Sourdough bread has been big during the pandemic, but not everyone wants to make it themselves. Thankfully, Shawn Bergin has been there for sourdough lovers, turning out rustic country loaves at Bakery Four in West Highland.
A year ago, Bergin was a cottage bakery, selling bread and pastries baked in his home kitchen. He had been using the tiny space at 3712 West 32nd Avenue (formerly a gluten-free bakery called Bug & Belle) as a pick-up spot for his customers, and in May last year he moved his baking operations there, too. But his products proved popular, and by fall, he was baking at the kitchen's full capacity and selling out every day that the bakery was open.
"We've been at capacity four of the past five months," Bergin explains. "When we open, we have 75 to 100 people in line."
Bakery Four only opens Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so the demand was growing, but the bakery couldn't, with only 350 square feet of usable space. So Bergin signed a lease at 4150 Berkeley Street, with plans to reopen Bakery Four there this summer.
The new bakery will cover 3,000 square feet on the ground floor of the new Berkeley Hotel, a boutique hotel opening across the street from César Chávez Park. The kitchen will take up a third of the space, and the remainder will be dedicated to a full cafe, with coffee, sandwiches and other food and seating for about thirty guests. Bergin says his plan is to ramp up to four days a week at the current location before the move, and then Bakery Four will be able to open at least five days a week in the new space.
Bakery Four currently offers only one kind of sourdough bread, plus croissants, pain au chocolat, morning buns, cardamom buns and cruffins (a croissant-muffin hybrid filled with pastry cream). Bergin uses stoneground wheat grown on small farms, creating baked goods with rich flavor and plenty of nutrition. The baker says he'll be able to increase production to about 100 loaves a day, and in a bigger variety, and will be able to double his pastry production. With more baking, sandwich making and coffee service, the bakery will also be hiring more employees, up from just Bergin, his assistant baker and his wife, Alex Urdanick.
Bergin is planning to sell breakfast sandwiches, some filled with products from River Bear American Meats, in the morning, and heartier sandwiches, flatbreads, pizzas, tartines and toasts for lunch and into dinner. He says he hopes to be open by July or August, but it will depend on the city's permitting and inspection schedule.
In the meantime, you can still wake up early and queue up at the West Highland Bakery Four. And if you want to try a hand at baking your own bread, Bergin will even share a little of his sourdough starter with you.
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