Fornax Bread Company Business Profile
THIS IS PART FOUR OF A FIVE-PART SERIES OF PHOTOS AND PROFILES OF BUSINESSES IN ROSLINDALE VILLAGE. RVMS PHOTOGRAPHER, BRUCE SPERO, AND RVMS PROGRAM MANAGER, KELSIE EVANS, ARE VISITING FIVE BUSINESSES AROUND THE VILLAGE TO CAPTURE SOME OF WHAT GOES ON BEHIND THE SCENES. VIEW MORE PHOTOS HERE.
Looking at the extensive menu of over fifty breads, pastries, and soups and sandwiches, it’s hard to imagine that Fornax Bread Company started with just five items over twenty years ago. “The sourdough boule is our signature and what we opened with,” said co-owner Chris Fallon. “At that time, there was no wall between the front of house and the kitchen, so we’d be working at the prep table, and when people came in, we’d stop to wait on them. They’d ask for other pastries, coffee, and this and that, so we started to expand.”
Chris opened Fornax in 1997 with his brother Gregg, and now owns the bakery with his wife, Kimberly. “When Fornax opened, I still worked downtown on weekdays, so Chris would set out a can in front and people would pay for bread, coffee, and scones and he’d bake,” she said.
Kimberly, whose background is in landscape architecture, joined the team full-time and helped expand the pastry program. “We’d start with twelve English muffins and ask, ‘will these sell?’” Kimberly explained. Kimberly enjoys the creativity of baking. “I used to just make cakes for fun, but people kept calling and there was nowhere else to go for a custom cake, so we filled a gap. It was a sign of a changing Roslindale when foot traffic increased, that we can sell this variety of items.”
Chris has a long history in the restaurant industry. “I worked in restaurants in high school and college and just loved it. After graduation, I went back to working in restaurants.” He and Kimberly moved to Denver, where he was a chef at a local restaurant. When their baker left to open his own bakery, Chris went with him. “Baking was something I didn’t know much about, so I worked as his apprentice, with the goal of learning as much as I could and then moving back to Massachusetts, since both Kimberly and I are from here.”
Going from apprentice to opening his own bakery was harder than he thought. “When you run kitchens, you know management, mixing, and how to bake, so that’s not a big leap, but the hours are a lot,” said Chris.
They ended up in Roslindale Village, which was very different at the time. “When we were looking for a place to live, Roslindale was affordable, wonderful, close to the Arboretum (we’re dog owners), and close to public transportation. But twenty years ago, there were a lot of grated storefronts,” said Chris. “The neighborhood had good bones,” interjected Kimberly. “I like that it’s a square, instead of one long street, and there are a lot of cool places.”
Chris and Kimberly have been a fixture in Roslindale Village ever since. “It is satisfying to walk to work and feel like a part of the community,” says Kimberly. “I like knowing I’m baking for my neighbors.” For Chris, satisfaction “comes from my family. We work together, and it is rewarding, physical work.” Their high school-aged daughter Phoebe is often at the bakery and runs their booth at the RVMS Summer Farmers Market. On this particular day, she stopped by after school to chat with her parents, occasionally jumping up to refill their water bottles or help package an order.
“I have memories of being at the bakery as a kid. There are pictures of me sleeping in a banana box in one photo and on a sack of flour at age five in another,” said Phoebe. Growing up in the family business “is definitely cool. I get to meet a lot of people, see a lot of different things. I’ve learned about good work ethic and money management.” The staff at Fornax has been “a second family; I’ve known Brenno [baker at Fornax] since I was three.”
Chris takes pride in the fact that their staff, like Brenno, whose worked at Fornax for twelve years, sticks around. “The kitchen environment is like no other – the energy level, the characters – they might not fit in anywhere else, myself included,” said Chris. “We treat our staff well, and the people who stay, they’re like family.”
Sara, who has worked out front for two years, agrees. “I like the people, and the nice little community we have. People really know each other in Roslindale and we also have a lot of regulars.”
Fornax’s long-term relationships also extend to their suppliers and network of wholesale customers. “We’ve been with our egg and fruit suppliers for nineteen years, and supplying to some of our restaurants for the same amount of time,” said Chris. You can find Fornax bread at nineteen restaurants around Boston, including local places like Sophia’s Grotto and Redd’s in Rozzie.
Asked about the challenges of running a small business, Chris mentions staffing. “If there’s an issue, it falls to us.” For Kimberly, it’s “keeping things fresh after twenty years. Projects like the “parklet” in the summer help. It’s good to have RVMS in the community. They help keep Roslindale moving forward. RVMS events add energy to the neighborhood.”
“When you run a small business, you find out you’re good at a lot of things, but other things not so much, like marketing,” said Kim. Fornax might not be super active on social media, but “the smell of fresh bread is good PR.”
“The food is amazing, I love the sandwiches,” said Kaye, a regular customer. “Fornax is a great place; it has a lot of character and the staff is always friendly.”
Everything from the signature sourdough boule (which some customers refer to as the “Fornax bread”) to the soups and pop tart dough is homemade. “It’s nice to walk into a place and know it is all made there, and that everything is fresh that day,” said Chris. “Here you’ll get a good product, good service, good value. It’s real food.”