If you blink while passing, you could miss the place, but you will be sorry if you do. Nestled inside the shops on Main Street, at 131 Main Street, Suite D, behind Bay Books, Serious Bakery is a beloved Bay St. Louis attraction for locals and returning visitors alike. All are welcome. “We like our city and, most of all, we enjoy our customers,” say Al and Vivian Jensen, proprietors.
Al Jensen is a retired oceanographer who traveled around the world during his career, sampling breads in every country he visited. Frustrated by the lack of artisan breads on the Gulf Coast, this staff-of-life connoisseur later decided to solve the problem by becoming a baker himself. Jensen pursued his new vocation “seriously.”
After several workshops with a world-renowned baker in Vermont, the Jensens began selling their loaves in regional farmers’ markets and, for four and a half years, provided the Mockingbird Café with sandwich bread. Finding that their offerings were snapped up by a public hungry for more, the couple opened Serious Bread and never looked back. They still sell their goods at Long Beach and Ocean Springs farmers’ markets but have expanded into other enterprises of late.
In its latest phase of wholesale marketing, Serious Breads has teamed with the Kiln’s Lazy Magnolia Brewery. The Brewery’s menu creations—from chicken and vegetarian pizzas to cheese-dip bowls—rely on brat buns, bread bowls, crostini, Bavarian style soft pretzels, and flatbread provided by Serious Bread.
“Our world is about change, and so is our bakery,” notes Al. Some things, however, like a reliance on King Arthur Flour and other wholesome ingredients, remain the same. Most especially, the bakery continues to soak grains for eight to ten hours to dissipate phytic acid and make minerals and nutrients more available. This time-honored way of baking bread results in healthy, easily-digestible, and delicious loaves. Long a family affair, daughter Renee now serves as manager, buyer, and scheduler. In addition, the Jensens are “phasing in” new bakers who add new goodies. Jose Pablo Paz, known simply as Pablo, trained with an “old-time” French baker, and comes from a long line of bakers. In addition to the artisan bread he bakes daily assisted by apprentice Phillip DelValle, Pablo rustles up cinnamon rolls, shoe soles, turnovers, and seasonal King Cakes—the latter so spectacular they were featured on WGNO TV News with a Twist during Mardi Gras.
The Jensens understand the importance of staff. Rose Gooding, creator of the all-natural energy bars that are such a favorite of athletic types who swear the healthy snack sustains them during long runs and bike rides, has been part of the “work family” for five years. Sara Hahn assists Rose in the creation of scones, muffins, cookies, the occasional cake, and an assortment of luncheon items like tabbouleh, hummus, chicken salad, and other mouth-watering foods.
In the spirit of progress and change, Al adds, “We are giving serious thought to offering a mini flatbread and soup meal.” The lucky Mudfest patrons that sampled the Jensen’s 100-year-old family recipe, lentil- and goat-sausage soup, will approve.
Serious Bread is open Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.