Ocean Springs — Coast residents are expanding their culinary vocabularies, as well as their palates, with the opening of Bellos Bakery, a producer of artisan breads, fine pastries and specialty cakes.
Owners Gerald Quick and Thaddeus DuBois, former culinary and executive pastry chefs, respectively, at Beau Rivage in Biloxi, opened both a production bakery and retail outlet in May. Now, focaccia, ciabatta and sourdough are not only rolling off tongues but over taste buds with the introduction of the specialty breads to this market.
“Thaddeus and I had been tossing around a few ideas for a restaurant-type business,” said Quick, a transplanted New Yorker married to a native of Houma, La. “During that time, we were bringing bread into the casino and were having a very difficult time finding a fresh, high-quality artisan bread. None was available locally-it was all shipped in. We realized we had found a niche that should be filled, and that’s how it happened.”
Since Quick’s background is in wholesale and DuBois’ is in retail, the two decided to focus on both market segments. First, they would open the as-yet-unnamed production bakery, to work out recipes and build their wholesale clientele. Next would come the retail shop, which would serve as an outlet for the breads and a showcase for DuBois’ delicate pastries that would be produced on-site in a smaller kitchen.
“It didn’t work out that way,” Quick said. “Construction delays on both properties, particularly with the production center, caused us to open both businesses at the same time.”
It’s a tricky endeavor for these entrepreneurs, as DuBois splits his time between the coast and Atlantic City, where he is employed as an executive pastry chef.
But by all accounts, the two are pulling it off. The retail bakery, located in a newly-refurbished building in downtown Ocean Springs, has been well-received by patrons, who can get freshly-roasted coffee and breakfast-style pastries in the morning, sandwiches on specialty breads at lunchtime and fancy desserts to bring home for dinner in the evening.
The wholesale market, which consists of local restaurants and the Palace Casino, is also warming up to Bellos’ freshly-baked products.
“We began using Bellos’ products about a month ago in Mignon’s, our fine-dining restaurant, and we are looking to expand further to use them to make sandwiches in our café operation,” said Jim Brown, Palace’s food and beverage director. “We do a multi-bread offering, and use their breads exclusively.”
“We’ve had a very favorable reaction from our customers, and it has been a win-win situation because it has actually created some efficiencies for us in terms of pricing,” he added.
Quick and DuBois are heavily recruiting the casino market to grow their wholesale business, and Quick says they are in final negotiations with two of the larger casinos on the Coast. With independent restaurants, they are marketing their breads as a way to improve and diversify lunchtime offerings without significantly increasing owners’ costs.
“My product might cost them 10¢ or 15¢ more, whereas changing meats could cost three to four times that,” Quick pointed out. “These breads can liven up their menu and bring new ideas into their place.”
It was a “new idea” coupled with good timing that might just have created the right environment for the birth of this business.
The production bakery is located in the Gulf Coast Business Technology Center in Biloxi, an incubator for start-up businesses. The GCBTC was expanding a few years ago to add new warehouse spaces to its facility. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Quick and DuBois approached Adele Lyons, the center’s executive director, about one of the warehouse spaces that was being designed with the capacity to become a commercial kitchen space.
“I go to different conferences for incubators around the country and had seen these kitchen incubators,” said Lyons. “One in Denver is a 20,000-square-foot space that people are in and out of all day.”
About the time construction was complete, Quick and DuBois had finished their business plan, identified a retail site and were ready to make their move. They got back in touch with Lyons, worked through that process and were up and running.
“We’re baking probably about 900 loaves a week,” said Quick. “We have the capability to do 10 times that amount.”
With the continued growth of the production bakery’s clientele, Quick says the next step will be to produce more familiar items, such as dinner rolls, banquet rolls and hamburger rolls.
“We also developed the production bakery as a ‘hot spot’ — an area where we could develop smaller retail programs in and around the Coast — and once we saw that develop, we could hopefully branch out into another area, develop another hot spot and do retail marketing around it,” he said.
For the retail side? Why, more Bellos Bakeries, of course.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from several people who want us to build a second Bellos Bakery store, especially from people in the Long Beach/Gulfport area, who drive over for our fresh bread and are starting to come over for the specialty cakes,” Quick said. “We’d like to see another bakery in that area, and perhaps a third one east of the Mobile, Ala. area, as well.”
That growth is something that Lyons not only hopes for, but expects. Although GCBTC required a longer lease agreement with the Bellos partners than is usual (due to the capital expenditures incurred by the center to finish out the space to health department specifications), she is already kicking around plans for the commercial kitchen once Bellos “graduates” from the facility.
Regardless, Lyons is happy that businesses no longer have to go out of the Gulf Coast market to purchase the all-natural, hand-made, European-style breads.
“We want them here. This has worked out well for everybody,” she said. “We think they are doing pretty well and are glad for them.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Mara Hartmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.