Vagabond's Got the Goods
new Menomonie bakery focuses on local ingredients
Indulge me in a little daydream. Imagine stepping out of your doorstep into a stunning early spring day. Robins are hopping, the sky a dazzling blue, and there on the warm breeze the unmistakable smell of baking bread … so good. This aroma conjures up childhood memories of a warm, fresh baked brownie (your favorite), in your hand, in your mouth, and most likely on your face.
Back then bakeries weren’t too small or too big; they were just right. They had fresh (not out of a tub or tube) baked cookies, cakes, bread, cupcakes … endless possibilities of yummy goodness, measured, stirred, mixed, kneaded, and baked right on site. Back then more than most of the ingredients were from regional farmers. There’s a reason they’re referred to as “the good old days.”
Well, stop daydreaming, and welcome to the 21st century in the Chippewa Valley, where the dream is now reality at downtown Menomonie’s brand new Vagabond Bakery. Owners Rick and Theresa Suydam are two Stout grads now in the old-school, community-minded business. Inside it has a bit of a blank slate feeling, primed and ready for the local color and characters to leave their impression. And along the counter were “the goods,” trays filled with cookies, brownies, scones, and more.
Rick gave me a tour and we sat down for a chat, and the following conversation ensued.
Why is it important to you and Theresa to have a bakery in town?
Bakeries have traditionally been a social hub to many towns. We built this business with that in mind.
How long have you been planning and working on opening a bakery in Menomonie?
We first had the idea to start a bakery about this time last year. I’d been unemployed for a long time but wasn’t happy with how things were working out. We decided to do our ‘own thing’ and baking was a long-time hobby that family and friends have enjoyed for years. It began to morph into this idea of using as much local/organic ingredients as possible, and the Vagabond was born.
What is your vision for Vagabond in the next year?
We are very concerned with so many people who are, to one degree or another, gluten intolerant. Since we have to have an entirely separate facility for that purpose, it’s our logical next step to find a way to make that happen.
How many local/regional farms are supplying products for you and what are they?
Right now, we are working with: Great River Organic Milling in Fountain City who provide the whole grain flours, Rochdale Farms in LaCrosse provides butter, Crystal Ball Farms Organic Dairy in Osceola provides cream and half-and-half, Casper Sugar Shack in Knapp bring us maple syrup, and we get our honey, apples, pears, seasonal fruits, and veggies from Maple Leaf Orchard in Spring Valley. At the Menomonie Co-Op we get just about anything else we can use.
You seem very committed to being a localvore. What is your vision for this and how did you come to hold this view?
How much time do you have? We’ve lost our sense of connection to our local food. We forget where our food comes from and what’s in it. Used to be – and not that long ago – that you could actually visit with the farmer who raised cattle, crops, almost 80% of what you ate. As a student, during my commute to Stout, I started to notice all these little family farms that I drove by on my way. Who were they? What did they produce? Where could I go to buy their stuff and support them? I started finding local farms that would sell maple syrup, eggs, honey, fruit, all sorts of baking supplies. It just tasted better to me, and I always wanted to support my local economy. … It’s fresher, it has local flavor (pun intended) and, literally, you’re helping your neighbors.
Visit Vagabond Bakery at 334 Main St., Menomonie, or at VagabondBakery.com.