Pop-Up Bakery Starter Bread Will Get a St. Johns Brick-and-Mortar in 2023
PoMo’s Karen Brooks dedicated a 700-word tribute to it. Kim Boyce of Bakeshop, one of Portland’s best bakeries, called it “the best bread I’ve ever had.” We’re talking about Starter Bread, one of Portland’s very best bread bakeries, currently crafting loaves from esoteric local grains including Salish Blue wheat, polenta, and house-milled rye. In early 2023, it’ll expand with a brick-and-mortar production space in St. Johns, next door to one of our favorite pizza spots, Gracie’s Apizza.
Couple Matt Kedzie and Zena Walas founded Starter Bread in 2019 out of the licensed kitchen in their St. Johns home, where they’ve been producing loaves ever since. Bread is sold via a monthly subscription, and each week, customers get a different type of loaf delivered to a nearby dropbox. Accompanying each week’s loaf: an email to subscribers detailing the process behind that week’s loaf, its ingredients, and their current thoughts on breadmaking. In one email, Starter Bread explained its new term for its ideal sourdough texture: Strong Octopus. “When initially mixed, the dough is very wet and jiggly, like our favorite cephalopod,” the email read.
Over the past three and a half years, though, Starter Bread has outgrown its home kitchen origins. “[We’ve got] closets full of flour. Our whole kitchen is a bread facility, it can bleed into the living room, down the halls,” says Kedzie. “To make sourdough bread takes a lot of time and space. It's inherently kind of anti-capitalistic. It's not like you can really force it to be faster, and you have to give it the time to build up. All the flavor and the culture that's happening…can't really be rushed. So it's a labor of love.”
The new bakery will move into the former St. Johns Coffee Roasters space at 7304 N Leavitt Ave. It’ll boast a bread oven—a big upgrade from their standard home oven. With more space, they plan to make more types of bread. The subscription loaves combine unusual grains with the airy, chewy texture of a more traditional loaf, but at the new bakery space, they’ll offer white breads along with dense 100% whole wheat breads. The subscription model will continue, but they’re also planning to open on Sundays for retail hours, where they’ll also offer treats including pretzels, focaccia, and chocolate chip cookies.
Starter Bread’s move will mark a number of other shifts in the food scene in St. Johns. Starter Bread will share its production space with Gracie’s Apizza, which will move from its current location at 8737 N Lombard St. Pastificio d'Oro, a handmade pasta pop-up now held weekly at Gracie’s, will take over the Lombard space and become a brick and mortar in November. Gracie’s plans to reopen at the new location in January. The new pizza space will boast more indoor seating—30 seats indoors—plus a dozen outdoor seats, and a bigger wood-fired oven for producing more pizzas.