Third in series
Jaime "Blue" Laukhuf and her husband, Jason, were rolling in dough with their wholesale specialty bread bakery, Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes in Ybor City.
Blue, armed with her culinary and hospitality background, and Jason, with his experience as Bern's Steakhouse pastry chef, supplied the best chefs in Tampa Bay with breads and pastries since 2013. JB3 had dozens of accounts with prominent restaurants like Counter Culture, Forbici Modern Italian, On Swann, Bella Brava in St. Pete, and Rooster & the Till, and then suddenly … crickets.
Like most public-facing establishments, the Breadhouse was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as were their big accounts. "It was like radio silence; they just pulled the plugs," says Blue Laukhuf, CEO of Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes.
"The pandemic clearly wiped us out for a minute," she says. "I am such a hopeful person that when this hit, I sent all my accounts this uplifting, inspirational message like, 'Do not worry, when this is over, it will be like Christmas in July'.''
July 2020 came and went.
What had started in 2013 with strictly wholesale accounts expanded in 2018 to a limited-product hour, open to the public in a small area of the Breadhouse facility they dubbed The Grain Room.
Laukhuf admits when word of The Grain Room spread, things got out of hand.
"People would stand outside for hours. We are only allowed to have seven people per city code. One day I opened the door, and 35 people came in 333 square feet."
"It was like some weird 'Supermarket Sweep.' Elbows were flying," she recalls with a laugh. Laukhuf says they came up with a number system and Breadheads had to await entry outside.
As spring carried on, so did the pandemic, and with force. Laukhuf realized it wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. "We had been out of wholesale accounts for about a month, and I started to panic," she says.
They were down, but they weren't out. Blue devised a plan to adapt to the changing times. The JB3 brainchild, which Laukhuf calls a "drive-by," was birthed from a need to prevail.
What remained a once-weekly affair, the first drive-bys started with one item called "WHAT'S IN THE BAG?" which sold like hotcakes. It took off so fast that high demand called for more options and the selection grew to a dozen, then two dozen items. It evolved every week.
Products vary from week to week, so you never know what surprises will delight you on their menu. There are staple items like their gluten-friendly sourdough bread options -- country sourdough, On Swann sourdough, and sunflower seed multigrain sourdough. There are also OG French croissants, cracked wheat Sammy, pretzel baguettes, focaccia with toppings, Breadhouse saltines, and Breadhouse grainola. Revolving items include the Tidy Bun, a fresh Japanese milk bun with various fillings, sealed and baked. It's like a sloppy joe, but encased, so there's no mess. Similar is the Tidy Phil, a Philly cheesesteak inside of the baked bun.
And while the Breadhouse had temporarily lost nearly half of their accounts, the drive-by was thriving. "We increased our public eye 225 percent," Laukhuf says.
After the Saturday market, Laukhuf posts the items available for pick up the following Saturday. Items are available for preorder, pre-pay through Thursday -- but don't dawdle as some items sell out. Pick-up is quick, safe, and easy -- customers remain in their air-conditioned vehicle, roll down the passenger window, and give their last name. The order, the scent of baked goodness wafting from the bag, is placed on their seat or in their trunk, and they're off. It's a smooth and contactless experience.
Breadheads who were there for the origins of The Grain Room days are thrilled with the new concept, which will either be there to stay or expand. Depending on what the future holds, Laukhuf hasn't dismissed the potential for expanding their operation to an outdoor market. So much of that is at the mercy of the pandemic.
JB3's wholesale accounts have regained steam, and the contactless drive-by may be how Breadhouse operates now and forever. Laukhuf is considered COVID-19 high-risk due to an ongoing lung issue that began 20-some years ago, so not only is it best for her -- though she loves people -- it's good for the public they serve.
Now more than a year in, Laukhuf takes a moment to reflect, "It's just very different than what we have been doing in the past. But it has been cool. I mean, it is kind of fun."
Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes
's drive-by market pickup address is 1799 N. 36th St., Ybor City, and operates from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. You can follow Jamison on Facebook
First in the series: Chef Ami prepares meals with purpose
Second in the series: St. Pete celebrity chef creates instant hit with Fo'Cheezy Twisted Meltz