Strong Brewed Marketing: Rustic, French, and Decadent at Moxie Bread

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When he was in high school in Massachusetts, Andy Clark worked at The Glass Sailboat in Gloucester. Soups, salads, barrista coffee — homemade healthy fare. While he was there a new manager took over who happened to be a baker.

Andy got curious about what he was doing and started going in early to hang around and watch. He never thought the properties of dough would light him up the way they did.

Baking Took Hold and Wouldn’t Let Go

Andy baking

Andy in conversation with the dough

“I got really excited by the craft of baking. It’s like a living creature; you have to listen, pay attention. It looks simple but there are enough changing aspects to the landscape that it keeps you intrigued. I liked that it kept me on my toes every day.”

It wasn’t long before Andy found himself gravitating toward bakers, who seemed more down to earth than other personalities in the food industry.

Building Blocks for Later

When Andy moved to Boulder, he worked at The Daily Bread Bakery (where Frasca is now). There, he says, laughing, he “got schooled” by amazing, old-fashioned bakers who knew their way around a bag of flour. “These guys were from the buckle of the wheat belt in Kansas and they understood three-ingredient breads  — sourdough, water, salt — passionately.”

The Daily Bread was sold to Whole Foods Market in 1998, and Andy was one of three bakers who opened up the in-store bakery at Boulder’s first Pearl Street location. He stayed there for 15 years. “All the while I yearned for something smaller I could wrap my arms around again.”

Gleaning Business Tips Along the Way

He left to become COO at Udi’s and had a great experience as part of a small, high-expectations family business. The R&D part of his job required he spend a fair bit of time on airplanes and power point presentations. While he loved the work and really sees how it helped him enormously with his business today, he still wasn’t getting any closer to the bakery of his dreams.

“I finally came to the realization that I had to change gears, create on a daily basis, have a small business with an intimate experience,” he says. A return of sorts to his origins in the small Gloucester shop with a focus on making incredible baked goods.

He started seeking out a viable location in Louisville and describes many sad drives over the course of many months, peering out his car window in search of The One.

Moxie Finds the Perfect Home

And then it happened. A killer business location in a house built in the 1880s on the corner of Pine and Main streets popped up. Andy jumped in feet first, picked a soft opening date of June’s Taste of Louisville, and burned the midnight oil to roll it out.

The name Moxie felt right because to him it means “courage, determination, chutzpah, and the determination to persevere.”IMG_6766

Andy, a self-confessed junker, outfitted his new bakery with a pot-bellied stove, a piano from the 1800s, and a kid-friendly blackboard wall with a trough of chalk. He brought in Tom, a baker with a “quiverful of amazing health-food-co-op-macro-vegan alternative muffins and cookies,” and Jeff, with a deep background in all things decadent and French.

All Moxie’s breads (what Andy refers to as “sustenance pieces”) are approximately half whole grain and long fermented, which makes them highly digestible. He uses a flour mill to grind organic and biodynamic wheat from western Kansas in-house every day.

He committed to a front-of-house staff who value the food experience and treat customers with care and kindness, and aimed to create a niche that would take clients down uncharted roads. “I can sell ham and cheese croissants all day long,” Andy says, “but can I get someone to buy one with collard greens, horseradish, and pastrami?”

Moxie got a ton of business that first day and it hasn’t slowed down since.

Who Can Resist an “Autumnal Cuddle?”

On this day Moxie’s chunky wooden community table consists of a young couple and their daughter engrossed in a tea party, a 30-something on his Mac powering through a spinach and chèvre croissant, an older couple sharing a Moxie sandwich with prosciutto and manchego, and a clutch of grad students discussing a project over coffee cups and muffin crumbs.

It’s a rare drizzly day and I am in receipt of an “autumnal cuddle,” a work of pastry art on a slab of polished wood, scented with goat cheese and dates.IMG_6773

“I want people to come and hang out, with laptops or kids, have a place with some kind of meaning and resonance to it,” Andy says with sincerity. He doesn’t regret all the years he invested in the corporate world, going to sales meetings or learning fundamental business skills, since they got him to where he is today.

“All the steps you take are critical on your journey to get here, and you’re on this path for a reason. When the time is right, you’ll be able to open your own joint.”

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