Auspicious bakery hits Savannah

Savannah Morning News

Nov. 26, 2017

You know it has to be good if people are waiting in line in the rain on a damp Sunday morning 45 minutes before the place opens. If one of those people standing in line in the rain came all the way from Statesboro. If no one’s grumpy or peevish.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said one woman after going to her car and returning with an umbrella for someone she didn’t know. “We’re all out here talking to each other, strangers. Once – when it wasn’t raining – someone even went to his truck and brought out four beach chairs for us to sit in while we waited.”

You know it has to be good if the place is only open Tuesday and Sunday and they always sell out. If they have done no major advertising.  If they’re still cheerful at the end of a day that started at 3 a.m. If the business is out of downtown, south of Victory Drive, a block or two north of DeRenne Avenue in a one-story nondescript building on Skidaway Ave. next to a barber shop called The Nappy Hutt.

Maybe it’s the name. The Auspicious Bakery. Auspicious as in “conducive to success, favorable.”

Maybe it’s youth.

Truth: Co-owner Mark Ekstrom, 27, was smiling at the beginning of the day and smiling at the end. He and his fiancée, co-owner, Kaytlin Bryant, 26, are doing what they love. They’re baking – the old-fashioned way. Their pastries, quiche, galettes, brownies, cookies, naturally leavened baked crackers (tomato basil and vadauvan curry, among others), croissants (sausage and gravy, bacon and egg, ham and cheese, and the No. 1 favorite croissant, smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers), cinnamon buns, monkey bread and blueberry scones and breads. They’re all hand-crafted, hand-laminated, all made on-site in the kitchen behind the bakery.

Since they’ve opened Kaytlin’s mother, Kelli Horger, moved down from Pennsylvania to help “and to get away from winter,” she said. It’s auspicious. She sweeps, runs back and forth from the kitchen to the front of the house, answers questions from the customers. She lives in a carriage house behind a house the couple rented on Skidaway, across from the bakery.

Mike’s grandmother lives there too. Another auspicious happening. “I felt it was my turn to take care of her,” he said. It was when they were going through her things getting ready to move her to Savannah that they found a box of recipes that belonged to his great-great grandmother. The recipe for brownies stood out. Grandma Schmidt’s brownie become a best seller. But tweaking the recipe took a little work.

“First of all we had to decipher the handwriting,” Katie said. “Then we had to tinker with the ingredients. After making it a few times we knew something was missing. Then we realized it was because she didn’t include any eggs. She was a good baker so we figured that omission was intentional. It was a secret she wanted to keep from the rest of us.”

The bakery’s success all happened a little faster than they expected, Mike said. But he was laughing. So that’s a good thing. And a far cry from when they first pulled into Savannah nearly five years ago. They were on a road trip from the Poconos in Pennsylvania, heading for St. Petersburg, Fla. where they had a contact in the food business and where they hoped to move. But Savannah came first. They camped out for a couple of days in a Richmond Hill KOA campground, got lost trying to find Tybee (“We ended up on the Riverwalk,” Mike said), and were charmed when a salesperson at Walmart told them to, “Have a blessed day.”

They got jobs at the Boar’s Head and Rum Runner’s, but renting an apartment was a stretch. They thought they had everything covered – first and last month – until they tried to get electricity and Georgia Power asked for a deposit. At this point both were determined not to ask their parents for money, “so we scrounged our car looking for change and came up with the $150.”

The name came to them from their experience hiking in England, where they would brush shoulders with the gypsy food culture. “They were wanderers,” Katie said. “They had no place to live. But anyplace they settled for however long they cooked auspicious meals. I thought that fit with what we’re trying to do, to create an attitude of good feeling and wholesomeness.”

While the shop is only open two days a week they spend the rest of the week feeding the starter and working the dough. They only sell bread on Tuesdays but they do wholesale it to Smith Brothers and at the Purrvana Café and Cat Lounge on Bull Street. Mike figures they spend at least 12 hours a day four days a week in the kitchen. “Wednesday is supposed to be our day off but we’re always there to do something. We’re passionate about what we’re doing so it doesn’t seem like work.”








The next generation: what were you thinking?!

