What I Do: Timothy Nordmann, owner of Mr. Meowski’s bakery
The story of Mr. Meowski’s bakery is a story of one man’s determination to produce the perfect loaf. Owner Timothy Nordmann began baking sourdough bread in his home kitchen around 2014 as a hobby following a return to school and the decision to make a mid-life career change. What started as a pastime turned into a full-time job as Nordmann’s output exceeded his home kitchen. He started taking wholesale and retail orders, expanded his offerings to croissants and other pastries, and now occupies a storefront on St. Charles’ Main Street. Here, Nordmann discusses how he discovered the secret to good breadmaking, how rising commodities costs have impacted his business, and what’s next for Mr. Meowski’s.
“For the first several months [of breadmaking], it was just mistake after mistake after mistake, and I was doing everything wrong. It was just this mystery behind what flour does when you put water in it. So, I kind of got obsessed with it, and I was just determined to figure out how to make it work.”
“One day I was mixing my dough like I always did, but this particular day, I forgot all about it and left it on my countertop for a full day to ferment. I thought I ruined the dough, but I decided to bake it anyway. The flavors from the resulting bread were so rich and intense. It was like I found the missing piece to the puzzle.”
“Time was the secret ingredient for good breadmaking, and I was always trying to rush things along, so when I finally learned to work on the dough’s schedule and what it wanted, not what I wanted, my bread immediately started tasting better.”
“In breadmaking, sourdough is kind of like the fundamental building block of all breads… I definitely wanted to go back to how bread has always been made and understand that process first. And it was for flavor, like I said, but then after doing it, I came to find out that there are also a lot of health benefits, and the flavor is more of the good side effect to the process.”
“We had begun the pastry program two years before moving to Main Street. So, by then we had been doing all of our croissants and everything. So that was one of the mainstays to our business also.”
“[With] the croissants and everything, I was thinking, ‘What is the bakery item that someone at home would be least likely to do?’ And if they did it, they'd probably do it once and be like, ‘Never again.’ There are some things that are better to have someone else do.”
“When I first started, you could get a 50-pound bag of flour for $15.25. Now they're $28. When I started out, I used to get a very, very high-quality butter for $2.75. And now we're at $6.75 for that butter. I used to take eggs for granted; now it’s around 40 cents per egg … Sugar is another one that's easily doubled: A 50-pound bag of sugar started out at $15, and now I want to say my last invoice was $54.”
“You can only raise your prices so much before it doesn't make sense… It's just a constant balancing act. And we did a modest price increase at the beginning of last year, but that was before the inflation had really taken its toll. And, quite frankly, I don't know what to do. It's painful, you know. I don't know what the answer is.”
“What we're looking forward to is growing that dine-in opportunity, to provide more hospitality to our customers. Because I feel like we're a destination; if you go 20 to 25 minutes to the bakery, the least we can do is make you feel at home and provide a little bit more of an experience.”
“So, we’ll be focusing on our toasts menu. We're doing smoked salmon with cream cheese. We're making our own peanut butter and jelly, so we’re going to do a peanut butter and jelly toast. And then goat cheese and housemade berry jam. And everybody loves avocado toast. So, we’re going to do fresh avocado with bacon, eggs and hot honey.”
“Everybody asks, ‘How do you eat your bread?’ Instead of just telling them about it, we’re going to get the opportunity to actually cook more for our customers, and they can try it in our bakery and then go on and try it at home too.”
107 N. Main St., St. Charles, 314.922.9234, mrmeowski.com
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