For the last two years, Hope Mendrin has been working out of her Goodyear garage, baking sourdough and other yeast-based creations that she's sold at her Peoria Farmers' Market booth, Hope's Artisan Bread.
Recently, though, Mendrin enlisted her brother, Esai Bolderoff, as a business partner. And they're preparing to move the operation to permanent digs inside a Litchfield Park bakery this week.
The siblings come from Busselton, Australia — three hours south of Perth. They grew up as part of a big family (seven children, including two sets of twins) and had to learn to grow their own food to stay on budget.
“We had our own sheep in the backyard, our own chickens and eggs," Mendrin says. "We knew our bread and milkmen.”
In building her business, Mendrin has focused on the taste of her Australian home and her love of the products. Her tea loaf, for example, features seasonal ingredients and a family recipe from Australia.
One of the main components of sourdough bread is called "the starter." Made from flour, water, and time, the starter develops wild yeast and bacteria from its environment. That makes the loaves rise. With good care, sourdough starters can last for centuries. As a result, each starter has its own unique culture. Sourdough enthusiasts take pride in their starters and often name them.
Mendrin's is called Helga (she named it during this interview). It came from a friend in Utah, has German roots, and is said to date back to the Black Death period. She uses it in her breads, but also cookies, tea loaves, and soon, croissants.
Mendrin’s foray into fermented products came from wanting to achieve a healthy gut microbiome. She started making sourdough bread at home in January of 2018 and soon found herself addicted to the process. Later that same year, at the encouragement of her mother-in-law, she brought her loaves to the Peoria Farmers’ Market.
She started with 10 to 12 loaves a week for the market. Baking this number of loaves was not easy. It took squeezing three Dutch ovens into her home oven and baking for 12 hours. But within a few weeks, she was routinely selling out before 9 a.m.
She's since added a bread-baking oven that allows her to bake 12 loaves at a time. Her bread continues to be in-demand throughout the Valley.
Mendrin’s customer base has remained strong during the pandemic. But there was one incident. She sustained third-degree burns on her hands while baking one day. Her brother was visiting from California at the time, and he ended up taking over the bread-baking.
“This wasn't my first time helping her with bread,” Bolderoff says. But he handled it so well Mendrin invited him to become her permanent business partner.
Hope's loaves are 2 pounds each and cost between $8 to $12. Some of the more popular loaves are classic sourdough, jalapeño cheddar for sandwiches, and white chocolate raspberry for French toast. Hope's uses All Natural Everything Bagel and All Natural Hearty Italian seasonings from the Tempe-based RA Seasonings. Her flour comes from Hayden Flour Mills and BKW, as well as the Utah-based Central Milling. And fruits and vegetables come from fellow vendors at the Peoria Farmers’ Market, as well as some of her customers. Aside from bread, Hope’s offers cakes, quiches, and croissants.
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A new product, Esai’s Rye, will be available at the grand opening of Hope’s Artisan Bread inside Purple Elephant Cakes on July 3. Baker’s hours will be 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. The small Hope's team will bake until 9 a.m., so the sooner you get there, the more likely you are to pick up a fresh loaf.
“If you are an early riser, you can surprise the family with fresh bread,” Bolderoff says.
For more information, or to check out preorder and delivery options, visit the Hope’s Artisan Bread website.