Boule Bakery in St. Johnsbury Sells Out, in a Good Way | Food + Drink Features | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Boule Bakery in St. Johnsbury Sells Out, in a Good Way


Published August 30, 2022 at 3:33 p.m.
Updated August 31, 2022 at 10:03 a.m.

Francis Baker eating Boule focaccia - SUZANNE PODHAIZER
  • Suzanne Podhaizer
  • Francis Baker eating Boule focaccia

It's been months since Darrell and Katey McLaughlin have brought home a loaf of bread. That might not be particularly strange except that the couple owns St. Johnsbury's Boule Bakery, which specializes in sourdough loaves and pastries and serves sandwiches, gooey cupcakes with perfectly piped frosting and decadent tiered cakes for special occasions.

"I don't remember the last time the bakery had leftovers, but of course we refuse to buy bread," Darrell, 34, said with a chuckle.

The McLaughlins opened Boule in July 2021, hoping to sell enough bread to pay the bills and have a little dough left over for a part-time staffer. Just over a year later, they employ 11 people, including themselves. They've spun off a taco business in collaboration with nearby Whirligig Brewery and recently signed a lease on a contiguous space that will hold a second kitchen.

Every day, the bakery sells about 100 loaves of bread, 300 flaky pastries with sweet or savory fillings, 140 cookies, 48 cardamom buns, and 48 cupcakes, its owners said.

"We anticipated being at this point at our five-year mark," Katey, 32, said. "We can't keep up with demand."

  • Suzanne Podhaizer
  • Boule Bakery

With deep gray barn board on the walls and live-edge slabs as counters, Boule's décor strikes an urban chord. So do its menu items, including a goat cheese-and-carrot-topped Danish with pumpkin seeds and loaves of roasted cherry tomato bread that are sometimes seasoned with curry powder.

Katey hails from Rochester, N.Y., and Darrell is a Vermonter who grew up in Danville. "People like to see a local open a business," he said. "I think that if Katey and I were both from New York City, we would have had to work harder to win people over and get them to try new things."

Chris Mercon is a Boule regular who grew up in North Danville. As a kid, he said, he never dreamed that businesses owned by his contemporaries — including Whirligig, Central Café and Boule — would help transform downtown St. Johnsbury into a destination for food and drink. "I like it a lot!" he exclaimed.

A gluten-free cupcake - SUZANNE PODHAIZER
  • Suzanne Podhaizer
  • A gluten-free cupcake

Katey and Darrell ran a movie theater in Washington State before moving to the Northeast Kingdom in 2017. Darrell had studied at the Culinary Institute of America, while Katey learned to bake during her teens and later ran a catering bakery. The couple initially bonded over "being food crazy," Katey said, and always dreamed of opening their own place.

While living in Vermont, Darrell worked at a nearby New Hampshire inn. When it closed during the pandemic lockdown, he joined a friend's contracting business and started learning carpentry. Deciding it was time to realize their dream of a bakery, the couple considered locations in Burlington and Montpelier, but they decided that St. Johnsbury "needed bread the most," Katey said.

Boule's spot is a former vape shop that "still smelled like vape juice" when he went to check it out, Darrell noted. It needed extensive renovations, but Darrell's building skills enabled the couple to tackle the work themselves, save for the plumbing and wiring.

A gluten-free cupcake - SUZANNE PODHAIZER
  • Suzanne Podhaizer
  • A gluten-free cupcake

During their unannounced soft opening, they sold out in two hours.

"It was like somebody had a stakeout and was waiting for us to open," Katey remembered. "I was overwhelmed with joy, but I was also just overwhelmed — like, Oh, my God. We didn't plan for this. We don't have enough staff."

Since then, the McLaughlins have been trying to keep up while building capacity where they can. Their new kitchen, projected to be up and running in late September, will offer additional coolers, a second steam-injected bread oven and bigger equipment for pastry production. They hope it will help them meet local demand while adding salads and wholesale loaves for restaurants.

Maybe then they'll even be able to enjoy a loaf of their own bread at the end of the day.

Disclosure: Last spring, Suzanne Podhaizer sold some foraged ramps and fiddleheads to Boule Bakery.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Bake or Break"

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