Planning and organization make all the difference between success and failure. Just ask experienced bakers like Avery Ruzicka, founder of award-winning Manresa Bread, based in Los Gatos, California, or Josh Allen, founder of Companion, an acclaimed St. Louis wholesaler.

Allen points to his bakery’s successful trash efficiency project, which has made their operation more efficient and less wasteful at the same time, significantly boosting their cash flow. To fix the dilemma, “the bank gave me a little rope and told me to get to work.” What ensued was the bakery’s launch of a “trash efficiency” initiative that involved a continual program to measure results for reducing and eliminating trash.

“We needed to get back to our bread and butter,” Allen said. “Reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Expansion plans

For Manresa Bread, Ruzicka has dealt with the challenge of a fast-rising operation that quickly earned a reputation throughout northern California and beyond for excellence.

In an exciting move for coastal guests – and Ruzicka herself as a Santa Cruz resident – Manresa Bread recently launched a new retail space with the Nov. 7 opening of a Westside bakery at 330 Ingalls St. At 300 square feet, the petit bakery features laminated pastries, signature breads, and grab-and-go items. The Santa Cruz location is open daily from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., or until sold out.

“We are nestled in the community, and people are just excited for their favorites,” Ruzicka said. “We’re not molecular gastronomy. We feature something that really tickles the tongue. It is a very exciting time for us. Our team is really strong.”

The new outpost accepts walk-ups, same-day pick-up orders via Toast, daily menu pre-orders (with a $40 minimum purchase and four days-notice), and holiday pre-order pick-ups through Tock.

“We are so thankful for our Manresa Bread loyalists in Santa Cruz who have consistently driven over the hill to support us all these years,” says Ruzicka. “We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to bring the bakery closer to home and this space will be the perfect jumping-off point to do so.”

Offerings include the much-awaited return of the Triple Chocolate & Candied Orange Panettone, gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake, and babka.

New to their holiday offerings is the Harvest Tin. An assortment of CA cheddar cheese crackers, chocolate cherry granola, brown butter einkorn shortbread cookies, GF ginger oatmeal cookies and nut & seed clusters. The tin’s seasonal treats are made with fresh, organic CA ingredients and house-milled flour.

Other innovative products include their inventive baguette kits. The kits include:
 • Dry ingredients (fresh-milled flour, salt, yeast) enough to make 8 French baguettes
 • Baking stone
 • Lame
 • Couche
 • Cedar Peel
 • Link to recorded baking lesson with Ruzicka

Fine-tuning efficiency

Ruzicka mills 90% of the—primarily local—grains in house; sources high-quality artisanal ingredients; employs time-honored baking techniques; and uses natural fermentation processes to create a rotating selection of sourdough loaves and sweet and savory pastries. Manresa Bread currently has brick-and-mortar locations in Los Gatos, Los Altos, Campbell, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz. The breads and pastries are also available at Verve Coffee locations in Santa Cruz, and through national shipping

As for the 24/7 production team involved in producing breads and pastries for Manresa Bread’s now five retail stores (plus a production bakery), the bakery is focused on fine-tuning efficiency while maintaining excellence in product quality.

“Now we are little more focused on specific tasks,” Ruzicka said. “Our method is pretty straightforward. Go into any baking endeavor as organized as you can be. Everyone has a lot of hopes and dreams, but it is easy to get swept away when you are in the moment. The meditative process of pausing to retrace our steps and focus on the task at hand makes a big difference. How you approach what you are doing makes a big difference. The challenge for us is to organize ourselves to produce for five stores.”

Conceived in the kitchen of three-Michelin-star Manresa restaurant, Manresa Bread sources high-quality organic and local California ingredients to create the best interpretations of classic breads and pastries.

Expanded menu

Further Ruzicka announces continued Manresa Bread growth with the upcoming opening of their new flagship in Los Gatos. Ruzicka is expected to debut a new concept in the original Los Gatos space at 276 N. Santa Cruz Ave., with additional details to come.

Located in the heart of downtown Los Gatos, the 1,400-square-foot flagship opened Oct. 27 and expanded upon the former Los Gatos location with an all-day café menu (similar to the Campbell store), indoor and outdoor seating, grab-and-go offerings, and more. The Los Gatos store opens daily at 8 AM with a menu including Ruzicka’s beloved house-milled sourdough breads, laminated pastries, quiches, and sandwiches. As for beverages, they will offer grab-and-go drinks, tea (Stonemill Matcha supplying their matcha), and Verve coffee.

Manresa Bread merch and at-home baking mixes made with fresh flour milled in-house (available in Mocha Rye Brownie, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Einkorn Waffle) round out the offerings.

“The Los Gatos bakery was our first ever brick-and-mortar space, and really an experiment as to whether there was a market for our breads. We’ve learned so much over the past seven years about not only baking in a high-quality, thoughtful way, but also how to create a welcoming neighborhood space,” says Ruzicka. “This move is a testament to our team’s hard work and the unwavering support of the Los Gatos community.”

Designed by Oakland-based Arcsine Architecture and Design, the flagship underlines the beauty and simplicity that comes with the ancient practice of baking. Materiality and textures feel synonymous with the overall concept and bring out the true protagonists of the space: the baked goods. The full-height slat wall with wood inserts adds texture and evokes the iconic unpainted homes of Sea Ranch, California. In addition, the design team added three ulterior skylights to flood the space with natural light. Reminiscent of the Palo Alto location—also designed by Arcsine—hints of orange are found throughout the space and, along with the blue accents of the tile, recall Manresa Bread’s original logo palette. Finally, a custom window graphic aligned with the shelving beyond features patterns inspired by bread scoring. 

Micro initiatives

Sometimes small steps can lead to giant gains. Ask Allen of Companion, a wholesale bakery in St. Louis.

“It’s so disheartening to nurture a loaf of bread and then at the end of the day throw it in the trash. We were generating 1.6 million pounds of trash a year.”

The bakery recently implemented micro initiatives that little by little added up to big results. They also talked trash to staff routinely and began a supervisor check at the end of every day.

Forward-moving steps included the purchase of an electronic flour sifter and finding a composting partner, as well, because “recycling and composting is less expensive than sending trash to the landfill.”

Overall, the bakery has reduced trash output by an astonishing 1 million pounds a year.

“We have nearly tripled our trash efficiency,” Allen says. “It’s been a huge, huge benefit for us. I have come to realize that it can truly gauge the health of our business.”