Detroit-based bakery Avalon International Breads is expanding outside the city by opening a brand new cafe in downtown Ann Arbor.
The bakery closed a deal last Monday to secure the location of the former Mezzevino Mediterranean Kitchen and Bar on 129 E. Liberty St.
The retail bakery will be named Avalon Hearth and Soul Café and is on track to be open by the end of this year.
University of Michigan alum Jackie Victor, co-founder and CEO of Avalon International Breads, said 60 percent of her wholesale market — including Arbor Farms Market, People’s Food Co-op, Plum Market and Whole Foods — comes from Ann Arbor, and her roots here that were an influence for opening a cafe.
“When I was a student at the University of Michigan, it was where I originally got the idea for a bakery, because I used to volunteer — periodically, not on a regular basis — at a co-op bakery called Wildflour Bakery,” Victor said. “Working at Wildflour was a really powerful way to see how a small space like that could really create a lot of warmth in a community, plus provide something that was healthy and brought people together.”
Victor said once she realized she was passionate about in political activism and the diversity and welfare of Detroit, she decided to open a bakery in 1997 in the Cass Corridor of Detroit, using a lot of the same equipment from Wildflour after they decided to shut down.
“It was a cool handoff,” she said. “We even use some of their recipes, like their date bars. So in some ways my roots are from Ann Arbor.”
Noting a relatively new bakehouse her company owns downtown, Victor said Avalon has increased their production over the last few years, enabling them to be able to open up shop so close to campus.
“So we decided to just go for it,” Victor said. “There’s always been a demand for our product in Ann Arbor. Space became available — that’s a great location.”
Helping to make the Ann Arbor space a reality is Chef Maggie Long, who founded the Jolly Pumpkin's Detroit location and will make their menu. Victor noted in particular that Long works closely with local farmers, which she said is in line with Avalon’s social mission of using locally grown products.
“She’s an amazing chef and has a wonderful relationship with local farmers,” Victor said.
In addition to the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, the cafe will sell coffee, baked goods and all of Avalon’s breads. Almost everything, except some baked goods, will be shipped directly from the Detroit warehouse. Additionally, will sell a full line of sweets and dessert goods — such as the vegan blueberry muffin, scones, brioche, granola bars and breakfast sandwiches.
The cafe will also serve beer and wine, including some from Jolly Pumpkin on Main Street.
Victor said the cafe will have an easy and simple breakfast menu during the weekdays, but a more extensive brunch menu on the weekends.
“Our cafe will be featuring more meals, some highlighting our breads and others highlighting the ingredients we will be using from local farms and other vendors,” Victor said. “The cafe will be what I call an ingredient-driven menu, so it's going to be driven by what's seasonal, local, fresh and delicious.”
Given this new location is the first outside of Detroit, Victor said it will be a learning process for the bakery, relying mostly on customer feedback.
“I think how we’ve always evolved as a company is in response to our customers,” Victor said. “That’s what we’ll be doing in Ann Arbor as well.”