Visitors to Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market have nothing to worry about come the end of August — or beginning of September — when Honeycomb Bread Bakers opens its brick-and-mortar shop at 213 E. Bay Street.
Customers will still find the bakery at the markets on Saturdays, along with their favorite wild Maine blueberry muffins, cinnamon rolls and sourdough bread. Owner Benjamin Vickers said it was important to him that fervent market-goers continue to find him — he hopes to return to his spot in front of the State Office Building. And the location comes with advantages:
“If they want their bread sliced, they can come around the corner (to the shop) and have it sliced,” he said.
The goal of the new store is to present like a European bistro-style café, with more elaborate pastries, Vickers said. Those are made possible by what he terms the “gnarly” kitchen equipment at the Dixieland location where he prepares his goods.
Honeycomb will initially open with a breakfast menu and the same items that can found at the market. But new menu highlights are in the works, such as savory soups, salads, and lox, and he hopes to begin serving those by November. The idea is to pair Honeycomb breads with items like avocado, pickled vegetables, and flavored schmears.
The expanded menu will also feature high-quality teas and coffees, with an effort to encompass all three local coffee roasters — Concord, Ethos and Patriot –under one roof. And soon — perhaps by the end of the year — the shop will offer beer and wine.
Vickers said he was encouraged to open the shop by the strong demand experienced since his Curb Market debut in October 2018.
“Our growth has been gangbusters since we started the market,” he said. “The demand was just overwhelming. There was just so much need.”
He suspects what has continually attracted customers to Honeycomb is the freshness of the menu items; everything was baked that morning.
“The other thing comes down to technique and willingness to be generous with our ingredients,” he said. “Our chocolate chip cookie has a huge amount of chocolate chips in it. We’re not afraid to be extra generous if it provides a better experience for the guests.”
Honeycomb Bread Bakers includes a “slow bar” featuring locally roasted coffee, imported tea, and seasonal beverages. Later on, he’s hoping to feature organic wines and local craft beers.
The bistro will also have an elevated dining area, and community garden plots near an outdoor seating area. Vickers, who studied literature, is amassing donations to stock the shop alcoves with vintage cook books with old-timey recipes from the 1950s.
With the hope of attracting local talent on Saturday evenings, a stage inside will host comedians and musicians. Vickers also envisions the stage as a forum for speakers.
Vickers’ love of baking came from his mother, Ruth Vickers. (He grew up in Lakeland and his parents, Ruth and Charles Vickers, still live here.) When he graduated from Harrison Arts Center, where he studied piano, and went away to college, she made sure he was equipped with some survival cooking skills.
He found that when he was a student, his financial status couldn’t keep up with his sweet tooth, so he gravitated toward baking. Now he loves to share his gift with others.
“You don’t need baking to survive,” he said. “So when people do bake, it’s a very pure expression of their heart. They’re doing it as a labor of love. That kind of sharing ethos has taken over my life.”
Vickers waxes romantic about the times when his ovens are firing in the middle of the night, when the rest of the world is asleep.
“That’s the lot of life of being a baker,” he said. “I like the quiet solitude of those early mornings alone in front of an oven.”
Honeycomb Bread Bakers will share space with unique-gifts store Twenty Seven, which invites local artists and creators to display their wares at the venue. Twenty Seven has its soft opening on Aug. 17.
Honeycomb’s projected hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 5’ish.