Thursday, 29 October 2020 14:42

Bread Basket: A Future in Philanthropy - Mitzen Family Buys Local Bakery

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Bake, batter, glaze, and healthcare marketing: ingredients at first glance seemingly stirred into an unlikely mix, yet the blend works perfectly. 

Ed Mitzen toured The Bread Basket Bakery late last spring, eyeing the Springs Street building up for sale as a potential investment. Longtime owner Joan Tallman started the bakery out of her basement in 1982 and was interested in retiring. However, with a desire to see the bakery continue, she was looking to find someone interested in acquiring both the building and the business. 

“I know absolutely nothing about the bakery business and the absolutely last thing you want to see is me meddling in any kind of baking endeavor,” Mitzen says with a laugh. 

A solution emerged: Tallman’s son, Matt, agreed to stay on as the general manager. So too would the bakers and chefs. Ed Mitzen and wife Lisa purchased the popular bakeshop in July and will continue the Bread Basket Bakery tradition in downtown Saratoga Springs.

“We didn’t want to change anything about the bakery – the scones, the cakes, the pie recipes, the logo or the name,” Mitzen says. “The only thing Lisa and I thought would be a nice touch would be to donate all the profits to charity and keep the bakery intact the way Joan envisioned it and ran it the past 30-plus years. It’s such a charming staple and beautiful location in the city, so it’s a real honor to continue the tradition. Everybody wins. And I get to show up and get a free blueberry muffin every once in a while.” 

The business closed for a few weeks in September for renovations and a baker who had worked for one of the Emeril restaurants in New Orleans was brought aboard. 

The goal Mitzen says is to present a check - at least quarterly and potentially monthly - to non-profits across the region. The recipient organizations have yet to be chosen, but in keeping with the bakery’s new mission of donating all of its ongoing profits to charity, the Mitzens will this week present a check for $25,000 to Capital Roots, the Troy-based nonprofit whose mission is to reduce the impact of poor nutrition on public health. 

“Anything we make in terms of profitability we’re going to donate back to charity. We’re still getting our arms around the financials for this year, but Lisa and I wanted to make a check presentation to sort of prime the pump for what’s going to come,” Mitzen says. “ I can’t say that we made $25,000 in profit over the past few months, we haven’t, but we thought it would be a good thing to do just to let everyone know that it’s real, that we’re going to be donating the money and once we get into the holiday season and business starts to pick up with pies and cakes and breads, we’ll be able to get a better handle on exactly how much we’re making.” 

Mitzen founded Fingerpaint marketing company in 2008 and has maintained a philanthropic presence in the community. In 2017, the Mitzens offered to fund the construction of a permanent Code Blue emergency homeless shelter next to the existing quarters of its parent company Shelters of Saratoga. Neighborhood pushback negated the development of a permanent shelter at the location, and Code Blue continues to operate on a transitory basis. “It’s frustrating because I know we could have had a building built by now, but we’ll get there eventually,” Mitzen says.  “Mine and Lisa’s offer to build the shelter still stands, it’s just that navigating the political and legal landscape of Saratoga is not always easy.”

Fingerpaint maintains five offices around the country, each operating under different protocols depending on safety guidelines the varying states where the offices are located. “For the most part the offices are partially open with restrictions and precautions in place, so people have the ability to come and go.” As a business owner with employees, Mitzen says there have been new lessons to be learned that may be applied in a post-COVID business world. 

“I think you’re going to see it will come back to a certain degree, but we’ve all learned different ways of doing things through all this. Admittedly I was a huge anti-proponent of working from home. I always felt if someone said they wanted to work from home they would be mowing their yard and watching ESPN, that they’re not committed, but now I’ve done a complete 180. Our folks have been unbelievably productive – probably more productive than they’ve been in the office,” he said. “I do think as human beings we require social interaction to be emotionally centered and to thrive and I do think at some point we’ll gravitate back to that when it’s safer.   

“The thing I love about the Bread Basket model is that it’s sustainable. We’re not just writing a check and going away. It’s around this idea of social entrepreneurship where we can help established businesses, or help people get their businesses going that ultimately helps to give back to their employees and their communities,” he says. “I grew up in Vorheesville in a traditional middle-class neighborhood and had a very happy childhood, but I also am very aware that there are a lot of people who haven’t fared so well, especially recently. You look at the gap between the haves and the have-nots, which has been exponentially increasing, and I just feels really good to help other people. It’s very rewarding.”

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