Small Bites

A decade of dough: Lewis Lankford, Krista Stearns and Cathy Cleary started the West End Bakery ten years ago, when West Asheville was still up and coming. Photos by Jonathan Welch

A decade of daily bread

Ten years ago, West Asheville was a very different place. While it wasn't exactly a tumbleweed-filled ghost town, there was no U-Joint, Admiral or Desoto. The West End Bakery, however, put down its roots in a spot that would eventually become a social hub for the community — an anchor of a burgeoning community.

This month, the West End Bakery celebrates a decade of business with in-store deals, "opening day" prices and 10-cent coffee. "We'll be giving out samples of things, having certain specialty breads and things like that," says Cleary, one of the bakery's four owners along with Krista Stearns, Reid Chapman and Lewis Lankford. "There will definitely be something new featured every week," she says.

And what's it like watching an area come to life? Amazing, says Cleary. At the age of 28, when she began looking in the area for a place to house her bakery, there wasn’t much on the block other than Beanwerks (a coffee roastery), a cluster of barber shops and "lots and lots of appliance stores."

"When we got this building, it was a storefront church — called 'God's Filling Station.' That's appropriate for a store-front church, across the street from a gas station," Cleary laughs.

West Asheville: You've come a long way, baby. And so has the West End Bakery. Want to see how far? Visit the bakery to see a display of photos, both old and new, of Haywood Road’s revitalization. The bakery is also requesting that residents and business owners contribute their own memories and photos to add to the collection.

West End Bakery is located at 757 Haywood Road. For more information, visit

Flour power

West End Bakery participates in the local food movement and shares a passion for working with local farmers and producers whenever possible. In fact, they're one of seven WNC bakeries (including Annie's Naturally, Farm and Sparrow, Flat Rock Village Bakery, Loafchild Breads, Wake Robin Farm Bread, Wildflour Bakery and Natural Bridge Bakery) working together to kick-start a flour mill that would process North Carolina-grown grains.

The project, Carolina Ground, aims to link Western North Carolina farmers, millers and bakers, with the goal of producing local, stone-ground flour for an all-local loaf of bread. "The impetus for Carolina Ground came in the wake of the 2008 spike in the price of wheat, where … costs rose as much as 130 percent,” says the organization’s website. “This was due, in part, to drought in Australia, floods in Northern Europe, and the displacement of wheat for corn for ethanol in the U.S.”

What led to the profound spike in the price of wheat could be traced back to the creation of the Commodity Index Fund by Goldman Sachs in 1991, and the ensuing dramatic change in U.S. monetary fund policy that paved the way for escalated speculation. Add the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates, the decline in the value of the dollar, the increase in the price of oil, which prompted a rush from investors globally to trade dollars for commodities — it was truly a perfect storm."

The coalition of bakeries is looking for donations to get their mill up and running — but the group only has until Saturday, April 16, to reach its goal (you can pledge as little as $10). To learn more, visit Carolina Ground's Kickstarter campaign (

Crème of the crop

Crème Bakery is now serving lunch Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The bakery partners with Colorful Palate Catering to serve a cafe-style lunch that changes on a weekly basis. The menu includes sandwiches on Crème's daily bread selections or their pretzel rolls, which reportedly have a bit of a cult following. "In addition, we're serving filled rolls, such as our Florentine Focaccia filled with spinach, onion and mozzarella and a variety of savory pies," says co-owner Jitra Neal.

At lunchtime at Crème, expect to find Colorful Palate's chicken salad and ever-changing flavors of pimento cheese and hummus, which the catering company sells to The Soda Fountain at Woolworth Walk. Pimento cheese flavors include horseradish-havarti, chipotle-cheddar and smoked gouda, which can also be purchased directly from Crème.

Crème is located at 640 Merrimon Avenue, Suite 201. For more information, call 350-9839.

Annie’s Naturally expands

Annie's Naturally Bakery, another one of the bakeries working on the Carolina Ground project, is expanding. The bakery started production in their new 22,000-square-foot wholesale facility in the Emma area of West Asheville in late March, enabling them to have more of their great breads in more locations (I highly recommend the Country Wheat). Annie's has been in business for 12 years, nine of which were spent on Main Street in Sylva. A retail storefront still remains in Sylva, "So they won't miss us there,” says Jon Fisher, a partner in the business with Joe and Annie Ritota,

The new plant occupies the old Square D facility, says Fisher, and enables for greater regional expansion of their bread distribution. Annie's breads can currently be found at Greenlife, Fresh Market, Ingles and other local groceries. "We can go at least tenfold the size now,” says Fisher. “We're trying to move from a local bakery to a regional, much larger-scale bakery." Ingles is the bakery's primary customer — Annie's currently delivers their fresh-baked breads to 25 Ingles stores, four times a week. "And we're looking to add four to five Ingles every quarter," says Fisher.

The bakery also supplies local restaurants and catering companies — the largest wholesale account that they have, outside of Ingles, is the Biltmore Estate. "We're doing all six restaurants there," says Fisher. "It's a large account — especially when they have a million visitors a year."

Fisher says that Annie's, which is working on getting their all-organic certification, will remain a regional bakery with no real plans to go national. And with so much demand in the area, it seems like there's not much reason to get any bigger. “We’re really glad to be in Asheville right now.”

For more information about Annie's Naturally, visit

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