Jeff Collins of South County Bread Company in South Kingstown, Rhode Island is making a mark in his hometown and bringing the locals just what they knead (pun intended!) – and it all started with a simple sourdough recipe.
Originally from Rhode Island, Collins’ journey as a baker began at a place called Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck, NJ. In his 10 years there, he learned the ropes of baking firsthand from what he calls “old school” bakers.
Fast forward a few years and he found himself back in Rhode Island at a local bakery where he took over the breadmaking duties.
When COVID hit, the bakery shut down so Collins got creative and asked a friend who owned a local pizza place if he could make bread during the day in the restaurant’s front dining area. Within the first week he had more than 200 orders. A month later there was a line a half-mile long to sample the sourdough goodness.
But, with a small kitchen and big demand, the baker admits he was fighting against the clock. “I could only cook 10 loaves of bread per hour and I had 200 loaves to make. I was coming in at midnight to make the bread just to keep up with the lines,” he said.
Which is how he knew he had a viable business. Six months later, South County Bread Company had its first storefront on Main Street.
Today, Collins has 25 employees in a 2,000 square- foot space where the mission is all about celebrating the local community. With his wife and co-owner Keri Lyn by his side, Collins said the goal is to be as communal as possible.
“It’s important for us to have a place where people can congregate. It’s great to see a line out the door, down the block, on the weekends. It’s the best feeling to see everyone,” he said.
Relying on the local community not just for customers, but also for products, the coffee served at South County is roasted six miles down the road. They also sell a selection of locally-sourced jams and cheeses. And it’s not uncommon to see a local band performing on the weekends. Collins said there are plans to start showcasing artwork by local artists.
“We’re bringing a concept that’s been done everywhere else,” he said. “But to bring this to our little hometown is icing on the cake. People tell me everyday that this is what was missing on Main Street.”
Aside from the feel good vibes, the bread is a fairly new take for the area — a concept of breadmaking from the West Coast’s Tartine Bakery. Everything Collins and his team makes is sourdough-based, from the cookies to the croissants. Everything is also naturally leavened, using organic flour.
Collins said the technical process includes natural fermentation, which makes the bread easier to digest. He notes that yeast is the problem when people think about gluten issues. “Anything fermented is better for your gut. Plus it’s more flavorful.”
On average, the bakery sells 200 loaves of handmade bread daily and 300 a day on weekends. And croissants? They’ll serve up anywhere between 300 to 500. The company even got accolades from Food & Wine last year, naming it “Best Bread in Rhode Island” – a title Collins and his team wear proudly.
On the subject of names, Collins said the bakery’s moniker is made up. “Somewhere along the line, people started calling the area South County because of its proximity to the ocean. Hence the name South County to show just how local the bread bakery is.
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