DRIFTLESS - Bard Bread & Pastry is a charming sourdough bakery located in downtown Viroqua. Matt Kronschnabel started Bard Bread in 2018 as a cottage bakery.
Kronschnabel sold loaves of bread to friends and neighbors, and eventually moved into the farmers market arena. Matt's life partner, Natalie Hinahara, officially became a business partner last summer.
When Magpie Gelato opened in September 2020, Matt and Natalie started baking out of its kitchen. The building is located at 113 S Main Street in Viroqua. The two businesses share retail space in the front with shop hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays.
During the week, packaged treats, including crackers and cookies, are available, as well as a ‘pay-what-you-can-take-what-you-need’ bread offering.
On Saturdays, in addition to the delectable sourdough breads, they offer sourdough pastries such as galettes, sweet and savory scones, and flaky, buttery pie dough triangles filled with beans and cheese that they affectionately call ‘doodads.’
Bard offers a convenient membership program for bread. There is an online sign up form at www.bardbread.com.Customers can simply choose a one-time bread order or weekly or every other week, what type of bread they want, how many loaves, and sliced or whole loaf. The order can be then be picked up or delivered by Natalie on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays.
Natalie works ‘theoretically’ 20 hours a week (those of us who own businesses can chuckle at that one!), making deliveries by bicycle with the help of a nine-foot bike trailer to Wonderstate Coffee and Viroqua Food Co-op, as well as approximately 10-15 Viroqua homes.
“It's a very satisfying feeling, to bring people really good food and not use any fossil fuels,” Natalie says.
The birth of Bard Bread is an interesting tale. Matt's sourdough journey started in Madison in 2016. A couch-surfing friend, who stayed with him for a time, was baking bread out of their home. He taught Matt some of the basic ins and outs of sourdough bread. It seemed Matt was a natural.
Mostly self-taught, Matt learned through trial and error, read books, and joined Instagram communities and online forums. He garnered knowledge from visiting bakeries in the Twin Cities and Madison, and baking at Wonderstate Coffee.
As to the name ‘Bard Bread,’ Matt had heard a podcast discussing the role of storytellers in human existence and the importance of stories and storytelling. As a musician, this resonated with him. Intertwining storytelling and baking was an easy leap for him.
“The bread itself tells a story, if you care to listen” he reflects.
Matt and Natalie moved to Viroqua in January 2018. They wanted to fill a void, as there was no bread bakery in the area. Matt transitioned out of his farming operation to focus on bread baking. He wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial lifestyle, and focusing on bread seemed to be the way to go.
Bard is part of The Artisan Grain Collaborative, which connects grain farmers to millers to bakers to community members, who need bread but can't afford it. They started an initiative close to the beginning of the pandemic called ‘Neighbor Loaves.’ Bard sends 15 loaves to Community Hunger Solutions each week to give to those who can't afford it.
Early on, they were only sending bread that people purchased to donate to this program, so it would take up to four weeks before they had enough bread donations for it to be viable.
“We decided as a bakery to commit to donating 15 loaves.,” Matt explains. “No matter how many loaves are purchased, we're just going to bake 15 loaves a week so they can count on it. When someone buys a Neighbor Loaf now, they're helping us to continue baking those 15 loaves a week.”
They've sent approximately 130 loaves to Community Hunger Solutions since February, with approximately 80 loaves being purchased by the community.
Anyone can buy and donate a Neighbor Loaf through Bard's online store.
“You can do a one-time or a continued donation, weekly, every other week, or monthly,” Matt says. “In doing that, you support us as a bakery and what we're doing, which is somewhat aggressively sourcing and supporting local economies and then we bake the bread and send 15 loaves to Community Hunger Solutions every week.”
If people are interested in contributing, Neighbor Loaves are available for $6, which is in-between the membership price and retail price.
“We made it a little cheaper to contribute to Neighbor Loaves in the spirit of generosity and giving,” Matt points out.Thank you, Matt and Natalie, for exemplifying what it means to give back to the community!