The best way to get a hold of brothers Stephen and Ben Gordon these days is to follow the delicious smell of bread floating around the University of Southern California’s campus. With the “Bicycle Bread Company,” the Gordons not only offer some of the best bread that I have ever been privileged to taste (and as a French man, I should know!), but are also slowly changing the community by building bridges between students and local families in South Central Los Angeles. Daily BR!NK met up with Stephen for an interview and, of course, some bread tasting.
First of all, this bread is absolutely amazing. Can you tell us some of the different flavors that are offered on a weekly basis?
Sure! We have cinnamon-raisin, oregano-basil, rosemary, basil, and honey-wheat bread. Seasonally, we also offer garlic, pepper paprika, pumpkin, and apple spice loaves of bread.
Who came up with the recipe?
My mother did, actually. I come from a big family in Gainesville, Florida, where I have seven brothers and three sisters – all of whom are younger than me. As a parent, you definitely have to be smart when you have eleven kids and not much money, so our mom would order oats, honey, wheat, and make the bread for us.
How did you decide to start you own bread company?
It was during my senior year that I tried to combine two of my passions: educate people on how to eat nutritiously, and serve the community at the same time. Once the idea of a bakery was born, my parents bought me a grinder and bread mixer for graduation and became really supportive of the project – even though I had never made bread before in my life! Since I did not have a car, I got on the bus with 50 pounds of wheat in a backpack and the baking material on a dolly and headed to USC in order to start baking.
How did people initially respond to the bread?
No one really seemed to enjoy it. If a friend and I each brought baked goods to an event, then they would tell that friend, “Hey, you should be the one starting a bakery!” But after a few months of trying and trying, the bread did start to get really good.
[Stephen’s younger brother and co-director of Bicycle Bread, Ben Gordon, arrives.]
Stephen: Ben, how much do you love Bicycle Bread?
Ben: I hate it! [laughs]
Care to join us for the rest of the interview?
As of now, how is Bicycle Bread doing?
Ben: We’re now operating two to three times a week on two different locations around campus. Students and local people come by to taste our bread or buy a loaf for a four-dollar suggested donation. That allows us to buy more wheat, keep going, and try to reach our ultimate goal: have our own bakery. We want to grow slowly, and who knows? We might have a company that is financially sustainable!
So how many people are now baking with you?
Ben: There is a little less than ten of us baking and helping to give out the bread. We like to have a small number of efficient people who share a similar vision for the company.
Stephen: We want to serve the neighborhood. So much of our project lies in getting to know the people we are serving. Our ultimate goal is to be in a retail space where we can give students a safe and hospitable atmosphere as well as build bridges between students and families in the neighborhoods. The bread really acts as a vehicle to serve that purpose.
It seems like you guys are really trying to recreate the “big family” atmosphere you grew up with!
Ben: That’s funny, I never thought of that…
Stephen: Probably. There hasn’t been a big amount of effort from USC to connect students with the local community; but Bicycle Bread presents a great opportunity to solve that problem.
Where do you guys draw your inspiration?
Ben: I think that Stephen and I are both inspired by God everyday. Seeing what He has done for this bakery up to this point is just incredible; after just two years, we now have a space to bake, people willing to give their time, and each major purchase has been exactly 90% off of its original retail price. If God has given this to us, we want to give it back to the community in some way.
What do you need the most right now?
Stephen: We’re looking to expand our team of bakers: really motivated individuals who understand the vision of “Bicycle Bread.” Also, we always want to attract more people to come taste our bread and become part of our project.