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After graduating from the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State, John, 26, returned last summer to begin working full time at the bakery. He now manages the day-to-day operations, leaving Mark, 57, time to experiment on potential new products, such as a gluten-free bread.
"I've always been touched by John's interest," Mark says.
"I couldn't imagine anybody running this company but me," John says. "It's always been a part of my life."
In the past four years, the bakery's food-service business has begun to eclipse its grocery accounts, with Farm to Market now being served at more than 100 restaurants. In 2011, the Waldo bakery produced 4,118,786 rolls, buns and loaves.
As Farm to Market prepares to move downtown, John envisions the awning he wants to hang over the Walnut Street entrance. "It will say, 'Kansas City Born, Kansas City Bread.' I think there's still a lot of people that don't realize we're local and we've never wanted to be anywhere else."
The wet plop of dough on a wooden prep table keeps time with the soft whir of an oscillating fan, filling in the silence between two men who are kneading and folding loaf after loaf at Fervere. It's Wednesday night at the West Side bakery, and owner Fred Spompinato's short-sleeved plaid shirt is slowly darkening with sweat as he and baker Chad Russell move the dough from table to oven.
"Feel is what it takes years and years of experience to get," says Spompinato, 58. "The dough is different every night, so you have to know right where you want to be just by touch."
He has spent 24 years discovering that touch. A day after graduating from the American Institute of Baking, in 1987, he started working at the Monterey Baking Co., which brought San Francisco-style sourdough bread to the Kansas City area (as the brand Pacific Baking Co.). There, he befriended a fellow baker, Mark Friend, and the two left to form Farm to Market Bread Co. in 1993.
"We did a focus group and found that bread was intensely personal," Spompinato says. "The only thing that everyone could agree on was that they loved bread hot out of the oven."
Friend wanted to expand; Spompinato didn't. He sold his share of the business in 2000 and used the proceeds to open Fervere.
"I knew that I only wanted to bake three days a week. If it was just going to be me, three days and 50 hours would be all I could handle by myself," Spompinato says.
The focal point of the bakery is the heat-retaining hearth oven, with its cathedral top — bricks arranged into a curved peak. Originally heated with oak, it's now powered by an electric burner. As the night goes on, Russell pulls out loaves of ciabatta, cheese slippers, and orchard bread (made with raisins, apricots, apples and walnuts), letting a little heat escape from the oven each time it's opened.
"Bakeries grow out of hand, and you lose focus once your customers dictate who they want you to be," Spompinato says. "This oven ensures that's not going to happen."
At his busiest, he can produce 475 loaves by hand in a night — a far cry from the 50,000 pounds that the Pacific Baking Co. would produce in a day. He looks up from shaping the polenta bread, which is covered with a ShamWow to help moisten the surface and allow sesame seeds to stick to the crust.