Jaime “Blue” Laukhuf and her husband, Jason, were rolling in the dough with their specialty wholesale bakery, Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes in Ybor City.
Blue, armed with his culinary and hotel experience, and Jason, with his background as pastry chef at Bern’s Steakhouse, have supplied Tampa Bay’s top chefs with breads and pastries since 2013. JB3 had dozens of accounts with top restaurants like Counter Culture, Forbici Modern Italien, On Swann, Bella Brava in St. Pete, and Rooster & the Till, and then suddenlyâ¦ crickets.
Like most public establishments, the Breadhouse has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as have their key accounts. âIt was like radio silence; they just unplugged the plugs, âsays Blue Laukhuf, CEO of Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes.
âThe pandemic clearly wiped us out for a minute,â she says. “I’m such a hopeful person that when this happened I sent all my accounts this uplifting and inspiring message like ‘Don’t worry, when it’s over it will be like Christmas in July’ . ”
July 2020 has come and gone.
What started in 2013 with strictly wholesale accounts expanded in 2018 to an hour of limited production, open to the public in a small area of ââthe Breadhouse facility they dubbed The Grain Room.
Laukhuf admits that when word of The Grain Room spread, things got out of hand.
“People would stay outside for hours. We are only allowed to have seven people per city code. One day I opened the door and 35 people came over 333 square feet.”
“It was like a weird ‘Supermarket Sweep’. Elbows were flying,” she recalls, laughing. Laukhuf says they developed a numbering system and Breadheads had to wait for entry outside.
As the spring progressed, the pandemic continued, and with force. Laukhuf realized he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. âWe had run out of wholesale accounts for about a month and I started to panic,â she says.
They were on the ground, but they had not come out. Blue devised a plan to adapt to the changing times. The original idea for JB3, which Laukhuf calls a “drive-by”, arose out of a need to win.
What remained a bargain once a week, the first drive-bys started with an article titled “WHAT’S IN THE BAG?” that sold like hot cakes. It took off so quickly that high demand necessitated more options and the selection grew to a dozen and then two dozen items. It has evolved every week.
The products vary from week to week, so you never know what surprises will delight you on their menu. There are staples like their gluten-free sourdough bread options – country sourdough, On Swann sourdough, and multigrain sunflower seed sourdough. There’s also OG French croissants, Sammy cracked wheat, pretzel baguettes, focaccia with toppings, Breadhouse saltines, and Breadhouse grainola. Revolving items include the Tidy Bun, a fresh Japanese milk bun with various fillings, sealed and baked. It’s like a sloppy joe, but locked up so there’s no mess. Similar is the Tidy Phil, a Philly cheesesteak inside the baked bun.
And while Breadhouse had temporarily lost nearly half of its accounts, the drive-by was booming. âWe have increased our public visibility by 225%,â says Laukhuf.
After the Saturday market, Laukhuf displays the items available for pickup the following Saturday. Items are available for pre-order, pre-pay until Thursday – but don’t hang around as some items sell out. Pickup is quick, safe and easy – customers stay in their air-conditioned vehicle, roll down the passenger window, and give their last name. The order, the smell of baked goodness that escapes from the bag, is placed in their seat or in their trunk, and off you go. It’s a fluid, non-contact experience.
The Breadheads who have been around since The Grain Room’s origins are thrilled with the new concept, which will be here to stay or grow. Depending on what the future holds, Laukhuf hasn’t ruled out the potential to expand his business into an outdoor market. Much of this is at the mercy of the pandemic.
JB3’s wholesale accounts have recovered and contactless drive-thru may be Breadhouse’s mode of operation now and forever. Laukhuf is considered a high risk COVID-19 due to a persistent lung problem that started about 20 years ago, so not only is it better for her – although she loves people – c t is good for the public they serve.
Now over a year, Laukhuf takes a moment to think, “It’s just a lot different from what we’ve done in the past. But it’s been cool. I mean, it’s kind of fun.”
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