For nearly a week, the whiff of fresh bread — sometimes spiked with a spicy hint of garlic, Parmesan or warm cinnamon — has been wafting through the air whenever somebody opens the door at Breadsmith.
But the new-to-Arizona bakery won’t open for business until Tuesday in the Village at Las Sendas shopping center, 2831 N. Power Road in Mesa.
The alluring aroma abounds because Breadsmith employees have been test-baking bread, buns and cookies for several days to perfect their technique, said store owner Greg Farr.
"We do everything by hand. We don’t even use timers," he said. "So you have to learn to judge by look and feel."
Bread lovers who can’t wait until Tuesday to sample Breadsmith wares, can buy a loaf or two during a special preview 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, with all the proceeds going to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Arizona.
Farr, a former Air Force fighter pilot and later a captain for US Airways, has the Valley rights for Breadsmith, a Whitefish Bay, Wisc.-based chain of scratch bakeries. He hopes eventually to have three or four stores.
Farr said he chose east Mesa for his first bakery, and he thinks the area around Gilbert Town Square would make an excellent spot for his next store.
"The demographics (of Breadsmith customers) were suitable for the East Valley, so I focused on the area from the Loop 101 east. I researched areas in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, and when I put it all together, this area of Mesa was the clear winner," Farr said.
"A high concentration of single-family houses, traditional families, higher than average income and a high ratio of single wage earner households," were the factors that Farr said cinched the Mesa site.
Families with a stay-at-home parent tend to make more lunches and sit-down dinners at home, and higher income families buy more of the Artisan breads to accompany those meals, he said.
"It’s a very family-oriented business," said Michelle Schuerman, Breadsmith’s corporate director of marketing.
The typical Breadsmith customer is a woman, aged 25 to 65, upper income, highly educated, married and with a family, Schuerman said.
While most of Breadsmith’s specialties are the crusty, European-style loaves, the shop also bakes softer, sweeter, kid favorite breads such as honey wheat, she said.
Breadsmith regularly bakes up nearly three dozen types of bread from a French baguette to a rosemary garlic ciabatta, and adds on seasonal specialties, such as pumpkin bread, for holidays, Farr said.
Standards, such as French bread, sourdough and Italian rustic loaves are baked every day. Specialty breads are baked on a rotating basis — for example honey raisin pecan loaves on Monday, cheddar jalapeno sourdough on Tuesday, focaccia on Friday.
And besides the breads, the shop bakes scones, cookies, cinnamon buns and even dog biscuits.
At Breadsmith you can buy such bread accompaniments as jams and dipping oils, but you can’t get a sandwich or a bowl of soup.
Farr said that distinguishes Breadsmith from other popular East Valley bakeries that are more focused on making meals than baking bread.
All the shop’s goodies are fresh baked every day on stone hearths in steam-injected ovens imported from Italy, Farr said. Leftover loaves will go to local community services such as the East Valley Men’s Center, he said. "We don’t sell day-old bread," he said.
Farr, 53, said he decided to chuck the airline pilot gig and go into business for himself to secure a future, even before US Airways slid into bankruptcy. The company is now being acquired by Tempebased America West Airlines, and jobs, pensions and other benefits could be lost in the merger.
Farr decided to open a Breadsmith because during his world travels, he had become a big fan of the crusty European breads, but he seldom found them available in U.S. cities. "This was a product I could have a passion for," he said.