It’s a wonder that in a place so saturated with vegetarians, vegans, and forward thinkers, Williamsburg didn’t welcome a vvegan bakery sooner. Enter Champ’s Family Bakery (coming soon), brainchild of Megan Blackburn and Brad Baker, owners of Greenpoint’s vegan, bike-friendly café, Boneshakers. But Blackburn and Baker don’t plan on thinking of Champ’s as a vegan bakery first and foremost.
Baker said, “I think the biggest thing is that the name of the place is Champ’s Family Bakery. We don’t really tote the fact that it’s a big vegan establishment.” Blackburn and Baker are going for an “old school Brooklyn style bakery.” Blackburn added, “It’s not going to scream vegan bakery. It’s going to scream family bakery. Family bakery kind of says it all.”
Champ’s was born out of the positive response the two got from the baked goods at Boneshakers. It’s essentially a Boneshakers extension, but with better-equipped facilities for heavy-duty baking. Blackburn said, “We knew we wanted to bake our own stuff at Boneshakers because we want everything to be homemade and fresh and people seem to respond to it really well. [But] we have this tiny, little convection oven at Boneshakers and we just can’t put out enough [baked goods] to meet the demand [of our customers], so that’s basically what led to us to thinking we should do a full-on bakery.”
With this new setup, Baker and Blackburn can even supply themselves Boneshakers with lots of fresh-baked goods several times a day if they need to.
It’s clear that the baked goods at Champ’s will be dairy free (and some gluten and sugar free, as well), but what kind of bakery treats will they be? Baker clarified, “The whole premise of Champ’s is we’re actually replicating a [classic] New York bakery or patisserie from top to bottom but vegan and kosher.” Baker likes the concept of family-oriented bakeries like neighbors Fortunato Brothers, but he can never eat anything from them. He said about their plans to imitate classic Brooklyn bakeries, “It pays homage to [them] and pays respect to [them], but at the same time, it’s a completely different thing.”
Blackburn and Baker, while catering to their own dietary needs and passions, are, of course, not alone in their vegan aspirations. Blackburn said, “I think having a storefront vegan bakery, a place [where] anyone who wants vegan goods knows they can go in and get anything there and not feel restricted . . . I don’t know if there are any places like that, and I guess the world needs one. [Maybe] not the world but, you know, at least this neighborhood in Brooklyn.”
And how to bridge the gap between old and new Williamsburg and the two different generations’ bakery needs? Baker revealed the secret, “We do specialize in dietary restrictions so we have a lot of gluten free and sugar free things, and that appeals to the older crowd.” Among this “older crowd” Baker spoke of happens to be the bakery’s landlord. His wife has a gluten allergy so when Baker and Blackburn told him about their gluten free goods, he and his wife were really excited.
Blackburn admitted she has noticed some of the longtime neighborhood residents seem a bit dubious about “bike-riding, tattooed kids” taking over their old Pat’s Grocery Store (though Pat’s has been out of commission for a while). But she’s always friendly and Blackburn feels confident that “any of the older crowd that’s being skeptical will probably find something they love about us, so I’m not too worried.”
Blackburn and Baker hope to open Champ’s by the end of this month or soon thereafter. Expect everything you would from a traditional bakery, but a vegan version: all different kinds of cookies, cookie bars, cakes, cupcakes, pies, cheesecakes, scones, biscotti, muffins, croissants, danishes, brioche, everything. “I feel like we’re going to have a lot to live up to, but it’ll be fun.”