Grana done with the dough

Annie AddisonSpecial to The Aspen Times
Grana Bread owners John and Fiona Smollen, seen here at their new Carbondale store, plan to stop selling their artisan bread except in their sandwiches. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Bringing home a warm loaf of Grana bread and breaking it open, the steam still rising as a pat of butter melts on the fluffy dough will soon be a culinary pleasure of the past.Grana Bread owners John and Fiona Smollen are selling the bread part of their business. Smollen said Grana Bread has some interested buyers but none in the oven yet. “I don’t know how I can keep doing it,” John Smollen said. “We put a lot into the bread and we tried to keep the prices down, but the delivery costs, with gas around $2.50 a gallon, it just became too expensive.” Smollen said he and his wife also want to spend more time with their two sons, ages 6 and 16.The news that Grana is no longer throwing dough threw Frank Martin for a loop. He works at Design Studio, a few doors down from the Grana Bread bakery located at the Basalt Design Center.

“They’re not going to sell bread at all? I’m bummed! It’s back to the bread machine, I guess.”He said he will keenly miss Grana’s Challah bread, which, he likened to “eating white cumulus clouds.”Kay Cesark of Missouri Heights likes the Levain bread with seeds. “I think it’s a great loss for the valley,” she said of the discontinuation of Grana Bread production. “There’s no other kind of bread like that in the valley; John and Fiona are artisan bakers.” Actually, it’s Cesark’s children who are regular Grana Bread customers. “Every time we drive by the light that goes to Grana, my son Owen [age 3] says, ‘Bread stick?'” Cesark said, laughing.Owen, she said, likes the spinach feta dill bread sticks while his older brother, Niko, prefers the potato rolls.

Fear not, though, all you Grananites: Grana will still be selling its bread, albeit only for sandwiches, available at the Carbondale store, which opened last April. The Basalt store will close July 2.The Carbondale store, located at 320 Main St. on the courtyard, will operate as a cafe where customers can buy pastries, sandwiches and coffee, Smollen said. “The bread was only a tiny portion of our business,” Smollen said. “Our biggest money-maker is walk-in customers buying our sandwiches.”Grana Bread used to sell loaves to voraciously loyal customers not only at its stores but at grocery stores up and down the Roaring Fork Valley, a practice that was a thorn in their side, Smollen said. “The expense of delivery was a drain; the amount of time it takes to deliver was up to five hours to deliver a small amount of bread.”

Now regular customer Robert “Sardo” Sardinsky, owner of Rising Sun Enterprises, hopes the new owner at least will deliver the same devotion to bread. Sardinsky said the new owner should “carry on the spirit, love and craftsmanship of Grana. That bread has got so much heart and soul. Other breads, they just don’t cut it. Even if there’s some sort of organic whole wheat bread out there, it may as well be white bread in my mind.”Regardless of who the new owners will be, the Smollens plan to keep the beloved bread in their sandwiches. However, with the closing of the Basalt store, the capacity to bake bread will be greatly reduced.”We’ve got 1,600 square feet of bakery space now, and we’re going down to 691 square feet,” Smollen said. He hopes that means his wife won’t have to get up at 4 a.m. to bake bread anymore, as she has for the 11 years Grana has operated.”I hope that means I get to see her a lot more,” Smollen said.