Three Boston College roommates have recently turned their passion for bread into a profit, and their business is serving the campus community one perfectly made loaf at a time.
Conor Downey, MCAS ’21, is the founder of Boston Bread Company (BBC), along with his roommates Matt Hartmann, MCAS ‘21, and Stephen Windisch, MCAS ’21. Downey began his bread-baking journey last summer, when he worked at Bread by Johnny in Jupiter, Florida.
“Anyone can make bread,” says Downey, who transferred to BC this fall from Florida State University, “but it’s more difficult to make sourdough bread because it uses a natural starter called ‘The Mother.’”
Downey explains that the technique used to make their artisanal sourdough bread is more complex than that of regular bread. While most bread contains yeast that comes from a lab and is not particularly healthy for consumption, they use organic yeast nicknamed “the mother.” Their bread is also safe for people with Celiac or Crohn’s disease to eat, because the acetic acid that is produced neutralizes any gluten present.
To make their bread, BBC begins by mixing the mother starter with water and flour, and then allowing the yeast to eat away at the mixture. This provides the leavening power to rise and form the dough. The mother yeast is also less efficient than lab yeast, so it produces additional byproducts that make the bread taste even better.
Next, the dough is folded to make sure that all of the air bubbling up within as the yeast digests has been released. It is then put into the refrigerator for 16-20 hours. The final step takes place the next day, when BBC bakes the dough for an hour.
The whole process takes two to three days, but requires only 15 minutes of physical work. The rest of the time is spent monitoring the bread, but since the process is very temperature-dependent. the overall timing can be varied. A two-degree temperature difference could result in an additional hour of waiting for the bread to leaven.
“You don’t need to be a chemistry major to make it, but it is very finicky as opposed to just basic bread,” Downey explains modestly.
Although BBC discusses their bread-making process with ease, it is impressive that they are able to undergo such an operation out of their apartment. When Downey first told Hartmann and Windisch his stories of breadmaking, they were a little dubious, but now they are very grateful that he shared his idea with them. The three roommates enjoy making the bread as a team.
“When Conor told us about his time over the summer in the bakery we were very skeptical at first, because our idea of bread was any bread you could get in a food store,” Hartman recalls, “so we really didn’t know bread could taste that good, but then we tried it and were convinced it was a great product.”
“Learning this unique skill, and then being able to use it to create something that a lot of my friends have been able to enjoy, is something that I have really cherished from this process,” Windisch echos his roommate, “I was a little skeptical when Conor brought up the idea at first, but I have grown to really enjoy it.”
Caroline Downey, MCAS ’20, (also Conor’s sister) says after working at the bakery in Florida, Conor was thrilled about breaking into the bread market in Boston.
“My brother has the experience, drive, and entrepreneurial spirit to make this venture work. Conor always ‘shoots for the moon’ and invests 110% into what he loves,” Caroline says, repeating their catchphrase, “Boston Bread Company is ‘out of this world!’”
Currently, BBC sells their bread to other BC students for $6.50 per loaf. Customers can order online from their Instagram @bostonbreadco, and also check their page for photos of the company’s skilled creations.
“There is a difficult mental block to get over when you tell people you’re selling a loaf of bread for $6.50, because in their head people are just thinking of a loaf of bread you could get at the supermarket, but it’s definitely not in that league,” Downey says.
BBC averages about seven orders per day, and students can pay via Venmo or cash. Soon they hope to set up their own website and in the future open up a store near BC, since it is such an ideal location. Their idea is unique, and there are not many bakeries found close to campus. Visiting their shop would be the perfect opportunity to, quite literally, break bread with friends.
Tucker Doyle, CSOM ’20, attended high school just a few blocks away from Arthur Avenue—a strip of authentic Italian eateries nestled in the Bronx, NYC. Doyle attests that he has tried some of the finest bread in the world, and given these high expectations, offers his review of BBC.
“The white bread I ordered from Boston Bread Co. was truly ‘out of this world,’” Doyle confirms, “It is not just the taste, freshness, and texture that set the loaf apart, but the satisfaction of knowing that the loaf was individually crafted for my specific enjoyment. From the Instagram DM to the hand delivery to my dorm room, each step the Boston Bread Co. takes to ensure that their customer receives a superior loaf is second to none. You can spend $10 at lower for a dried-out piece of grilled chicken, or $6.50 to get the best bread in the greater Boston area. If you value high quality and great value, look no further than Boston Bread.”
Other students around campus are already raving about Boston Bread Company as well.
“My roommates and I ate an entire loaf in a day,” says Stephanie Barry, MCAS ’23. “Ten-out-of-ten would recommend.”
The bread is so good that some are willing to sideline social obligations for it.
“Conor Downey still has my pong table, but because his bread is so good, he can keep it,” claims Stephanie Walsh, MCAS ’20.
Kerry Soropoulos, MCAS ‘23, describes her first taste as an experience akin to religion.
“Jesus said, ‘Man cannot live on bread alone.’ He obviously hasn’t tried Boston Bread Co.,” Soropoulos praises the team.
As time goes on, Downey and his roommates hope to educate more consumers about their process.
“Most people don’t know anything about it, so it would be kind of cool to sort of educate people through Instagram on why this kind of bread is better than store-bought bread,” Downey describes the goad.
Educate and elate, they will indeed. Students better get their orders in now, because Boston Bread Company’s fame is rising faster than their yeast.