Savannah Morning News

Nov. 19, 2017

Is it just me or does it seem as if there are an inordinate number of babies around these days, slung on a daddy’s back, snug against a mama’s chest, tucked in a walker? They’re everywhere. At the Saturday Forsyth Farmer’s Market, in Daffin park, on the streets. More fathers with babies too (fathers without jobs? Perhaps).

With all the mishigas (that would be craziness) in the world, people – smart people –  still have enough faith in the future to introduce another soul into the mix. Imagine putting down on a form “2017” as the year you were born. And they’re having more than one child, too. Two, three. They just keep popping them out.

The most popular names for girls this year? Emma, Ava, Olivia, Sophia. Must be something about words ending in an “a”. Just to prove a point the next three are Isabella, Mia and Amelia. Three more “a”s on the end. Boys? Liam, Noah, Logan, Lucas. Three out of four starting with an “l,” followed by Mason, Ethan, Oliver.

No one-syllable names. No Bob, John, Ted or Jim. No Jane either, until you get down to number 288. Boo-hoo. No Nancy, Suzy, Marcy or Judy, either – the names of my four high school friends from the sixties. Paisley, however, is ranked number 43, after Skylar, Aurora and Savannah and before Lillian, Brooklyn (not to be confused with Brooklynn, who comes in at 170) and Hazel. For the record I don’t know anyone with those names (well, maybe Savannah but she changed it).

No Rose either (that was my mother’s name) or any of the names of my aunts: Betty, Dorothy, Mildred, Trudy. No Celia or Eva (my grandmothers’ names). No Beverly (my mother’s best friend) or Dolly, Jeanette or Loris (her bridge partners).

Certainly, on the boys’ side, no Mannie (that was my father’s name) or Herman, Mickey or Ben (his brothers) or Harry, Saul or Lou (my uncles). No Lou-from-Windsor, either. He was another uncle, not to be confused with Lou (from Detroit). Even those names speak to another generation.

I could worry about these babies. How will they learn to tie their shoes with Velcro around? What about telling time non-electronically, with just a second hand and a minute hand? Will they still do cartwheels? Will the almighty dollar hold the same allure?

But I’m not worried about them. I look at them and I’m hopeful. I’m betting they’ll be against conspicuous consumption. We already know the happiest people are those making $75,000 a year. Any more than that introduces stress and the need for more.

I’m thinking these babies when all grown up will live in smaller houses, drive smaller cars and live in smaller towns. They may share houses. Money will not be such an issue. They’ll call storage units stupid and wasteful. They’ll wonder why we don’t have more and wider bike paths, more buses. They’ll look at the bottle neck in Pooler and say, “What’s the matter with you people?”

They’ll think it’s ridiculous we don’t teach music and art in school. Every day. “What were you thinking?”

They’ll wonder why there are so few statues of women, why out of 6,900 outdoor statues, 555 – nine percent – are women. In the National Park system there are 152 monuments dedicated to women; three (two percent) are historic women figures.

I hate to be around when they see how we bungled health care.  By the time they’re adults it will be “Medicare for all.” It’s the only logical way to go. People not on Medicare don’t understand how easily it works. All the other options will seem wasteful, discriminating and thick-headed. Get ready. They’ll be saying, “You mean you let the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance mavens run the show? Shame on you, mom. Bad, dad.”

They’ll look at our prison systems and say, “Don’t you see it’s just money-makers for those in small towns? That all those petty miscreants you incarcerated with a joint or two will come out practiced, hard-core criminals? Is that what you meant to do? You mean you didn’t teach them anything when you had them there, a captured audience? They just watched television all day and worked out? Then when they got out they could never vote again? Ludicrous.”

They’re not mine, these babies, but seeing them gives me hope and this from someone who wavers somewhere between joy and despair. Maybe it’s the blue sky today or the cooler temperatures or the thought of Thanksgiving but somehow I’m feeling a light at the end of the Trumpian tunnel. You watch. These babies will have our backs. They’ll be eating more garbanzo beans than meat. They’ll be turning front yards into vegetable gardens and side yards into orchards. They’ll be growing more lemons, more oranges, more fuyu persimmon than they know what to do with. They’ll be sporting bumper stickers that say, “I’m already against the next war.” They’ll be sharing.

A girl can hope.