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Catonsville bakery and cafe expansion gets rolling

Atwater's kitchen renovation will bring breakfast, sandwiches and salads

By Lauren Loricchio, lloricchio@tribune.com

1:39 PM EST, February 7, 2014

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If you've been anywhere near Atwater's Naturally Leavened Bread Bakery and Cafe on Frederick Road, you've probably seen box trucks outside, contractors coming and going, and heard the clatter of hammers and other tools.

The shop, which serves bread, cakes and cookies, along with coffee, soups and salads, has expanded over the years, but hasn't always made a profit, according to Ned Atwater, the owner.

The shop opened in 2010 to join similar bakeries in Belvedere Square, Towson and Falls Road and has done well enough to stay in business, said the Catonsville resident.

The company prides itself on serving fresh foods, often with natural and organic ingredients, according to company's website.

But all of the shop's sandwiches and salads have to be prepared ahead of time and kept in a cooler by the front door, due to the limitations of the kitchen on the site.

However, that will change. Renovations to the kitchen will allow preparations of hot sandwiches, hot soups, hot breakfast and salads.

The business is still waiting on a loan from the bank to determine how much money they'll have for the renovations, Atwater said.

The goal is to start serving new hot sandwiches like Reubens and seasonal salads by mid-April.

Renovating the 100-year-old building at 815 Frederick Road has been tough because of its age, and there has been some electrical and plumbing issues, Atwater said.

Despite the challenges, Marie Dutton, general manager of the shop said, "We get so much support from the community. We're keeping a positive vibe and moving forward."

Atwater's will be moving its bakery to Whittington Avenue in Morrell Park to make room for a new kitchen at the Catonsville location.

The facility in the southwestern portion of the city will be used for the distribution of bread and soup as well as catering, Atwater said.

He said he expects to hire 15 new people for their distribution facility, Atwater said

While customers like having bread baked fresh in the shop, some want breakfast and sandwiches made to order, so Dutton sees the change as one that will make her customers happy.

The company currently employs 145 people and with the expansion of their Catonsville shop, expects to hire five to 10 more for food preparation, Atwater said.

Atwater, a Catonsville native, began the business 16 years ago, with his wife La Atwater. The couple has three daughters: Casey, 23, Caroline, 25, and Hallie, 27.

"Ned and his family are a great team. I've thought of him as a second father for a long time," said Dutton, 24, who has worked with the company since the age of 14.

Atwater worked his way up in the food service industry, starting off as a dishwasher, he said. After working in the restaurant business for 20 years, he used his knowledge of the industry to start his own business.

He said baking bread is his passion. The first thing he sold in his bakery was sourdough wheat bread, which he quickly learned wasn't for everyone.

He knew if he wanted to appeal to a larger crowd, he'd have to branch out and sell baked goods such as cookies and cakes, he said.

As the company continues to grow, the new distribution facility will be used to "experiment with new recipes and new ideas."

"We'd like to do things like make ice cream and yogurt," Atwater said, peering out of the window of his office above the Catonsville shop, "There are more things we'd like to do, but it's too soon to think about."