Bread Obsession Comes to Lexington

By E. Ashley Rooney

Vardo Haimo (L) and Joan Forman in their new facility at 433 Marrett Rd.

About ten years ago, I wrote a story for my favorite news magazine about Vardo Haimo, who has lived in Lexington since 1994. She was a high-powered executive with a Harvard doctorate for Putnam Investments. Then along came the 2008 recession. Like many of us during that time, she came home.

In 2009, she decided to replicate the Jewish rye that she had enjoyed as a child at Pratzel’s Bakery in St. Louis. She started baking, but she baked more loaves than her family could eat. An entrepreneur with floury hands, she set up a website and supplied homemade bread to her friends. They ordered, and the former high-powered manager became a retail baker. By 2013, Varda was selling her crusty, flavor-packed loaves at the Waltham Farmer’s Market, where customers bought her Lexington Sourdough, her New York bagels, and many other loaves. After a few months, she received a cottage wholesale license from the State of Massachusetts and started selling to several nearby businesses

With more orders than she could handle, she asked Lexington resident and her friend, Joan Forman,  to join the business. They built a commercial kitchen in Waltham, where they have been baking for wholesale and farmers’ markets for the last five years, The business kept growing, and they kept hiring more people. Soon they outgrew their space and again started planning an expansion strategy.

Varda’s goal from the beginning was to bake as much great bread for as many people as possible. She says, “That hasn’t changed, and I feel that Bread Obsession has kept to that 100%. We have not ever made our bread worse for expedience or profit. The rest is execution – figuring out how to get the bread made, sold, and delivered to the customer. As we have grown, that is what keeps changing.”

Currently, their most significant business is selling bread for wholesale to independent stores, like Codman Farms in Lincoln and Bermans Fine Wines in Lexington, and also to restaurants such as Woods Hill Table in Concord and Seaport. They are still at the Waltham Farmers Market after all these years and added Lexington a few years back. They make thousands of baked goods per week, including loaves of bread, baguettes, bagels, buns, and pastries.

Now this Ph.D. with her flour-covered hands is opening a much larger baking facility in Lexington at  433 Marrett Rd. Their new shop also gives them enough room to open their first retail counter so that they can sell directly to customers from their home base!

I asked what advice she would give the novice baker who dreams of following in your footsteps? Varda responded, “When I first started this business, it was a hobby grown large. What I didn’t appreciate then was the challenge of working consistently and constantly to satisfy a growing customer base. This is a baking challenge, but also a challenge of getting the bread to the customer in a timely manner, day after day. Making a wonderful product is very important but only the first step to developing a successful baking business.

She added, “I would say that if you don’t just absolutely love bread from your head to your toes, you should find another line of work because baking is a tough business. I have had a lot of jobs over the years and enjoyed many of them. What makes this particularly special for me is the thrill of building a business from the ground up at first with my own two hands, and then with the help of many other hands. Joan and I give this business all we can in terms of hard work, creative ideas, imagination, and hard-won skills. Then it, in turn, gives us back all the satisfaction that realizing your dreams can provide.”

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