Fueled by donuts by John Unrein
The unique donuts at Montclair Bread Co. have helped the bakery grow quickly.

It’s late October on a day that is shaping into an abnormal but ordinary one in the crazy life of artisan baker Rachel Crampsey. Her retail donut and bread shop, Montclair Bread Co. is putting the finishing touches on a 1,300-square-foot central bakery that is set to begin operations in a few days, on the same weekend when Crampsey is gearing up to open a second retail location at the downtown library, take delivery on her first electric-powered food truck, escort her three children (ages 7, 6 and 4) to Halloween parties Saturday night and, oh by the way, run the New York City Marathon on Sunday.

Crampsey, who is 35, is determined to prove there is nothing she can’t do. She finished the 26.2-mile marathon in 3 hours, 52 minutes, an impressive time for someone who only started running a year ago. “Running has become my release – kind of like my reset button,” she says. “Finishing this race will be quite an achievement for me and another example I can use to show my kids you can do anything you set your mind to as long as you believe in yourself.”

Crampsey has built her career on hard work. Upon completing the bakery and pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America, Crampsey worked at four bakeries, including Amy’s Bread in New York City, and Tribeca Oven in Carlstadt, New Jersey, before opening her own place in 2012. She intended to build the business on bread but, ironically, donuts paved the way to current success.

“Donuts are what changed everything,” she says. Not only have her unique donuts (apple cider is a local favorite) made from brioche dough caught on with walk-in customers, the sweet treats are a huge hit nowadays at weddings and catered events. “We do a lot of mini donuts for weddings and parties, as well as donut holes on lollipop sticks and special boxes of donuts for guests to take home. Donuts are pretty big this year.”

Working out of a tiny 200-square-foot space where they can fry just 16 donuts at a time with a tabletop fryer, Montclair Bread sells 1,300 donuts on a typical Saturday, “and that only takes us to 10 a.m.” Crampsey says. Thus, the new central bakery became a necessity.

It is important to recognize how Montclair, New Jersey, is undergoing a downtown revival (it won a 2015 Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation), and makeup designer Bobbi Brown, who lives here and works from a studio in Montclair, plays a pivotal role in the city’s overall reputation.

When Crampsey went to her local investors, she gained approval to remodel an old brick building that had been a DMV inspection station. It helps greatly to have a husband who is a carpenter, and Crampsey loved the opportunity to design and build her own work space. The renovated bakery features drop-down electrical cords, open work tables and office space upstairs. Her new equipment includes a refurbished 60-squart Hobart mixer, a four-deck MIWE condo, two walk-in freezers and a new Belshaw Adamatic donut fryer that doubles their existing production capabilities.

Crampsey knew that her business had to grow because “how many times are people going to come back to your business when there are still lines out the door. Plus, I feel like there is this old Italian grandma living inside me who says I just have to feed the world.”

On top of feeding people, the new central bakery will serve as an educational community space. This summer, Crampsey started a summer baking camp for kids that sold out every session. In the new space, she’ll have ample room to expand such endeavors and add new events like a “Mom’s Night Out,” where mothers can get out of the house to sip wine and bake sweets with Crampsey and her staff. “Now everyone wants to know about food, and we want them to,” she says. “The more they understand, the better customer they are.”

And for the second year, Montclair Bread is hosting a donut run on Dec. 12. By late October, 800 had already registered. The popularity of this event led Crampsey to create special T-shirts donning her soon-to-be-trademarked “fueled by donuts” logo.

Crampsey designed an "eTuk" that helps deliver her bakery's products.

Next up for Montclair Bread is a food truck that will bring coffee and donuts to the local citizens wherever they might gather. Crampsey gained approval to purchase an all-electric vehicle that can hold trays of finished donuts and two coffee dispensers – perfect for indoor and outdoor parties and catered events. Working with TukTukFactory.com, she was able to design her own “eTuk,” which can travel 25 mph and go 50 miles on one charge. With the design wrap and custom fabrication, the total cost came in at just under $30,000 delivered.

“We always wondered, what can we do for Moms with their children on the playgrounds?” Crampsey ponders. “Now they can get a latte and a donut. We’re going to use it for catered parties. It really becomes a promotional tool. I also want to compete with the ice cream trucks. I would wager that my donuts are a little better.”

Looking back on the past three years, Crampsey marvels at how far the business has come in so little time. “The greatest feeling is this business is supporting 25 people and our family,” she says. “Our staff means so much to me. They are our life-force.”