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One of Twin Cities' great bread bargains is closing its retail outlet

There’s going to be a blip in the ongoing Twin Cities bakery boom.

The New French Bakery, a staple on the local bread scene for nearly a quarter-century, is calling it quits. The closing date? “No later than Friday, March 6,” according to signs posted at the bakery’s retail outlet in south Minneapolis.

There’s a simple reason for the closure: The bakery’s parent operation, now called Rise Baking Co., is discontinuing its fresh breads, with plans to concentrate on its wholesale frozen bread products.

The New French Bakery was founded in 1995 by baker Peter Kelsey. It was an outgrowth of the New French Cafe -- where Kelsey once worked, years earlier, as a bus boy -- and operated in a storefront adjacent to the landmark Warehouse District restaurant.

Kelsey quickly outgrew the space, eventually building the business into a wholesale operation baking 3 million pounds of bread per month and grossing $40 million in annual sales. In 2013, the U.S. Small Business Administration named Kelsey the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year.

A month later, Kelsey sold the business to Chicago-based Arbor Investments, a private equity firm that specializes in food-and-beverage concerns.

The bare-bones, bread-only outlet (2609 26th Av. S., Mpls.) is the open-to-the-public component of a much larger commercial baking operation – formerly an abandoned nightclub -- that employs hundreds of people.

It’s the affordable source for several dozen well-made styles of loaves, from baguettes to sourdough boule, ciabatta to foccacia, pumpernickel Pullman to sesame semolina.

The store is also home to one of the better bread bargains in town. At the daily “End of Day Sale” (4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, 1 to 3 p.m. weekends), any remaining baguettes go for $1 and any $3 items are priced two-for-$5.

That's not the only deal. The store is conducting a closing sale, with a buy-three-get-two-free deal.

Resilient Minneapolis vegan cafe has 'mind-blowing' community support

The recent opening of Reverie Cafe + Bar (1517 E. 35th St., Mpls.) is less than a debut and more of a reincarnation.

Co-owners Jeffrey Therkelsen and Kirstin Wiegmann started their plant-based restaurant in 2015, moving into a former coffee shop at Nicollet and Franklin Avs. in Minneapolis.

“We took over someone else’s two-year lease,” said Wiegmann. “We saw it as an opportunity to get into the game.”

When their lease wasn’t renewed, the couple started to search for a new location, but nothing fit their criteria.

That’s when they decided to buck tradition and hit the road with a food truck. The conventional growth route finds a food truck operator matriculating into a permanent brick-and-mortar operation. This time, the process reversed itself.

“We decided that starting a food truck was a way to keep our brand alive, and stay connected with our community,” said Wiegmann.

The gamble paid off.

“The great thing about the truck is that so many people got introduced to Reverie through it,” said Wiegmann. “Hopefully they’ll want to come and visit us.”

(By the way, after two busy years, the truck isn’t going anywhere. “Although I’d be OK with driving it into the river,” said Wiegmann with a laugh, an indication of the countless challenges involved in the food truck universe. “Economically, it’s really valuable. There’s a great value in taking food to the people.”)

The 50-seat, counter-service cafe is currently on a lunch-and-dinner schedule and is open daily. The plan is to offer weekend brunch (“In about a month,” said Wiegmann), eventually looking into weekday breakfast and late-night hours.

“A lot of that has to do with what the neighborhood wants,” said Wiegmann. “We’re used to being an all-day cafe, a place you always know is open.”

Cocktails could also be part of the future. Right now, the bar (a rebuilt vintage mahogany beauty) offers 16 tap beers. An additional four taps are reserved for kombucha, switchel and cold press coffee.

Therkelsen’s menu includes smoked potato salad with artichoke hearts, a mac-and-cheese prepared with a house-made smoked Gouda facsimile, rice and beans with smoked Brussels sprouts, a tempeh BLT with basil aioli, roasted cauliflower po’ boys with a smoky cashew remoulade, lemongrass tofu tacos and cashew cheesecakes. Top price is $13.

When Therkelsen and Wiegmann announced their move last fall, the project got off to a rousing start. An online crowdfunding campaign via Kickstarter drew 642 backers and raised an impressive $49,067. That dollar figure is even more remarkable considering that the original $25,000 goal was reached within 48 hours.

“It was kind of mind-blowing,” said Wiegmann. “We definitely underestimated the support that we have in our community. We were going back and forth between crying and laughing.”

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