GLENS FALLS — Early Wednesday, the huge metal mixing bowls in Rock Hill Bakehouse’s new site in the Shirt Factory Annex will start to turn, the dough will get separated and shaped on long breadboards and the refurbished French oven, shipped up from Florida, will bake its first daily batch of 3,000 loaves of Rock Hill bread.
“This is is what I envisioned 30 years ago,” said Matt Funiciello, Rock Hill’s owner.
Funiciello explained that, when he and his brother, John, moved the business into a roadside plaza in Moreau about 26 years ago, they saw the location as a “transition space.”
“We thought we’d be there five years. We’d build up a war chest and move to a permanent location,” he said.
Instead, the bakery settled in and grew, distributing bread in a 100-mile radius up and down the Northway. In 2003, Funiciello opened a stand-alone cafe on Exchange Street in Glens Falls that sold bread and coffee, served breakfast and lunch and became a gathering place for artists, business people, political activists and others who wanted to talk and listen.
Funiciello sold the cafe last year to Chris Patten, and, after renovations and adjustments to the menu, it is now operating as The Exchange Cafe.
That sale made it possible for Funiciello to realize his long-ago vision of running a bakery and cafe out of the same location. Along the way, the devoted meat-eater had converted to veganism (mostly because of climate change considerations, he says), so the burgers at the new site will be made from mushrooms and quinoa and the breakfast menu will feature a tofu scramble.
For the first three weeks or so, the cafe will be serving just pastries, bread, coffee and drinks. After that, when the restaurant opens, it will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The new Bake House is at 18 Curran Lane, just past the Shirt Factory on Lawrence Street when you’re heading out of town. The entrance is around the back, where a spacious parking lot (especially compared with the one on Exchange Street) leads in to a high-ceilinged space.
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To your left is a picture window that affords a look into the baking room; to the right, a gallery wall where local artists can display their work. At the front is a small stage, featuring an upright, 1885 Steinway piano; at the back are coolers and the pastry and cashier counters.
“I wanted to recreate all the elements of the cafe I loved so much,” Funiciello said.
But it will have more than that. When the restaurant is going, for example, he intends to package some of their dishes, like soups and stews and dal (an Indian lentil stew), for sale out of the cooler.
Moving the tractor
Eric Unkauf, owner of the Shirt Factory complex, was using the annex for storage, Funiciello said. All the old stuff that had cluttered the enormous Shirt Factory space — now filled with specialty shops and artists’ studios — had been lugged into the annex, including a tractor, Funiciello said.
“He (Unkauf) said, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘I’ll take it,’” Funiciello said.
Turning the empty warehouse into a bakery and cafe was “a Herculean task,” Funiciello said, and it ended up taking several months longer than he’d hoped.
“I’m still figuring out the last-minute feng shui,” he said on Tuesday.
He has been getting up at 4:30 in the morning and working to after 11 at night, Funiciello said, and he looked pale and weary. But his voice was determined and his talk, as usual, ranged over an array of subjects about which he is passionate, from “wheat mafia wheat,” which he won’t buy; to the fantastic seitan (a high-protein wheat gluten that can be substituted for meat) made by Berben & Wolff’s vegan deli in Albany; to his refusal to seek tax breaks or other government subsidies (“I do not want public money. This is a private business.”); to his love for his employees.
“I say to people, ‘I value you. We need you. ... The team of people I work with are family to me. They all have gone so far above and beyond to realize this dream,” he said.
Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at @trafficstatic.