DOROTHY LANE IN-STORE BAKERY SPACE TO RISE

DAYTON, Ohio -- Dorothy Lane Market is in the midst of a renovation project at its Washington Square store here that includes tripling the size of its in-store bakery.The expansion is aimed at further improving the quality of the company's artisan bread program as well as increasing production capacity, executives at the retailer told SN. "The expansion makes room for the addition of a hearth oven

DAYTON, Ohio -- Dorothy Lane Market is in the midst of a renovation project at its Washington Square store here that includes tripling the size of its in-store bakery.

The expansion is aimed at further improving the quality of the company's artisan bread program as well as increasing production capacity, executives at the retailer told SN. "The expansion makes room for the addition of a hearth oven that will produce a better product and will make it possible to bake bread throughout the day," said Scott Fox, director of bakery operations for the two-unit, upscale retailer.

The bakery expansion involves cutting a hole in the back wall of the existing bakery and carving out additional space that's been leased in an adjacent building.

Expanded from 840 square feet to 2,400 square feet, the refurbished bakery also will provide enough production capacity to allow the store to act as a commissary for any future stores, said Fox.

"We only have two stores now, but we want to grow," Fox said.

Indeed, bakery sales are growing at such a clip that the physical expansion is none too soon to keep up with production. The newly designed and equipped bakery is set to be up and running in mid-May.

"Right now, we're working around the clock and we're maxed. We need the additional space to continue growing and to become more efficient.

In the past nine months, bakery sales have increased an average of 23% over the same period a year ago," Fox said. In just 840 square feet, the bakery at the 40,000-square-foot store is contributing 6% of total store sales, Fox pointed out. But efficiency has been compromised by space and equipment limitations.

"Since we have only one rack oven in the store, we're baking bread and bagels at night. They're all done by 8 a.m. Then, we use the oven to bake cakes and other products during the day," Fox said.

The newly installed French hearth oven will be used primarily for Dorothy Lane's artisan bread program, Fox said. The rack oven then will be used for baking other items. A 12-inch-by-18-inch dough retarder and a dough divider will also be added.

The outside of the French hearth oven is being custom-designed to fit the existing decor and, at the same time, create a warm ambiance, Fox said. The doors will be stainless steel to tie it to the rack oven, which also is stainless steel, but the exterior of the new oven will feature black and copper panels.

"That's to give it an Old World look. We'll also have a brass or copper bell hanging in front of the oven that will be rung when a new batch of bread is coming out," Fox explained. He said the setup will also include a display clock associates can use to visually let customers know when the next batch of bread is due out of the oven.

With the new hearth oven, the bell, the clock and continuous baking throughout the day, as well as all-open production, Fox expects artisan bread sales alone to zoom up 10% to 15% soon after the expanded bakery is functional.

Fox said the renovation and expansion will give Dorothy Lane the opportunity to expand its product mix, to develop more signature products and to increase the proportion of its from-scratch production. Currently, from-scratch baking accounts for 60% to 65% of all Dorothy Lane bakery production. Fox's goal is to make that figure 80% to 85%, he said.

Another benefit of the increased production capacity will be the consistency of product between the two stores and future stores, Fox said.

"We're thinking about putting hearth ovens in each store, but we could mix the [bread] dough here and send it out in proofing baskets in refrigerated trucks to the other stores, to be baked off there," Fox said.

Fox attributed rocketing sales in the past few months to the introduction of several new programs in the bakery.

"We've started making pastries from scratch. We're making our own cheesecake and the bagel program is new. We're just going through item by item and upgrading some items, and discontinuing others. Some bake-off products will be discontinued, and several snack items will be added to the product mix.

"We'll be making our own tortilla chips and bagel chips, for example," Fox said. He added that recipes and pricing have already been developed.