Locally owned bakery to open downtown


Story by Lily Stephens, Writer

In a storefront on Eighth Street that had sat empty for several months, you can now catch glimpses of a woman with big brown hair and a bright smile running in and out the door.

For 20 years, Lori Gardner was a hairdresser. Her life shifted when her family of four became a family of eight after adopting four children from China. Living with seven other people motivated Gardner to start baking more food at home, and she soon caught the attention of family and friends.

“I bought a grain mill, and I started making bread,” Gardner said. “I would post about it on Facebook, and my friends started to say, ‘Oh, I’d buy some of that from you.'”

From there she began to cater events and take special orders. Before she knew it, she was selling at farmers’ markets as a regular, and her husband had built a second kitchen just for baking. Gardner realized that she was starting a full-blown bakery business out of her home.

Yet she soon grew tired of farmers’ markets, having to travel and pack up each time, so she set her eyes on a space that she could call her own.

On the storefront at 719 Eighth Street in Baldwin City, locals may have noticed big white letters on the windows that read, “Homestead Kitchen & Bakery” and some Baker students are excited to welcome a new source of food to town.

“I’m so excited [the grand opening] is on my calendar,” senior Brittany Windom said.

The bakery will offer a new space for students to socialize and study besides the on-campus Daily Grind or coffee shops in Lawrence. Gardner is excited to welcome Baker students, faculty and staff to her business’ new home.

“Baker and the Baldwin City community definitely lack in places for students to do homework and hang out with friends,” sophomore Mitchell Lierz said.

At first the bakery will serve baked goods, wraps, sandwiches, soups and salads. It will also offer a “Small Bites” menu featuring a cheese board and fruit, roasted Brussels sprouts and baguette slices with vinaigrette.

Gardner hopes to have an ever-evolving menu open to input. She also would like to host events focused on college students.

“I have this idea to do a ‘Homestead Happy Hour’ with cold glasses of milk and cookies like your mom makes,” she said. “I have four boys and they love milk and cookies, and I thought there would be a lot of campus boys who would feel the same way.”

Gardner said the goal is to create a warm, welcoming environment where people want to stay whether they are “sitting with a friend having coffee, studying or gathering for a meeting.” She highly values customer interaction and community, something she enjoys most about being a small-business owner.

“When I would do the farmers’ markets, I would love that customer interaction,” Gardner said. “I love people, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the community in this way.”

She thinks her business can help the community business environment.

Baldwin City is really wanting to bring outsiders in for the day, not just at Maple Leaf (Festival) time but other times, too,” Gardner said.

Gardner said she is excited to have her own creative space. She said it feels empowering to be a small-business owner and is enthusiastic to share and collaborate with Baker students and other Baldwin City community members if they have ideas.

Gardner thought about putting the bakery’s home base somewhere larger such as Johnson County, but she ultimately decided that she wanted to stay in Baldwin City. Her family lives about two minutes from Eighth Street, and her children go to Baldwin High School.

Homestead Kitchen & Bakery will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday and officially opens on Tuesday, Nov. 22.