A new bakery in Laurel is offering traditional coffeehouse fare alongside spicy, exotic breads, and a mother-daughter team from Ethiopia is behind it all.
Maza Getachew and her mother, Genet Vulcha — the owner of Genet Bakery and Catering — have been baking and selling bread for 15 years. Now, diners in Laurel can buy turkey paninis for lunch, and slices of red pepper bread and tiramisu for dessert — all in the same place.
Originally from Ethiopia, Vulcha has been living in the United States since 1990; Getachew since 1991. They've been baking together for "a long time," Getachew said. First, she said, they baked in her mother's apartment building, selling whole wheat, barley, white, raisin and red pepper bread to local businesses.
"You know, apartment buildings have smaller ovens," Getachew said. "Once people started liking the breads, we moved to a house and we baked in the garage. We opened up the two-car garage doors and baked, and we did that for six years. We just baked, baked, baked."
After baking from home for 15 years, they decided they needed to expand. So in January 2012, they set up shop in a vacant bakery at 603 Seventh St., making bread for 30 area businesses.
"There was already two ovens inside, and we put ours in there, and we've just been baking ever since," Getachew said.
Vulcha was traveling home to Ethiopia on vacation for the first few months after they moved into the new location, Getachew said. It was during this time Getachew noticed something happening across the parking lot from the bakery: the 7-Eleven was being rebuilt and the entrance was being moved to face the parking lot outside their shop. Getachew said she knew the once-sleepy stretch of shops would soon be bustling with foot-traffic.
"I called my Mama and said, 'You have to learn how to make pastries,'" Getachew said.
The week before Christmas, the bakery opened its doors to the public, with a menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, coffee drinks, pastries and, of course, bread.
While Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday are spent baking pastries, Monday and Thursday are dedicated to bread. Twice a week, the bakery produces 400 loaves of bread for the bakery and for stores — and only Getachew and Vulcha know what makes the bread special.
"It's the spice," Getachew said, declining to specify what spice. "It's the secret ingredient."
Whatever it is, Getachew said she and her mother smell of it every time they finish baking.
"Whenever we leave here, we smell like spice," she said.
Not everyone likes the spice, however, Getachew said.
"The spice makes the bread special," she said, "but in the business world, you're working with the customer, and you have to make progress. People complain about too much sugar, too much salt, and you have to listen."
That's what happened with the spice, Getachew said, and now she and her mother sell spice-free bread at the bakery. The bread sent out to stores, however, still has just as much spice.
So far, business is doing well, Getachew said.
"I have a business in the next building, and I live upstairs, so this is so convenient," said customer Yasamin Varvishpour. "They're very friendly here, and you get to chat with familiar faces. Everyone's kind and nice."