda; Campbell; Los Gatos; Blossom Hill; Stevens Creek in Cupertino; and Santa Clara.
They also sell at these farmers markets: Santa Clara and Morgan Hill (Saturdays year-round); Los Gatos and Mountain View (Sundays year-round); and seasonal markets on Santa Clara Street in San Jose; Los Altos; and Willow Glen.