Althea Bread is a Charlottesville-based business owned by Andrew and Susan Bayker. They started the business in 2018, and completed the 16-week Entrepreneur Workshop at the Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) in Charlottesville in Spring 2019. The name Althea comes from the Greek word meaning “wholesome and healing.” Modern highly processed bread is anything but wholesome and healing and there is great need for more healthful bread options for consumers. Althea makes a variety of slow fermented whole grain breads using sourdough starter. Althea is unique in both its commitment to local organic grains and its use of a small stone mill to grind their own flour. They also make pastries. In addition to selling at the farmers market, they are an added value product for the CSA at Atelier Farm north of Charlottesville.
Althea Bread was born out of Andrew Bayker’s desire to make a more wholesome, nutritious bread for himself and his community. Although he has a degree in biology and worked in biology research at the University of Virginia, it was food service that he felt was his real calling. He began working at bakeries, including two years at Marie Bette in Charlottesville.
He and Susan began their own business out of their cottage in the woods south of Charlottesville. They started slow, mostly selling to friends throughout 2018. Their first real sales occurred when they started vending at the fledgling Winter Market at IX Park. Andrew participated in the CIC entrepreneurship program throughout the spring of 2019, and their sales began to hit stride once they started selling at the two farmers markets in Charlottesville.
Their long-range plans are bold. They own six acres of land in Albemarle County and hope to soon build a bigger production space on the property. Further down the road they hope to one day open a retail space in Charlottesville. As members of the Common Grain Alliance, they expect to be active participants in building the local/regional grain economy through their continued support of local organic growers.
The 0% SOIL Loan received by Althea Bread from Slow Money Virginia in August 2019 is allowing them to purchase two new stone mills and some other baking supplies, all of which will help them boost their production and grow their sales. Their current bottleneck in production is milling. By increasing their milling capacity with a reasonable expense, they believe they can quickly boost sales. Also, the increase in production will enable them to participate as an added value product for a large CSA nearby.
Pictured below are the two new mills in action at Althea Bread on August 30, 2019: