Rising above the rest: New bakery opens in downtown Greenfield

  • Brian Meunier arranges his locally sourced breads for sale at his bakery and cafe, Rise Above, which opened on Main Street in Greenfield last month. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Robin Sidel fills muffin tins with cup cake batter at Rise Above Bakery and Cafe in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Brian Meunier is constantly restocking the display case at Rise Above Bakery and Cafe in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Brian Meunier with a selection of the breads he baked Tuesday at Rise Above. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Brian Meunier takes freshly baked bread out of the oven at Rise Above. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Desmond Drake, 9, and his father, Bill Drake, share baked treats and conversation in the window seats at Rise Above. The bakery also have a few outdoor tables. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Brian Meunier holds freshly sliced loaf of Miche made with Four Star Farm grains, naturally leavened with rye culture at Rise Above Bakery and Cafe. In the background is a Sprouted Rye with sprouted rye berries and a loaf of Khorasan Bread. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rise Above Bakery and Cafe has tee shirts available. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rise Above Bakery and Cafe opened last month at 282 Main St. in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/2/2019 10:26:28 PM

GREENFIELD — Rise Above Bakery and Cafe was merely a product of the imagination of a wide-eyed 20-something in his native New Hampshire.

It was around when he had met his wife during his freshman year of college, but before he left school to pursue his passion in bread, before he saw his cheesecakes in display windows, before he headed to a culinary institute in New York, before working with that big wood-fired oven in the Catskills, before baking in Boston and before finding a plot of land on an old country road in Shelburne that landed him in Franklin County.

Standing in the back of his Main Street bakery on a recent afternoon, Brian Meunier kneaded bread dough and prepped bagels made with Northfield’s Four Star Farms whole grains.

“If I was going to put my life into a business, I wanted to have it where I know and love,” said Meunier, 45.

Meunier’s bakery, featuring locally and regionally sourced goods, is more than two decades in the making, although it rarely seemed likely.

“All my life I thought owning a downtown business is the pinnacle of making it,” he said. “When I became an adult, that seemed less likely to happen.”

It all started to come together when he moved to Franklin County in 2009.

He and his wife, Geneve Rege, a photographer and graphic designer, had been living in Boston at the time in search of a future home.

Clipping out postings for fixer-uppers and plots of land, they would head to the area for a few days to feel it out. Every time they came to Western Massachusetts, they’d stop at The People’s Pint.

“We joked The People’s Pint is why we came here,” Meunier said. “We’d go there and it was so cozy. We wanted to keep that cozy vibe in our lives.”

So they built a house in Shelburne, and in it was a studio for Rege’s photographer and a baker’s oven in the basement for Meunier.

He took a job at Green Fields Market baking bread. Then he started working with Magpie and Hope & Olive. There were lots of pizza dough and focaccia.

Meunier headed over to the Franklin County Community Development Corp. in spring 2011. He wanted to learn how to write a business plan.

He was going to call it Bread Farm. The idea was to bake enough bread out of his basement oven to sell to all the farmers markets, but it wasn’t working out.

“I said, ‘If I can’t make it work on paper, then maybe I shouldn’t do this,’” Meunier said.

Meunier put his plans on pause while working as a part-time assistant sled dog handler in West Chesterfield and doing his baking gigs.

In 2013, Meunier was brought in to be the lead baker at the inception of Tart Baking Co. The Northampton bakery was the brainchild of owner Mukunda Feldman, who began Amherst Coffee and its sister shops, Northampton Coffee and Greenfield Coffee.

Soon, Meunier’s breads were being featured in restaurants all around Northampton and back up to Franklin County.

“What Tart did for me is it gave me the confidence to bake more than a couple dozen loaves in my basement,” he said.

Instead of doing a modest wholesale business, he transitioned to looking to realize his lifelong dream of opening a downtown bakery.

“This sounds more exciting and more like what I should be doing than just trying to bake some bread once a week for a farmers market,” Meunier said.

He found a spot on Main Street between Namaste and Ken’s Tax Prep, with landlord Tim Grader. They agreed to a 10-year lease but with the ability to extend it for up to 10 more years. By then, Meunier would be 65 and his daughter would be all grown up.

Rise Above features whole grains that are local — his favorite is a rye for its complex flavor. He will sell Greenfield’s Artisan Beverage Cooperative kombucha on tap and Hadley’s Share Coffee.

“I think it’s important to support all of the people we know,” Meunier said. “We want each other to thrive.”

In the same stream of thought, Rise Above’s wooden tables were made for Meunier by a woodworker in the hilltowns. He plans to have rotating art on display, and his storefront sign and merchandise were designed by his wife and her brother, comic book artist Ron Rege Jr.

Besides bread, Meunier plans to have breakfast sandwiches, fresh-made granola and an offering of morning baked goods to accompany fresh-brewed drip coffee. When he gets his legs under him, he hopes to have a pizza night two to three nights a week at the bakery. Potentially by then he might have a liquor license, too.

He anticipates doing wholesale for Hope & Olive, a couple of Northampton restaurants like Nourish Cafe and the Belly and the Beast, as well as his now decade-long haunt, The People’s Pint.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

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