Twenty-five years ago, John Gates and Stuart Witt set up shop in an old warehouse on Commonwealth Avenue alongside Nashoba Brook.
Their enterprise, Nashoba Brook Bakery, flourished. Bread baked in Concord is now found on tables across the United States, including in the sourdough capital of San Francisco. The café, the public face of the bakery, welcomes a steady stream of patrons, winning raves from consumers and showcasing the wares.
What café patrons, and in fact anyone driving by, likely does not see are the construction workers, hard at work on an ambitious expansion that will eventually boost production capacity 67 percent.
“Right now, we bake 8,000 to 10,000 loaves of bread a day,” said Chief Communications Officer Jaclyn Graham. “We’ll ramp up to where we bake 15,000 to 20,000 loaves a day.”
That bread, badged Slow Rise – or under contract with Wild Grain – has become a supermarket staple.
The company is basically adding an oven, new shaping tables, a new mixer, cooler and two packaging lines to slice the bread, Graham said. Simple on the surface, it’s really a game of Tetris, a careful dance to make it all fit into the former warehouse.
After all, that oven weighs about 32,000 pounds. The new ones will be imported from Italy, then built within the new construction. Two will go in first, the old ones removed, then a third added, Graham said. The work should be done sometime in late spring, Graham said.
The plans for expansion have been percolating for a while. During the pandemic, demand for Nashoba products jumped, Graham said, a trend that has not slowed down, which helped jumpstart the project.
Sometimes, when a small, local business grows, it moves somewhere more industrial, a place where big trucks have access, a place where the building is better suited, a place more generic and with less soul than the Commonwealth Avenue site.
In this case, it might seem to have been easier to up sticks and move to a larger, emptier space, build the new bakery, then close down West Concord and go. After all, the trick is building a whole new kitchen without interrupting the wholesale bakery or the retail space. But in the end, the decision to stay was practical and emotional.
Practically, the company is in a good spot. To a non-business person, West Concord seems an unlikely hub, but according to Gates, it is exactly what Nashoba needs.
“We are on a main road into Boston, Route 2. We’re sort of midway between interstate 495 and 128 and we’re midway between the north and south shore,” he said. “So it turns out to be a very good spot.
Movement out in any compass direction would hinder the distribution, he said. For example, they do a lot of business with Hannaford supermarkets along I-495 and a move toward Boston could hinder the ease of access.
Add in the fact the partners own the West Concord site, and the business piece falls neatly into place.
But leaving or staying came down to more than just the nuts and bolts of smart business.
“Emotionally, this is home, this is where we started out,” he said. “We are Nashoba Brook Bakery.
“It just would not make sense to have the café without the bakery or the bakery without the café. Right now, they feed on and support each other.
“We are to bread what a brewpub is to beer,” he said.