Rustica: On the move

Posted on July 7th, 2009 – 5:17 PM
By Rick Nelson

rustica2.jpg

Size matters. Ask Steve Horton, co-owner of Rustica. The four-star source for exceptional breads and pastries has been busting out of its cramped quarters for some time, squeezing every square inch of space possible out of the building it shares with Java Jack’s Coffee Shack. “We’re on top of one another here,” he said.

Horton has just announced that his 5-year-old artisan concern is relocating, and the address is going to be a disappointment to those within walking distance of 46th and Bryant who have grown accustomed to strolling in for a slice of almond-studded bostok, a bittersweet chocolate cookie or one of the city’s best baguettes. The new shop is going to be several miles to the northwest (Google-map it: 3220 W. Lake St.) in a high-traffic spot in between a Punch Neapolitan Pizza outlet and a Barnes & Noble store in the Calhoun Village shopping center. Sound familiar? It’s the same strip mall that is now home to the insanely popular Burger Jones. First one to get a parking spot wins.

The reason for the relocation? Space. Lots more of it. “In theory we’ll be able to do three times more volume than we’re doing now,” Horton said. “Right now our space is just too small, and we’re limited by that. We run out of bread, and it frustrates people.”

Along with increased capacity for commercial customers – restaurants, natural foods co-ops – the roomier digs should improve the drop-in dining experience. For starters, it’s going to allow the bakery to partner with St. Louis Park’s Bull Run Roasting Co. (supplier of Lunds and Byerly’s private label coffees) to offer single-cup coffees brewed with small estates beans. “It’ll be along the lines of Kopplin’s,” said Horton, referring to the perfection-obsessed St. Paul coffeehouse, which also features Rustica goodies.

Horton also said he and Corner Table chef/owner Scott Pampuch are working out a way to continue their fruitful sandwich-salad alliance. “Right now we’re settling on the idea that he would supply us with ingredients and help us with sourcing and prepping and we would put everything together at our place,” Horton said.

Demolition at the new space (it was last home to the Calhoun Grill before the restaurant relocated to downtown Minneapolis) is underway, and Horton had hoped to open by the end of the summer. One glitch, though; a fancy Italian oven won’t arrive until probably early October. As soon as it arrives and is installed, Rustica 2.0 will be open for business.

Meanwhile, Horton is also in negotiations to keep a retail presence in their current — and devoted — southwest Minneapolis neighborhood. “The best part of our business has been the neighborhood support and the feedback we get from our regular customers,” said Horton. “We’re not moving far, but we’ve also established that base of customers.” Nothing firm is in the works, but Horton expects some kind of deal will work itself out before he turns in his keys at 46th and Bryant.

The new 40-seat cafe will take on an evening component as well. “Punch doesn’t do a lot of dessert, and dessert is fairly limited at Burger Jones,” observed Horton. “So will that create a dessert business for us? It’s an unknown, and an opportunity.”

Here’s what I think: Horton & Co. are going to be moving a ton of those bittersweet chocolate cookies.

60 Responses to "Rustica: On the move"

HungryinSW says:

July 8th, 2009 at 9:25 am

I am always fearful when some of my favorite places decide to go bigger. Ultimately it comes down to the product they produce, so hopefully that won’t be harmed by the move. My favorite part of Rustica? The sandwiches. I really hope they maintain the quality there, but the chaos of the shopping center will not be nearly as welcoming as 46th and Bryant…

Ann Z says:

July 8th, 2009 at 10:05 am

Oh I really hope they can keep a retail presence at 46th and Bryant. Rustica has become such a fixture in my routine, we walk there nearly every Friday, and often other days as well, and then walk over to the lake or a park. I don’t know what I’ll do without my nearby Rustica.

And I’m with HungryinSW, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite thing, but those sandwiches are the best I’ve ever had.

Jill says:

July 8th, 2009 at 11:37 am

I’m thrilled! I rarely go to the current location because I’m almost never in that neighborhood, and I just pick up the breads at Surdyk’s or Premier Cheese Market. But now Rustica will be five minutes away – yeah!

Karl G. says:

July 8th, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Acme Bread in Berkeley would be a good model to emulate.

They constructed Division One with a small retail counter. The space is impossibly small for expansion and shares a building with a destination cafe and wine shop. It is very accessible (no parking ramps). Division Two was built with wholesale only business in mind, and does not do the “full line” which is only produced at the retail front. They focus on the grocery and restaurant specific items. Division Three was in the South Bay, and serves commercial accounts in a distant market (too long for daily transportation delays – St. Cloud distance). Division Four is in Ferry Plaza, a busy San Francisco food oriented mall. They do all the retail products (similar to Div One) including fresh breads. The Calhoun Square Mall is a gamble. I would build a commercial bakery (Div Two) in a low rent neighborhood and whomp up the sales with the Co-ops, grocery stores, and restaurants. Keep the more difficult to transport and delicious fresh baked goods at the retail front, plus a brad program to reward those wanting to buy fresh from the oven. I imagine the Calhoun Square people are excited to be negotiating with such an exciting anchor client. The talent at Rustica is rare, and they should be cutting them a good deal. Losing the charm of the original bakery and retail operation is something I feel bad about personally, but I also think there might be some business advantages to keeping it healthy. Also getting the large commercial equipment into a new bakery, and the daily deliveries will be challenging. Lucia’s baked goods already have a loyal following in the very same neighborhood. However it goes, good luck.

Anne H says:

July 9th, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Karl G,

Rustica is moving into Calhoun VILLAGE, west of Lake Calhoun, upon Lake Street, not to Calhoun Square. Think: more strip mall, and parking seems to never be an issue on either side of that plaza.

sadInSouthwest says:

July 9th, 2009 at 8:29 pm

I’m so sad this wonderful bakery is moving out of the neighborhood. I will miss our walks to Rustica with the boys to grab a treat and bread for our dinner parties. :(

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July 8 Morning Roundup Part II « The Heavy Table says:

October 29th, 2009 at 10:26 am

[...] failing to actually describe how it tastes (either the story’s charm or its downfall), more insight into the Rustica move from Rick, a hard cider roundup from The Captain’s Chair, a nice blurb on Northeast gourmet [...]