The hearth of the matter
Breadsmith of St. Charles makes fresh, preservative-free products and delivers them to the streets of Woodstock every Tuesday and Saturday morning during the Woodstock Farmers Market. Now in its third year as a fixture of the market, Breadsmith has gained a following for their consistently delicious products.
“Our customers wanted us to be closer to them, so we go out,” Breadsmith owner Guy Greenfeld said, adding, “It’s a nice market around the [Woodstock] Square.”
Greenfeld took over the business five years ago. The pastry chef previously worked for Sherman Hospital in Elgin before revamping the business that has been a St. Charles presence since 1996. According to Greenfeld, the breads contain no preservatives, with the exception of the company’s famous pie breads. He said it’s the fresh items and the European-style product that keeps the customers returning.
“I have a good product for the customers,” he said.
Greenfeld said the art to making a great loaf of bread is “hard work and making it from scratch.” His favorite is the pumpkin variety.
Alicia Boerema, baker and manager of Breadsmith of St. Charles, has been with the company for eight years. Boerema frequented the store as a customer and was offered a job by the previous owner after she lost her job as a nanny.
“[The previous owner] offered me a job for retail and that lasted about two minutes,” Boerema said, who has enjoyed baking for the last 25 years.
While Breadsmith of St. Charles is a franchise and it uses company recipes, Boerema said the key to making a great product is the experience the long-time staff has to offer.
“The experience that they have to bring to the table,” she said, is invaluable in the process of creating moist, delicious varieties of baked goods.
The process of making bread is a 24 hour churn-table of steps.
“At 5 a.m., we make muffins and scones. I watch the oven and then another crew comes in for pumpkin and banana breads. All yeast breads are made at night.”
Head baker Alfredo Gonzalez works from 8 p.m. until 3 or 4 in the morning to make yeast breads.
“I love baking,” Boerema said. “I like when all the product is out of the oven and on the rack. We stand back and look at all we did and think, ‘We did a lot today.’”
Her favorite is zucchini walnut bread, and she points out the zucchini and bananas come from a local grocer.
Boerema is quick to praise the 30 employees as part of Breadsmith’s success.
“It is a fine-running machine if everyone does their job. Everyone here is fine-tuned.”
Praise continues for owner Greenfeld.
“He is here every day,” Boerema said, pointing out it is not one of those companies where the owner is hardly ever seen. “It’s not, ‘Where’s Guy?’ It’s, ‘Where’s Guy? He’s been gone for five minutes.’ He’s got his hands in everything.”
Selling the products is one of her favorite parts of her job.
“I personally love standing outside the Woodstock market,” she said. “I’m very proud of what I do.”
Breadsmith employee Jill Wielgos said pie breads are among the Woodstock favorites.
“People really like apple pie bread or cinnamon swirl,” she said.
Wielgos, who has worked at Breadsmith for a year and started working the farmstand this year, leans more toward the pumpkin chocolate chip, but said the cheddar jalapeno sourdough bread is her favorite.
Breadsmith offers a variety of yeast, dessert, and pie breads along with a cookie, scone, and cinnamon roll assortment.
Area resident Bob Fosse returns to the Breadsmith stand for one loaf in particular.
“This particular bread: multigrain bread,” he said. “It’s all healthy stuff [and has] no preservatives.” The preservative-free bread does not stay fresh as long as some other breads, but Fosse learned the best way to enjoy the whole loaf is to freeze half and leave half to eat right away.
Breadsmith of St. Charles is at the Woodstock Farmers Market Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Its permanent location is in St. Charles at 121 N. 2nd St., Suite E.