Uptown Minneapolis is getting a bakery, and it's got an impressive pedigree.
Sarah Botcher, the gifted baker (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) who supplies the exceptional goodies to all five Spyhouse Coffee shops in Minneapolis and St. Paul, is opening her own bakery/cafe.
When it opens next spring, Black Walnut Bakery will occupy the prime corner spot in a new retail-office-apartment project that's currently under construction by the Lander Group at Hennepin Av. and 32nd St.
"They contacted me, and I thought, 'The stars have aligned,'" said Botcher. "It's the perfect location. Uptown could use a good bakery, to be honest."
She's excited about opening in the neighborhood, and not just because she lives in the area and will be able to walk to work.
"There are a ton of residents in Uptown, young people and families," said Botcher. "I've always wanted to have my own bakery, and this has been a long time coming. At this point, I'm ready to move forward and take the next step into my own retail space."
It's also not lost on Botcher that her bakery is going into a space (pictured, above) that's a block away from the former Lucia's, where Lucia Watson and her successors operated a popular bakery/cafe for more than a decade.
"I used to go to Lucia's every week," said Botcher. "I loved sitting on the patio, with the newspaper, and coffee, and a muffin. I hope that my bakery becomes that place for people, that it has that feeling of welcomeness and belonging that we all felt at Lucia's. I hope it can fill that void, because Lucia's has been missed by many."
Black Walnut started in 2013 as a stand at the Minneapolis Farmers Market on Nicollet Mall. Botcher segued to Saturday morning pop-ups at One on One Bicycle Studio in the North Loop in 2014, and a year later she was supplying all the baked goods for both One on One and all Spyhouse Coffee shops. She'll continue her wholesale baking ventures.
Amazingly, Botcher has been a one-woman show for most of her Black Walnut tenure (here's how hard she works: her last day off was in February. "You can sleep when you're dead," she said with a laugh). The part-time employee Botcher hired last year was replaced this past winter by a full-timer, Nick Laurent.
"He's my right hand," she said. "Between the two of us, we knock it out. This has been a epic trip, these last few years, and I feel like it has all been a boot camp for this next step."
For the brick-and-mortar Black Walnut, the plan -- aside from hiring more employees -- is to continue producing the croissants (the almond version is a top-seller for a reason, and she's currently turning out a bacon-sauerkraut version that has to be tasted to be believed), scones, kouigh-amann, cookies and other goodies that have forged a loyal fan base at Spyhouse (pictured, above) and One on One.
Layer cakes, sold by slice, will become a major part of the business, along with a long range of special-order options.
"Cakes are celebratory, they make everyone happy," said Botcher. "Unless you're a pie person."
Which is why she is also promising pies. Tarts, primarily, but also seasonal fruit pies and holiday pies, available whole and by the slice.
She's planning a savory side as well.
"I've got a lot of R&D in the works," said Botcher. "There's a lot of activity in the kitchen right now, although I don't want to say what, just yet."
On the subject of kitchens, after several years of baking in a communal commercial space in south Minneapolis, Botcher is looking forward to finally have a workplace that she can call her own.
"A shared kitchen is really great, because there's this camaraderie, and I love the people that I work with," she said. "But it's exciting to think that I'm going to have my own place. And that I'll have air conditioning, because we don't have that right now."
Botcher said that she's happy to be part of a Twin Cities bakery boom.
"It's a renaissance," she said. "Fifteen years ago, when I first started baking, it was hard to find baking jobs, and learn. There just weren't a lot of places to work, and the staff stayed put. Now there are so many wonderful bakeries. John [Kraus, of Patisserie 46 and Rose Street Patisserie], Solveig [Tofte, of Sun Street Breads], Diane [Yang, of Bellecour], Michelle [Gayer, of the Salty Tart], they've all got their own style. Edwards Dessert Kitchen just opened. It's great. I think there's room for everybody. John says that there should be bakeries in every neighborhood, and it's true."