Exclusive interview: 25th anniversary of Zingerman's Bakehouse, Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor's Zingerman's Bakehouse, under the iconic Zingerman's brand, celebrates 25 years of business this fall. Its silver anniversary is being commemorated by the release of a cookbook authored by its managing partners, Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo. The cookbook, titled Zingerman's Bakehouse, is scheduled for release by Chronicle Books this October.
Since 1992, the Bakehouse has been dedicated to baking and selling breads and pastries, using traditional methods and world-class ingredients. Zingerman’s Bakehouse serves specialty food stores, cafes, and restaurants in the southeast Michigan area (including Zingerman’s Delicatessen, which uses Bakehouse bread for all of its sandwiches) and has garnered a national fan base ravenous for its famous brownies, sour cream coffee cake, and Jewish rye bread sold through Zingermans.com. Zingerman’s Bakehouse also operates a popular retail shop and BAKE!, a hands-on baking school in Ann Arbor that teaches over 800 classes a year to 7,000 students.
We were recently able to talk to Amy Emberling about the bakehouse and its products.
Liz Parker: Zingerman’s is such an iconic Ann Arbor brand. What made them decide to open the Bakehouse?
Amy Emberling: The Deli had been open for a decade and the founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig were contemplating ways to grow their business and to provide opportunity to others. Bread was a critical part of their business which featured sandwiches. They were using the best bread they could find but wanted more variety and even better. This was the catalyst for considering opening a bakery with their long time friend, co--worker from the past, Frank Carollo.
LP: What are some of the Bakehouse’s most popular desserts/bakery items?
AE: Our most popular bread is a French country loaf which we call Farm Bread. It is followed closely by Paesano, the traditional bread of the Puglia region of Italy. We make hundreds of sweet items, many of which are seasonal. We are probably most known for our sour cream coffee cake and our Magic brownies. They've been part of our repertoire the longest.
LP: What kind of business do you do on the wholesale side? What desserts are popular items?
AE: We sell to 100 wholesale customers, 99 percent of whom are within 1.5 hours of the bakery by truck. Fully 60 percent of our business is wholesale. After our coffeecakes and brownies, our morning viennoiserie is the most popular category.
LP: What prompted you to make the switch to organic flour recently?
AE: It was just the right thing to do for our planet. We use 700 acres of wheat a year. We thought it was time to support organic acres.
LP: I see Saveur gave Zingerman’s the honor of having “America’s very best deli rye.” Has the Bakehouse won any other awards recently?
AE: Maybe... I honestly don't keep track of that. We judge our success by how many long term customers we have, wholesale and retail. It is an award everyday that they continue to shop with us.