Bartram House Bakery & Cafe
All in the Family
It’s often said the kitchen is the heart of a home. After all, it’s in that cozy hub where family and friends can gather to cook, create and commiserate on the day's happenings. There's no better way to describe the birth of Bartram House Bakery & Café, a collection of three locations in and around Pittsburgh, with the newest opening its doors last year in a historic building on the city’s South Side.
Bartram House, opened by Tim Warne and his wife, Denise, in January 2008, really owes its roots to the wholesale bakery Warne's parents started in the early 70s. What began as a small business has turned into three locations with about 60 employees, including the couple's three kids.
Despite its growth, the business has always found that its success has been dependent on its core values: staying true to their artisan roots and ensuring their customers' satisfaction. "We want to make sure we control the quality and image of our brand and products," Warne said. "We have wonderful customers who appreciate the quality of not only the products, but also the atmosphere." That atmosphere, while always cozy and packed, has a more urban feeling
with exposed brick walls "recycled from old tenements in the city" and concrete flooring.
“We have wonderful customers who appreciate the quality of not only the products, but also the atmosphere."
Warne said that as soon as the doors open at all three locations, the line never slows. Guests come in at breakfast for everything from gigantic omelets filled with fresh mushrooms, spinach and bacon to Warne's favorite crab cake eggs Benedict. Through lunch and dinner, customers shuffle through for Reuben and California club sandwiches, Mediterranean salmon salads and Greek grilled chicken wraps. But it's the 100 varieties of baked goods — donuts, Danishes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, croissants, pain au chocolat and their signature 6-inch cakes — that truly keep guests coming back. They also do a lot of pickup catering, offering everything from sandwich and burrito trays to fruit platters for parties, office meetings and more — pretty much what their customers want, they'll make.
"We're very careful to listen to sales," Warne said. "You can't force people to buy what you want to make and sell. So we've put a lot of product out to the public and have analyzed what sells and what doesn't. What does, we make. We make it the best we can with the best ingredients."
That attitude to make people happy extends into the community. Every day, Bartram House's team packs up the leftover food from the day and donates it to local shelters and senior homes. Sure, there's the business reason for not wanting to sell day-old product to customers, but it really comes down to giving back. "There are people in our country who starve every day and we give them food," Warne said. "It's something we can do for our community. I believe in taking care of our own. Let's help out a little bit."
Running three locations and being on call 24 hours a day can take a toll on someone, but Warne said he wouldn't trade it for anything. And for as hard as he works, Warne said his wife works even harder, but they both love it. Every operator should be so lucky.