With Saltwater Bakeshop, Lifelong Baker Gives Back to Her Community
Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
July 15, 2022
Brittany Dunn has been baking for as long as she can remember. From working in kitchens in her youth to heading straight into culinary school after high school, she has been motivated to become a professional baker and pastry chef throughout her whole life. In 2018, after years of working as an executive pastry chef at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse as well as a consultant and recipe developer, Brittany started her own business, Saltwater Bakeshop (the name paying homage to her San Diego County hometown beach culture).
What started as a one-woman operation has continued to grow, and earlier this year, Saltwater Bakeshop became a regular stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. On Saturdays, you can find everything from tried-and-true artisan loaves and baguettes to breakfast staples such as classic croissants and fruit-filled muffins and danishes, inspired by the seasons. We talked with Brittany about how community, seasonality, and a love for baking have shaped the bakery into what it is today.
Foodwise: What inspires you, and what do you love about what you do?
Brittany: I’ve only ever done this with my life. There’s something about what I do that brings me a lot of joy, especially when I get in front of customers, talk to them, and see how they react to what I make. I think there’s very few people in the world who have the skill set to do what I do, and I feel very fortunate.
How do your values show up in your business?
A lot of the core values start at the very first decisions, even as simple as, “Where are my ingredients being sourced from?” I put a lot of time, effort, and thought into who I was going to work with as far as suppliers and farmers. We work mostly at farmers markets, so all of my produce I’m getting directly from the farmers.
That drive of making something personal resonates through everything. I try to pay as much of a livable wage as a small business can afford. We work on a really small crew, and the employees have a lot of input on the menu as well. I want them to be involved and feel like they have ownership of what they do.
As far as giving back to the community, we have a program called Bake a Difference. Every quarter we’re choosing a nonprofit or charity in the Bay Area (such as Family House, Miracle Messages, Muttville, and Foodwise) and 100% of the proceeds of one specialty item are donated at the end of the quarter. So we try to reach more than just sales on a farmers market day, we really try to impact our community as much as we can.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as you’ve been growing your business?
Staffing since the pandemic hit has probably been the hardest thing. There was such an exit of great bakers from the Bay Area, and I think a lot of that has to do with the cost of living, the cost of wages, and the lack of jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. That’s been probably one of my biggest ongoing hardships.
As a woman, being taken seriously and having a voice at the table has always been really difficult. But, I feel really lucky to know a good amount of female business owners who are a great support group. They have all been so generous to me with their time and guidance, and I don’t think that I would be where I am without the help that I’ve had along the way. I hope that I can turn around and do the same thing for the generation behind me.
Could you talk about how seasonality factors into what you offer at the farmers market?
I am a firm believer in eating seasonally and locally. That plays into the Baker’s Choice Loaf, for instance. It’ll become either sweet or savory, depending on what’s in season. Our fruit danishes and our French toasts are either topped or filled with fruit, so they will also change with the seasons. We work with Rodriguez Brothers Ranch a lot. They have the best strawberries. Triple Delight Blueberries hand-picks every single blueberry, and if you have not tried them, these are life-changing blueberries. It’s ridiculous how good they are.
What does the farmers market community mean to you?
Right now, it’s the key thing for our business. I was more of a wholesale baker, and when the pandemic hit, I lost all of my wholesale overnight. Luckily, the farmers markets were essential, and they stayed open. Customers came out with such a great response of support, wanting to support small businesses, and it gave me such a different perspective on the community.
It’s the most amazing feeling to be able to get to know the people in my community. It feels like seeing family, seeing these people every single week for years now. Especially through the pandemic, it was really nice to make these connections and friendships in this community. I don’t ever see us ever dropping out of farmers markets. They’re too essential and important.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. First three photos courtesy of Saltwater Bakeshop.
Visit Saltwater Bakeshop at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays.