Cooperative members of Black Bear Bakery in St. Louis need a little help. The worker-owned and operated bakery, known for its old-world Lickhalter breads, is on the verge of a shutdown.
Two remaining cooperative members Kerry O’Brien and Bryan Dennert are hoping to save the near-century-old bakery from closing with a "Save Black Bear Bakery" Kickstarter campaign.
Only five cooperative members remain out of 20, O’Brien says. The remaining members are setting a goal of $50,000 to sustain the mortgage and to pay off existing debt. Kickstarter and Amazon, which each get a profit from the effort, handle the fundraising efforts. The only catch is that the goal must be met within 45 days or the donations are not realized.
If the fundraising effort fails, the cooperative members remaining will attempt to obtain individual loans to keep the business afloat, O’Brien says. If neither plan works, the bakery could close as early as Tue., Sept. 4, she says.
Organizers of the Kickstarter campaign are hoping to launch it Fri., Aug. 3, or Mon., Aug. 6. They’re waiting on their Amazon registration to go through, and in the meantime, they’re making a video to support their efforts. (We'll bring you the link to the campaign as soon as it launches.)
O’Brien says a couple circumstances have led to the potential closing of the bakery, including one member being diagnosed with cancer and another one leaving to become a father. “These events left inexperienced members running it so it kind of went down hill,” she said.
Located in the historic Vandora Theater Building at 2639 Cherokee Street, Black Bear Bakery traces its recipes—many from the original Lickhalter Bakery started by Samuel Lickhalter in 1915 at 1119 Biddle in Downtown St. Louis—and its current bakery space to 1916.
Black Bear Bakery also makes more modern whole-grain breads as well as granola, pastries and pizzas—all from scratch using local, organic ingredients whenever possible. The bakery also sells Fair-Trade certified organic green, black, and herbal tea. Everything is sold in the wholesale and retail arenas. The café portion of the bakery is currently out of operation, but cooperative members hope to revive it if the fundraiser is successful.
O’Brien saysBlack Bear Bakery is often referred to as The City of Little Bread, which is the original name of The Reign of the Rabble, an academic thesis on the 1877 St. Louis General Strike in St. Louis wherein workers sought to prohibit child labor and to institute the 8-hour work day. Black Bear Bakery was rehabilitated by local workers and with materials found in and around the community and to apply sustainable design principles and green building such as handrails, moulding/trim, baseboard trim, doors, sinks, toilets, lights, electrical, drywall, lumber, A/C units. All bakery equipment is used from the 1948 Middleby Marshall oven, to the dough mixers which range from 1929 to 1964, to the old butcher block.
Bathrooms at Black Bear Bakery have chalkboard paint for writing poetry. Grandiose tall spaces and private intimate spaces make the café unique. Located behind the bakery is a garden with fruit trees to grow produce and flowers for the café.
Black Bear Bakery hosts cultural, political and creative activity in the way of music, film and performance. Local artwork is displayed and many groups use the café space daily for meetings, presentations and press conferences.
Black Bear products are sold at Soulard Market, Maplewood Farmers Merket, Clayton Farmers Market as well as a number of fine grocery stores and restaurants in the St. Louis area.
Black Bear Bakery is open Tuesday through Friday 8am to 5pm. For more information about Black Bear Bakery or how to donate to save the bakery, call 314.771.2236, visit blackbearbakery.org, or email O’Brien at email@example.com.
Black Bear Bakery, 2639 Cherokee St., 314.771.2236, blackbearbakery.org