Grand bakery: New business carving Uptown niche on Broadway

Pound for pound, the refurbished 6,000-pound French oven earns its keep at the new Grand Bakery, 120 W. Broadway St.

Artisan baker Eliot Smith relishes the Grand Bakery’s French-style oven, which pops out all kinds of specialty breads and pastries.

“The thing I like about bread is that it’s like a blank canvas,” said Smith, who grew up watching his mother make and sell bread from their home in Guilford, Conn.

Minus the preservatives that give breads a long shelf life, sugar-free breads and pastries at the Grand consists of organic, natural ingredients. Yet they stay fresh for up to five days, he said.

Chuck Schnabel, who owns the bakery and Quarry Brewing downstairs, said the bakery has breads “you can’t get elsewhere.’’

Smith will roll out a beer-cheese bread crafted from the Quarry’s in-house Open Pit Porter for the grand opening and ribbon cutting slated at 4 p.m. Friday.

Smith fashions crusty breads and honey-drenched pastries behind 17 years’ experience in the food industry, including three as a baker at Sweet Grass Bakery in Helena. Some of his recipes come from Sweet Grass, but he’s also developed his own over the years.

With each unique loaf, Smith puts the art into artisan bread-making.

Among the choices: traditional bagels, sourdough rye, kalamata olive, potato, cracked wheat, French white, muesli and a golden-braided Jewish challah.

While he plans to incorporate a simple soup-and-sandwich lunch menu soon, Schnabel said the bakery has drawn about 60 sit-down and take-out customers per day since it opened earlier this fall.

On Aug. 2, Schnabel and his crew spent seven hours transporting the gargantuan 9-foot by 15-foot oven from the old Renaissance Bakery, 127 N. Main St., to its new home several blocks away on West Broadway Street. The move involved a series of complicated steps that couldn’t be rushed. But the heavy lifting is paying off.

“It has taken on a life of its own,” said Schnabel, whose personal preference is the chunky garlic herb bread. “It’s expanding and doing well.”

— Renata Birkenbuel may be reached at [email protected]