Credit: Photo by Samuel Hanson

Credit: Photo by Samuel Hanson

The bread man

Updated: March 4, 2016 - 2:05 pm

Christopher MacLeod is a one-man bakery

Christopher MacLeod has spent a lot of time in the back of bakeries, shaping dough and baking out of the customer’s sight. After each day’s effort, he would watch a portion of his work going into the wastebasket.

“As a baker it’s really frustrating to see your product go to waste,” he reflects. “To see a percent of every day’s labor go into the trash can is one of the most frustrating things about this industry.”

Along with forging a stronger connection with his customers, that commitment to reducing waste is a driving force behind his subscription-based bicycle delivery company, Laune Bread.

Laune, a German word meaning “mood or vibes,” explains the good feelings that MacLeod gets from his work. He delivers whole grain sourdough breads, naturally leavened, and made using sustainably grown ingredients from within 250 miles. He delivers throughout south Minneapolis by bicycle, as well as to drop-off points in Downtown (Open Book) and Northeast Minneapolis (Anelace Coffee).

The idea formed over years working in bakeries, first in Portland and then in northern California. MacLeod moved to Minneapolis in 2014 on a mission to learn the region while employed at Rustica.

“I moved here with the idea of starting something,” he says, but first he needed connections and access to local ingredients.

He launched Laune in October and has been baking his breads in a one-man operation, using Sunstreet Breads’ facilities during closed hours, and delivering roughly 40 loaves each bicycle trip. While health and carbon footprint are important to MacLeod, one element that’s stood out in his delivery is the impact it makes on his customers.

While he typically leaves a bag of bread hanging on the doorknob for folks who are away at work, he’s often greeted by enthusiastic customers.

“It’s something special,” he says. “It’s a lot of families because my loaves are sort of big. … Kids want to go pick it up. Instead of the milkman it’s the bread man.”

Making that connection with his customers is something he didn’t get at other bakeries, and he’s working to develop a deeper relationship, one that increases awareness and appreciation of handmade products.

He includes literature along with his bread, sharing facts about the Moorhead farm that grows the wheat, the varieties used, and other bread histories and information such as the milling process.

“I’ve put all this work into trying to find local sources and to create a healthy product. It would be nice for people to know the work and not just the bread, to understand the whole process,” MacLeod says.

“All the breads I make are versatile,” he stresses, keeping ingredients basic and free of sugars, dairy, and eggs. While he uses a sourdough base, it’s mild and easily palatable. “I think whole grains taste better than white flour,” MacLeod says of his ingredient choice, with each bread variety comprised of at least 50 percent whole grains. He also notes their nutritional and digestive benefits. “And it lasts longer,” he says, which answers the biggest challenge of the baking industry: keeping products fresh.

Laune makes only bread (no pastries) due to his emphasis on health, but also because he enjoys the process and product. “There are so many things you can tweak,” he says, referencing recipes and baking conditions. “It’s scientific but it’s also how to shape it: using your hands and how it feels,” he says, a perfect meeting of art and science. His process is continually evolving, and new breads are added into his different subscriptions.

While a storefront may be more profitable, he prefers the subscription and delivery model because there is no unsold bread to discard at the end of the day.

“By biking and trying to source locally, I have these limits. They force me to consider how I run the business,” he says. Meeting those limitations is a blessing and a curse. He has room to grow, as baking a double batch would be a minimal work increase—primarily in baking and dough-shaping time—but with the bicycle model, there is a limit to his reach.

He enjoys keeping active on the bike, but it’s labor intensive, which is why downtown and Northeast are pick-up locations. House delivery is closer to his home in the Bancroft neighborhood.

“I start with 40 loaves of bread so I have 80 pounds behind me,” he says, and the start-stop of biking in downtown is especially hard. “When I start and finish it feels like I’m pulling the same amount of weight. The amount of bread I get rid of and my energy level crisscross.”

He’s eager to see what kind of potential his business has.

 “Once I hit my threshold, how can I do this?” he asks, looking ahead. “In some ways limits are really good and I appreciate the limits that I have, but in some other ways it’s really frustrating because there’s a realization you just can’t do everything.”

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FYI …

For more information about Christopher MacLeod’s microbakery, go to launebread.com.