A Bread Start

Daytime restaurant and bakery Bread & Friends cultivates community in the Old Port

You may have heard of Bread & Friends before they opened a brick-and-mortar location at the corner of Fore and Cotton Streets this spring, but the bakery-slash-pastry shop you’re probably envisioning is a far cry from the team’s latest approach: a daytime restaurant and in-house bakery. “What we really care about is making delicious food and sharing a creative community,” says Maggie Rubin, one of the four co-owners and the brains behind the business’s operations. “And now that we have a [physical] space, we can create that community.”

Owned equally by four friends who met working at State Bird Provisions (and sister restaurant The Progress) in San Francisco, Bread & Friends began when Tanner Rubin, Maggie’s partner and the team’s head bread baker, began selling homemade breads, pastries, and “things that go with it” (think butters, spreads, and jams, affectionately referred to as “friends”) at farmers’ markets on the West Coast. The pandemic flipped the hospitality industry on its head, so Maggie and Tanner, along with their coworkers-turned-business partners Jeremy Broucek and Jess Rattey, made the cross-country move to Portland. “The food scene is a huge reason why we landed here,” explains Maggie. “A slower pace of life, access to the outdoors, a place to settle down—Portland sort of ticked all the boxes,” she says. 

The goal was to immediately open a brick-and-mortar location where they could employ themselves, but the team chose to grow their East Coast audience at Maine farmers’ markets and through wholesale partnerships first. “We were trying to get our name out there, get to know people, and create a market for what we had to offer,” Maggie recalls. The original concept for Bread & Friends’ Old Port location was a market with prepared foods and an in-house bakery, but that idea evolved when the four co-owners realized just how much they enjoy the way food cultivates community. Plus, “Jeremy’s a talented chef, and we wanted to showcase what he’s able to do alongside what everyone else is doing,” explains Maggie, “So that’s how we ended up with this daytime restaurant and bakery idea.”

Today, each of the owners oversees a different pillar of the business—Maggie handles operations; Tanner is in charge of bread; Jess works her magic with pastries; and Jeremy is the head chef tasked with creating breakfast and lunch dishes—but the four friends enjoy collaboration in the unique kitchen environment they’ve established. “This is my first time working in a bakery that also has a restaurant aspect,” notes Tanner. “I really enjoy when Chef [Jeremy] comes to me and says ‘I’m thinking about this dish, and it needs a bread aspect, and this is my idea.’ It’s great to have that as inspiration, and it’s also a challenge to step out of my comfort zone and play around,” he adds.

That dynamic creativity shines in every aspect of Bread & Friends, where the team plans to incorporate seasonal flavors and ingredients in their pastries and shared plates throughout the year (don’t worry—the bread offerings will stay relatively unchanged). “Next on the docket for us is adding back the wholesale program and getting back to the farmers’ market this summer,” says Maggie, “but what really excites me about this concept is that it could become anything. We’re always kicking around fun ideas—should we do a pizza night? A barbeque night? Dinner service isn’t necessarily something we talk about very much, but who knows? We have a ‘sky’s the limit’ attitude.”

For now, the focus remains informing the people of Portland that Bread & Friends is so much more than your average bakery. “Bread is in the name, so people are always going to see that, but I think they’ll start to learn organically that what we’re trying to cultivate in this building is an experience,” explains Maggie. “Sure, you could come here and get some pastries and a coffee to go, but do you want somewhere to have a fancy lunch and a bottle of wine on a Monday? This is the spot,” she proclaims.

“We’re trying to cultivate an experience. Sure, you can get some pastries and a coffee to go, but do you want somewhere to have a fancy lunch on a Monday? This is the spot.”

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