When Mark and Glenna Evans were considering retiring from their primary careers, they knew they didn’t want to just be loafing around. The result? Breaking Bread Bakery in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The couple was still living and working in New England when they began planning their “encore careers.” Glenna was phasing out of her hairstylist and artistic photography careers, and Mark was looking beyond his as a software manager.
Both loved cooking creatively and extensively for friends and for large events, and “along the way (Mark) just really starting liking the breads,” recalled Glenna. That gave rise to taking classes at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Vermont, which hooked him so much that he enrolled at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.
Still working full time, Mark commuted and attended two years of weekend classes in order to complete his coursework. However, that commitment was proof that the Evanses had found their encore careers.
“Baking was just so much more fun than anything else we’d looked at,” said Mark, so the couple set about finding where to settle in for their next chapter.
Using a software manager’s approach, they started with a spreadsheet with parameters such as population, economic demographics and location.
“His heart was really in California,” said Glenna, so the search narrowed down to San Luis Obispo and two other cities. “When we came here, we really liked the feel of the whole downtown,” she said. “It has all the good things about a smaller town but all the amenities of a larger one.”
The couple found an existing restaurant spot at the County Government Center on Higuera Street, and — once they managed to get the huge, multilayered oven moved in — they opened Breaking Bread in August 2012.
The bakery items were meant to be first and foremost, but the vision was that Breaking Bread would also feature healthy, from-scratch breakfasts and lunches.
“Because we were from out of the area, we wanted to really get to know our customers, so at the beginning it was just the two of us here talking to people,” said Glenna. “It let us know what to do next.”
As a result, in addition to all the baked goodies, breakfast serves up burritos and inventive “basket quiches” — hearty mini-quiches in flavors that change daily. The morning menus have also offered everything from a French toast casserole to buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy.
Not surprisingly, sandwiches are a big slice of the lunch menu, with regulars such as Black Forest ham and swiss, chicken salad and a BLT, plus daily specials like a Vietnamese bahn mi or pulled pork. Other specials have included street tacos or lasagna, and there’s always a freshly made soup available as well.
The grab-and-go case features several salads (chef, pesto pasta, couscous, etc.) and four-ounce (or larger) bruschetta flavors that come with two slices of bread.
Which breads are available depends on the day (pick up a monthly schedule at the bakery or check out the Facebook page). Favorites such as sourdough, baguettes and six-grain are weekly stalwarts, but “Baker’s Choice” has featured everything from potato rosemary to roasted garlic levain. All those loaves have also been joined by an ever-growing lineup of muffins, scones, croissants, cookies and pita breads.
“A lot of this is just listening to customers,” said Glenna. “They’ve gotten to trust us in terms of quality and to know what they want. Because of that, we’ve been able to introduce a lot of different things — and that’s half the fun!”