DULUTH -- Earlier this month, local bread heads-in-the-know received a boxload of off-menu goods from Duluth’s Best Bread: sprouted bi-color quinoa bread, farro porridge bread, lemon ginger scones, granola bars and morning buns.
The Fresh Start Boxes, packed into cardboard designed with the kind of cute and corny one-liners the bakery’s Lillegard brothers favor, kicked off a new venture — a monthly subscription box service.
“We thought this would be a cool idea,” said Robert Lillegard, the older one who wanted to own a business but not be charged with making the product.
“It’s a nice add-on, to try to make new things in the store,” said Michael Lillegard, the brother who wanted to have a bakery but not run the business side.
The shop first offered the box on its Facebook page, dishing up three options: The Bread Box, Treat Box, and Everything Box. Michael said he thought the boxes would get a few nibbles, but on mid-morning of delivery day, in a back room of the shop, the Lillegards faced towers of boxes that they would hand-pack.
Michael had the full tally memorized: 17 treat boxes, 38 everything boxes, 22 bread boxes. And, watching an employee work a knife across a tray, he wondered aloud about the humongous size of the granola bars.
Robert’s wife planned to make the deliveries around Duluth and other close towns. But first they sent an employee to the store for more packing tape.
Product quality. Slick branding. Jokes.
During a recent Thursday morning visit, the front of the shop at 2632 W. Third St. had steady foot traffic — including a customer who saw a News Tribune reporter and photographer and called out a declaration that the bakery truly has the best bread.
Still, Team Lillegard trends toward off-site pop-ups here and there. In the nearly five years they’ve been open, they have dozens of drop-off spots. Pain au chocolate, for instance, is available at both Whole Food Co-op locations, the Big Fat German Pretzels are available at breweries like Blacklist and Ursa Minor. Wussow's Concert Cafe and Chester Creek Cafe both use the brothers' bread for menu items.
For awhile, Duluth's Best Bread went European-style with a cafe at Endion Station, and there has been a kiosk at Miller Hill Mall.
This subscription box, both Lillegards said, has been the least stressful venture.
The boxes — decorated with one liners — are on-brand with the Lillegard sense of humor: “We came here to bake croissants and chew bubblegum. And we’re all out of bubblegum,” is a variation on a quote from the sci-fi movie “They Live.” “What we stand for: 1. Product quality 2. Slick branding 3. Hilarious jokes.”
The Bread Box is $20 a month and offers the equivalent of two large loaves — whether that is literally two loaves or “four pretzels the size of your face.” The Treat Box, $30, might have rolls, cookies, maybe an entire cake. The Everything Box has both.
The February boxes are romance-themed with a French influence.
Day-to-day business is unpredictable, Robert said. And a lot of customers want the signature breads, which range from the ready-steady sourdough to the quirky homespun takes on Oreos and Pop Tarts.
This subscription box, Michael said, offers him a chance to get creative. The baker has a master’s degree in math but found this application while experimenting with a wood-fire brick oven with his father. He has worked his way end-to-end through some of his cookbooks — jotting the date and notes on the page.
“Tartine,” the original cookbook by the San Francisco-based bakery, has been tested in its entirety.
Kathryn Triplett, who has worked at the bakery for about a year, said she was excited to take on this new project: “It’s a great way to try new things.”
Duluth's Best Bread
2632 W. 3rd St.
Hours: Wed.-Sat., 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.