Specialty grocer Dorothy Lane Market contracts over 50 acres of grain for their artisan bakehouse, serving their three locations in western Ohio.
Dorothy Lane Market (DLM) began in 1948 as a fruit stand on Dorothy Lane in Dayton, Ohio, growing steadily over the decades into the 3-location specialty grocer they are today. The Market believes in helping people explore food and was an early adopter of baking European style hearth-baked loaves in the 1990s. Stretching into local grains was a natural next step in their evolution.
“We are among the first in southwest Ohio using local flours,” said Greg Tyzzer, DLM’s bakehouse manager. Over the past year, they've transitioned more than 30% of their grain ingredients to local sourcing. Hooray!
Eight years ago, DLM partnered with three Ohio farmers—Danny Jones, Ed Hill, and Dale Friesen—to grow a test plot of Turkey Red wheat. Now, they contract to buy roughly 55 acres of Turkey Red, and have added hundreds of acres of other local grains to their pantry.
When the invasion of Ukraine sent flour prices skyrocketing, going local became not just idealistically better, but practically better, too. Relationships with local farms are more secure, and often buffered from price spikes that travel through the broader grain supply chain during global disruptions.
A single bakehouse serves DLM's three retail locations, and the amount of bread dough produced ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 pounds a day. Maneuvering ingredients for the many breads—and baked goods—the bakehouse makes is not a simple endeavor, but one that Greg tackles with gusto.“We will take a recipe where we want to use more local ingredients and slowly crawl toward a goal, using small batches and increasing the local ingredient percentage batch by batch,” Greg said.
Good communication with farmers eases the process. For instance, when white whole wheat flour prices soared, conversations with AGC member Jon Branstrator of Branstrator Farm led to a substitution of whole grain Red Fife as a more affordable alternative. Using the gradual inclusion process described above, Greg landed on a seeded whole grain loaf with 85% of this flour.
Another farmer, Ed Hill, visits the bakehouse twice a week, joking that Greg fooled him out of retirement. Ed is happy to plant plots of grain for DLM, and gives Greg old books and pamphlets about grains, eager to have his work continue.
Selling the breads that contain special grains means making sure that customers know such relationships exist. Each of DLM's stores has a kiosk that highlights their farmer connections, and indicates which loaves trace back to Ohio farms. Greg says AGC’s grain chain infographic has been a great tool in this effort.
“My baking career started at the height of the gluten-free boom, so I know the importance of research and education. When we started the local grain initiative last year, we knew that education was going to be integral to our success,” he said. “Every chance I get, I talk to the customers.”
Running the bakehouse limits his conversations, however, so Greg makes a concerted effort to speak to the people within DLM—retail managers and marketing teammates—who carry information forward. The team took care to structure their message for printed materials, and for face-to-face encounters like the DLM Pastry Fair, which took place on Thursday last week (shown below). The idea is to help people identify reasons to participate in grain change.
Greg began cooking when he was a teenager, and went to culinary school in his early twenties. Although he helped his grandmother with her home-based cake business, he didn’t think he’d be a baker. When a fellow chef told him about the sourdough process, though, he was hooked. He fell into a self-described wormhole, and explored baking at home, but thought he’d have to go elsewhere to learn more about natural leavening. Discovering that DLM existed when he did was perfect timing, and he’s been in the bakery since 2014, minus a year and a half when he staged at other bakeries.
“I never thought I’d be able to use Ohio flour,” Greg said, still surprised at the luck and fun of the grain work at DLM. AGC is glad to have DLM and their work in our network. The model they’re making—connecting with farmers, and inviting eaters to engage with their role in the process—is pioneering, and we look forward to seeing how these collaborations continue to grow.