A move to the busy corner of Marsh and Higuera streets has made it as easy as pie to visit the House of Bread Bakery Café in San Luis Obispo. Not only is the new location just off the freeway, it has several parking spaces right in front.
Sheila McCann launched her flagship business on Higuera Street downtown in 1996. At the time, it was both a welcome career shift from her criminal law practice and a way to reconnect with the homemade food of her Montana childhood. (Since then, House of Bread has evolved into a successful franchise with several locations in five other states.)
“I grew up on fresh bread,” she said, adding that when she opened “there were no other bread bakeries and also not many varieties of bread in grocery stores.”
House of Bread certainly introduced its customers to variety, offering free samples of whatever had just come out of the oven (which they still do), and developing a recipe list that has grown considerably over the years.
While certain breads, such as honey whole wheat, Grandma’s White and basil parmesan, are baked daily, the other couple dozen flavors get their turn in the oven according to a specific weekly schedule so there’s always a wide selection on hand.
On any given day, everything from garden herb to garlic cheddar, spelt to squaw, and apricot walnut to pesto feta focaccia might be available. During the holidays, the choices swell to encompass not only special-order pies, but also pumpkin bread, fruit-laden stollen (a traditional German Christmas loaf) and even a Cinnawreath — a three-plus-pound log of cinnamon rolls that’s shaped into a wreath, drizzled with white icing and perfect for a festive holiday breakfast.
Since first opening its doors, House of Bread has also made the logical progression to baking items such as dinner rolls, muffins, scones, brownies and biscotti — many of them also available in low-fat, fat-free or whole-wheat options. Since moving to the new location in August 2009, the business is now called House of Bread Bakery Café, and its menu has expanded accordingly.
An experiment with in-house roasted turkey sandwiches at the downtown location convinced McCann that she should begin offering other menu choices. The decision also made her work schedules more efficient, because “I realized that I really needed to expand into the other parts of the day.” When she moved to Marsh Street, McCann opted to bring in the Boar’s Head line of gourmet deli meats and cheeses, using them not just in lunch items but also in limited breakfast selections as well.
Now, House of Bread Bakery Café allows you to build your own sandwich, or to choose from eight other options that include the Cranky Turkey with dried cranberries and cream cheese, the House of Bread Club, and the Western with roast beef, provolone cheese and horseradish. Specials such as daily soups and a wild arugula salad with housemade lemon vinaigrette are also available, as are a breakfast ham and cheese baguette and a Sunrise Sandwich made with egg, cheese and tomato.
Even though she had to invest in turning a former flower shop into a commercial bakery and cafe kitchen, McCann feels the move to Marsh was definitely worth it, especially since “I had been looking at this location for a long time. It’s really scary moving a retail business, especially with such an established location, but it’s worked out, and people appreciate the parking — even I have a parking space now!”