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Hewn, baker of bread used at Sweetgreen, is moving to larger space in Evanston to accommodate demand

Monday, November 18, 2019
Chicago Tribune
by GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Hewn, a popular Dempster Street bakery that sells bread and pastries to dozens of businesses around Chicago, is moving to a larger building on Central Street.

The bakery’s new location is a vacant 92-year-old bow truss building at 1731 Central St. in Evanston. Co-owners Julie Matthei and Ellen King said the expanded space will allow them to satisfy the current demand for their products.

 

The two women said they plan to open the new storefront in spring 2020.

Hewn bakery features made-from-scratch bread, pastries and sandwiches with locally milled Midwest grains. A walk-up counter at their current location serves morning customers on their way to work or on the walk home from dropping kids at school. Sandwiches, local flour, coffee and other products also are for sale.

 
There are currently no cafe tables. Rather, the store’s current double-storefront home is taken up largely by the kitchen in the back, where the owners and their staff of about 25 bake bread and pastries for about 60 restaurants around the greater Chicago area.

The new building will allow Matthei and King to expand from their current 2,200 square foot space into a 6,000 square foot space. It also will allow their flourishing wholesale business to expand with a larger oven.

That larger oven won’t work on Dempster Street because “we have a basement here," Matthei said. It’s so heavy it must rest on a cement slab.

Hewn opened in 2013, right before that winter’s polar vortex, Mattei said. Foot traffic was low, and the two women began brainstorming ways to make money “that aren’t based on (people) walking in the door.”

King, a trained chef who studied at the Seattle Culinary Academy, had built a following of people who loved the bread she baked in her home with a sourdough starter she created, Matthei said. King’s cookbook, “Heritage Baking: Recipes for Rustic Breads and Pastries Baked with Artisanal Flour from Hewn Bakery,” was published in 2018.

 

Loaves of housemade bread are on display at Hewn bakery in Evanston on Nov. 13, 2019.
Loaves of housemade bread are on display at Hewn bakery in Evanston on Nov. 13, 2019. (Genevieve Bookwalter / Pioneer Press)

So, the women got the word out and from there the wholesale business “grew organically,” Matthei said.

Hewn now serves almost 60 restaurants in the greater Chicago area, Matthei said. Most feature chefs who share the bakery’s mission of providing high quality, local food. The bread crafted at Hewn ferments for 20 hours, and for four of those hours it is turned every 30 minutes.

 

Hewn’s biggest customer is Sweetgreen, the popular salad restaurant that often boasts long lunchtime lines at its Loop locations. The bakery bakes and slices the bread served with every salad in the region, Matthei said.

Hewn also provides bread and pastries to Philz Coffee in Evanston and Chicago, all Chicago-area Lyfe Kitchen restaurants, Peckish Pig, Metropolis Coffee, Hoosier Mama, Libertad restaurant and more.

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said he is glad Hewn will stay in town.

“I’m super proud that Hewn, which was started by two Evanstonians, is becoming a regional powerhouse with their bread offerings,” Hagerty said. “It’s good for their growing staff and our community at large.”

Hewn applied for a tax break with Cook County, which Evanston aldermen endorsed in August. It has not yet been approved by the Cook County Board of Supervisors. The women said their move is not dependent on receiving that designation.

 

Ellen King, co-owner and director of baking operations at Hewn, talks with kitchen staff about the best ways to bake bread on Nov. 13, 2019.
Ellen King, co-owner and director of baking operations at Hewn, talks with kitchen staff about the best ways to bake bread on Nov. 13, 2019. (Genevieve Bookwalter / Pioneer Press)

Tony Volpi, the Evanston store leader with Philz Coffee, said the coffee shop typically buys their pastries and baked goods from local bakeries. When they opened four Chicago-area locations, Hewn was “one of the best choices.”

"Hewn has a great reputation, " Volpi said.

Volpi said he hopes Hewn’s new space will allow Philz to carry more of their products, like a quiche that is available in the bakery but not yet to wholesale customers.

“They have a couple more pastries that we want to get but they don’t have them for wholesale,” Volpi said.

While Hewn’s Dempster Street store will close once the Central Street location opens, Volpi said he hopes the bakery’s customers will walk down to his cafe for their regular morning snack. Already, he said, regulars have asked if the coffee shop’s pastries are from Hewn.

“We can tell, we knew it,” Volpi recalled customers saying.



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