Bread on Wheels
By Alyvia Covert
“Bread for sale! Fresh bread!” rings through the air in downtown Burlington, VT, as goods from August First Bakery are sold along the streets. However, this delivery is a bit unconventional as the freshly baked goods arrive on bikes. It all started with cargo bikes, five years ago, on August 1st.
Phil Merrick and Jodi Whalen opened the bakery together in 2009. It has since grown into a welcoming café located in a renovated garage in downtown Burlington.
Whalen said the idea for the cargo bike sales came from her childhood in Pennsylvania. “When I was a little girl, a local bakery man would come by our house with a really neat display shelf he would bring into the kitchen and pop open. It was just magic for me as a little girl — these things were arriving to me, at my house, and I would get to pick out a little treat every time.”
Whalen decided to bring some of this childhood magic to Burlington with the bread bike deliveries. “When we opened the bakery, we wanted to figure out a way to deliver bread to our customers,” Whalen said. “People are busy, they don’t always have time to swing by the bakery, so we took the idea and made it a lot more environmetnally friendly.”
August First Bakery makes afternoon runs in Burlington neighborhoods through the months of May through to September. Every year since these routines began, two bikers have towed trailers loaded with bread through the city, delivering up to 150 loaves daily. The seven grain, sourdough, baguette, whole wheat, and other specialty loaves are all home made, with all natural and organic ingredients.
In addition to neighborhood bread runs in the summer months, bread is delivered 365 days a year by bike to the City Market Food Co-Op, Waggy’s Convenience Store, and a sandwich shop called Stacks.
Delivering bread to the people in the neighborhood was similar to that of an ice cream truck. Rather than making deliveries from orders, Whalen said the true charm of the bread bike came from its spontaneity.
“We’ve been approached by other grocery stores that want our bread, but they’re outsde of town, and you have to consider how long it would take to bike there,” Whalen said. “We dont want to put another truck on the road, so we stick to places that are within biking distance.”
Since their beginning, the bakery and café has grown from five employees to eighteen. With the growth, the bicyclists have begun pulling trailers with their own bikes offering their fare throughout the city. This reduces the deliver infrastructure costs to almost nothing, and transportation costs are minimal. It also fits well with the bakery’s environmental concerns.
The name “August First,” was inspired by the poem “August First,” written by Vermont poet, Hayden Carruth. Merrick and Whalen decided the title would double well as a name for the bakery and café, since they opened this amazing Bakery and Café on August 1st. They are now celebrating their fifth anniversary.
August First Bakery is centrally located at 149 S Champlain Street. Stop in and see this great sustainable operation yourself, learn more about them at augustfirstvt.com, or give them a call at 802-540-0060.
Alyvia Covert is a student at Ithaca College majoring in journalism. She lives in Piermont, New Hampshire.