When he opened Bread Furst in early May on Connecticut Avenue NW, owner Mark Furstenberg figured his bakery, sandwich shop and retail store would be a destination for the early-morning hawks and doves on their way to work and/or the Metro.
Not so much.
As Furstenberg writes on the Bread Furst blog, "People don’t stop. Perhaps you don’t want to board the Metro where eating is prohibited with food in your hands. Perhaps you don’t want to carry food from Bread Furst to your offices downtown. So relatively few of you stop."
But you don't get to be an elder statesman in this business without learning a few tricks. On Tuesday, the 76-year-old Furstenberg launched an outdoor breakfast stand with a small array of items for an easy cash-and-carry transaction from 7 to 9 a.m.
The stand offers a number of bagged baked goods: glazed doughnuts, bagels, croissants and a couple of breakfast sandwiches, including an egg-centric banh mi on a house-made roll. Everything is cash-only and priced to an even dollar amount, so that "you will be able to slap your money on the table and take a breakfast treat practically without breaking stride," Furstenberg writes on his blog.
The second day into the experience, and Furstenberg is already pleased with the results. Sales were strong on Wednesday, he said. "If it's successful," he told me, "we will continue it forever."
Despite the ease of the sidewalk exchange, I still prefer to grab my breakfast inside Bread Furst, where the selection is far greater. You'll find pain au chocolat, coffee cake, peach-almond muffins, cherry-sage corn cakes and other treats that make you drool in place. Sure, you have to wait in line — a line that moves with the speed of blackstrap molasses — but when you come to Bread Furst, I think it's wise to put your Type-A, V-8 turbocharged engine into neutral for a few minutes. Your patience will be rewarded.
You can even browse the shelves at Bread Furst, which almost vibrate with new items every time I walk in. Today, I got a glance at the shop's selection of house-made pickles, all produced by chef Robert Dalliah, formerly of Perry's and Buck's Fishing & Camping. Dalliah is a West African native, from Gambia, who has been pickling fruits and vegetables for more than 10 years.
"Robert has mastered the art of determining which spices and other additions enhance the natural flavors of the vegetables," Furstenberg wrote in a note posted next to Dalliah's pickles. "Cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in the sliced 'bread and butter' pickles. . . celery and whole garlic in the pickled carrots. . . each vegetable has unique characteristics that are drawn out by the addition of spices and other complementary vegetables."
Next up for Dalliah's pickling program, Furstenberg promises, are fruits.
All of which reminds me of a philosophy that both Jeffrey Buben and Jamie Stachowski have promoted over the years: If you have a small shop, you need to pack it with a mountain of food. If customers walk in and see only a few stray hunks of cheese, a pauper's selection of breads and a random assortment of meats, they'll walk right back out. With each passing day, Bread Furst and Mark Furstenberg appear to be adopting this "more is more" approach as well.
Bread Furst, 4434 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-765-1200. www.breadfurst.com.