The story of Carolina Artisan Bread is that of a lifelong dream fulfilled. As a boy growing up in the South, Bill Logan always knew he wanted to go to culinary school, but was "discouraged" by his parents, who found it an inappropriate career choice for a man. Instead, Logan made a living in construction, while still holding on to his culinary dream. It wasn't until 2011 that the now-58-year-old felt that "time was kind of running out," and finally enrolled in the baking and pastry program at the Art Institute of Charlotte.
After a year's instruction, Logan entered into an apprenticeship with a traditional French baker in Vermont, whom he describes as "a son of a bitch ... but he sure could bake." In 2013, Logan returned to North Carolina determined to start up his own business, which he named Carolina Artisan Bread. From the beginning, the business was focused on doing things small — just a couple types of bread done extremely well and small-batch production that allowed Logan to experiment with different types of flours and occasionally even bake to order. Since opening in Midland last fall, Carolina Artisan Bread has rapidly earned the appreciation of chefs, market managers and other local food lovers. Its newest retail presence is at Atherton Market in South End, where I caught up with Logan recently.
Creative Loafing: How welcoming have you found Charlotte for new, local food businesses?
Bill Logan: CAB probably owes a good part of its very existence to the demand in the area for locally produced food. All of our retail outlets and our one restaurant go out of their way to promote local products, and their clientele responds. We were a perfect fit, and it has been a big part of our success so far.
How did you go about finding new retail customers, chefs and restaurants to sell to?
I just walked in the door with samples when we first got started. Our first two stores were Provisions by Sandy Creek in Waxhaw and Newell Farmers Market in the University area. We got a big boost when Cat [Catherine] Harris, the editor of Edible Charlotte, bought our bread at Reid's Fine Foods and really liked it. She told Ben Philpott, the executive chef at Block and Grinder, and we have done really well there ever since. Ben and Cat told Lynn Caldwell at Atherton Market and now that's our Uptown presence.
Have you had to make any changes to your business model or products based on feedback from your customers?
Our original model was to offer only two types of sourdough bread, but to try and perfect them. It was the same model that the baker I had apprenticed under had used with great success. After a while, it became evident that model was not necessarily appropriate for this market. Nancy Newton at Newell Farmers market suggested we try a focaccia, because she had had someone the year before that had some luck selling one. Now our focaccia is our biggest seller, and we [also] offer a sourdough rye, a challah and a baguette.