“We failed to celebrate our anniversary last month,” Mark Furstenberg wrote in June about the five years Bread Furst has been whipping up delectable aromas and baked goods at 4434 Connecticut Avenue. Well Mark, we’ve got you beat in the procrastination department. But it’s never too late to acknowledge what a difference Bread Furst has made in putting Van Ness on the DC food map.
In a “thank you” post on his blog, Furstenberg talks about opening his first bakery in 1990. Marvelous Market opened soon after my family and I moved into what I thought was a good neighborhood, but missing a key ingredient of a great one: a good bakery. My wishes and hopes were exceeded by Marvelous Market’s hearty multigrain and its one-of-a-kind chocolate cherry breads. I have never found anything quite like it anywhere, and Furstenberg still makes the chocolate cherry bread at Bread Furst.
In the local foodie world, Furstenberg’s return to the area was hailed as a kind of second coming. Word that he had decided on a Van Ness location for his next bakery prompted the proprietor of one DC foodie website to write, “If you live within walking distance of Connecticut Avenue and Albemarle Street, drop to your knees, bow down to the ground, do a medieval chant, and pray to all that’s holy that what might come to pass, will come to pass.”
And he brought friends. Sometime after Bread Furst opened in 2014, he suggested a Van Ness location to a certain DC restaurateur power couple. Fabio and Maria Trabocchi opened Sfoglina. The rest is history.
In his blog post, Furstenberg says customers continue to ask him if he’d consider opening a location in “Tenleytown, Ivy City, Bethesda, Capitol Hill, Silver Spring.” His answer: “I am 80 years old and have here all I want.” But he goes on to explain that it’s more than that. It’s the support he has gotten in our neighborhood that has been crucial to his successes.
Before I opened Marvelous Market in 1990, I did a survey. My sons and I walked in the neighborhood near Politics and Prose, my sister’s bookstore, then already six years old, and left questionnaires for residents to tell us what kind of food store they wanted. I had the benefit of my sister Carla’s experience and vigorous opinions and my own knowledge of this neighborhood in which in 1969 I had bought my first house.
I did what I could to excite the neighborhood about the bakery before we opened and some of our neighbors plunged into the effort, helping to raise money and plan “landscaping,” and even encourage their children’s participation.
We were folded by the neighborhood into its development efforts already underway.
It all worked out.
It would be wonderful for the city to have a number of small bakeries in many other neighborhoods. But none will have the advantage that I have had twice – with Marvelous Market in 1990 and Bread Furst in 2014. That is so much support from a neighborhood that appreciates incredibly what we do, a neighborhood filled with people who are happy that we are there.
Yes, Mark Furstenberg and Bread Furst have had a lot of support from neighbors and Van Ness Main Street. We, as a neighborhood, want to support small local businesses that are willing to take a chance on us. Mark, keep spreading the word.