Keith Zinn owns and operates The Bread Board, an artisan bakery in Falls City, Oregon. He and his partner, John, are known for creating rustic sourdough breads with chewy, caramelized crusts. Some of their breads are whole grain, others are enhanced by savory herbs, nuts and seeds. Sourdough enthusiasts will find these breads at the store in Falls City, and at farmers' markets throughout the Willamette Valley, including Salem Saturday Market, The McMinnville Market, Silverton Farmers Market, and Independence Farmers Market.
I recently joined Keith for a conversation about his history with baking, and his thoughts on the recession.
Living Culture: How did you first get involved in baking?
Zinn: I first started baking 15 years ago by responding to a sign in a window at a newly opened wood fired brick oven bakery down in Freestone, CA where I was living at the time. I hadn't done this kind of baking before, but was happy to have been given the opportunity. I worked and learned at that bakery for 4 years before venturing out to help a friend open a wood-fired oven bakery down in that same area.
Living Culture: Why did you choose to live and work in Falls City?
Zinn: We were looking for an affordable place to buy property that would have some proximity to a metropolitan area. I was self-employed building outdoor furniture at the time and needed a market for my product. We also wanted to relocate to a climate that would be good for gardening. So we got out the Sunset Garden book and targeted the general area. We ended up finding an old Victorian that needed some TLC. Shortly after that, we found the property where the bakery is now located. At the time it was in need of a lot of work but was very affordable. So the building first became my workshop for my outdoor furniture business and then it got transformed into the bakery. The more interesting part I think is choosing to take a risk by opening our bakery in Falls City. It's too simple to say that it's because we live in Falls City and had the building to do it in. Over the past 5 years we've become very involved in our community. It became increasingly clear that we not only needed to do something to help us realize our dreams, but do it in such a way as to have a broader impact on our community. It feels great to have created jobs and created a gathering place where people can meet friends, make new friends, and strengthen their own sense of community and connectedness. We love Falls City and feel fortunate to have found ourselves building our lives here.
Living Culture: How has the recession effected your business?
Zinn: I'm not sure we've felt any effect from the recession since we started our business in the middle of it. Our business has grown at a manageable pace since we first started baking bread out of our home over 2 years ago. If anything, I think the recession has been a help. People seem more focused on keeping their money in their local community. The increased cost of travel keeps people closer to home. People still want to get out of the house and have an adventure, but they don't want to have to spend a ton of money to do it. The bakery is a beautiful and inviting place where people can see really great food being made by hand and look into our brick oven. We keep our prices very fair. Our large hearth-baked pizza can feed a party of four for $19. People are responding to our approach. We get lots of repeat customers who bring new people with them all the time.
Living Culture: What inspires you to bake bread day-in, day-out?
Zinn: Our bread is simple, delicious and I need a reason to eat more butter. Well, that and knowing that what I'm doing every day is bringing people together and creating economic opportunities for others. You just can't beat the satisfaction that comes from doing something the very best you know how and seeing that spread goodness in so many directions.
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