Yellow Springs Baking Company set to open
- Published: December 27, 2021
Fresh out of the oven, a new business is coming to Yellow Springs. Opening soon is the Yellow Springs Baking Company, located in the heart of the Millworks business center.
The Yellow Springs Baking Company is setting out to be the village’s newest hub for artisanal and handmade breads, empanadas, soups, pastries, baked sweets and more.
Although a hard date for the official ribbon cutting hasn’t been set, the new business has nevertheless drummed up a good amount of local enthusiasm around their edible wares. As part of an extended soft opening, the baking company opened its doors to the public the past two weekends.
According to co-owner and proprietor Rob Houk, the soft openings were a rousing success. Between the two weekends, scores of villagers and visitors alike came by to get a taste of the limited menu, which featured generously glazed cinnamon buns, a smattering of empanada varieties, deep-dish quiches and a hearty bean and kale soup.
“The turn-out and general responses have been incredibly encouraging,” Houk told the News.
“We’ve been hearing a lot of people throw around the word ‘amazing,’ which to me, indicates we’re doing something right.”
Houk said that social media, a local curiosity and the word-of-mouth promotion among the village’s foodies were what brought the bulk of the crowd to his soft openings.
Though the real secret to the baking company’s initial popularity, Houk said, is his wife/business partner’s culinary expertise.
“This is my passion,” Karina Tafolla — co-owner and head chef at the new business — told the News in a recent interview. “I love baking and cooking — but here, I’m trying to make something more refined.”
Tafolla, who was born and raised in Mexico, said cooking has always been a family affair. Some of her earliest memories involve her working in the family kitchen with her grandmother. Later, she said her parents would host dinner parties for family, friends and neighbors.
“Here, at the Yellow Springs Baking Company, I want to put a twist on all kinds of traditional recipes using my background and my heritage,” Tafolla said.
And that background isn’t just a cultural one — it’s also technical. In the early 2000s, Tafolla earned a degree from the Morelia Institute of Technology in computer engineering. Years later, after she immigrated to the U.S. and landed in Pasadena, Calif., Tafolla kept her passion for cooking on the back burner to work in information processing, mostly dealing with property management and inspection.
That’s when she met Houk — a native of Enon, Ohio, and a Greenon High School alumni — who also found himself in Southern California around that time. Working as a licensed contractor rehabbing and remodeling homes, Houk’s path crossed with Tafolla’s one fateful day.
“We clicked right away,” Houk said.
Soon after the couple got married in 2014, Tafolla’s interest in the culinary arts began to resurface. She enrolled in the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Pasadena. It was an intensive yearlong program, she said, involving a smorgasbord of hyper-specialized courses and volunteer stints in a number of high-end kitchens throughout Pasadena and Los Angeles.
“At Le Cordon Bleu, I was able to learn from different chefs from around the world,” Tafolla said.
“Japanese, English, French and other chefs from all over. But the chef who taught me the most was from Thailand. I learned about using all kinds of spices, how to mix them and which spices pair with others.”
Upon graduating from culinary school, Tafolla spent the following year continuing to volunteer and work in upscale restaurants around the city, often as a guest chef.
“The food was good even before she graduated,” Houk said. “She’s just always had this amazing ability to know food and what works. But still, she got better and better. I’ve always known she was far better at her work than I was at mine.”
Then, in late 2017, Tafolla and Houk moved to Yellow Springs.
“Yellow Springs just made a lot of sense to us,” Houk said. “It was a nice change to go from a city of almost 4 million — with what friends we had living over 40 minutes away. Now, I don’t have to commute to see my friends or argue with my neighbor.”
After the move, Tafolla found work heading the kitchen of St. Anne de Tart, a now-closed bakery and coffee shop in Dayton. Later, she found a job closer to home, working as a baker at Yellow Springs’ own Current Cuisine for a little over a year, beginning in early 2020.
With the reprieve from routine provided by the early pandemic months, Tafolla and Houk found themselves with more time to consider a longtime dream of theirs: starting a baking company.
“The village just made sense for this kind of thing — personally and professionally,” Houk said. “We thought that a lot of people here could appreciate what Karina can do.”
Initially, the couple had their eyes on the former Miami Township fire station on Corry Street as a potential site for the future baking company, but after its sale to local comedian Dave Chappelle for a comedy club, Houk and Tafolla had to return to the drawing board.
Late in 2020, they found an opening at the Millworks business center in the north end of the village. By January 2021, the couple signed a lease for a space nestled between Millworks tenants EnviroFlight and Tuck-N-Red’s Spirits & Wines, just down the gravel lane from the Yellow Springs Brewery.
The Yellow Springs Baking Company was born.
Drawing from his past experience in construction, and enlisting the help of local builder and baker Frank Doden, Houk soon set to work remodeling the space to accommodate a fully functional kitchen. In the months since January, Houk and Doden have outfitted the space with wiring, plumbing and all the professional equipment and appliances — mostly stainless steel — to, as Houk said, “allow Karina to do what she does best.”
“I see this as an opportunity to build a new livelihood around Karina’s skillset that I believe will really connect with people,” Houk said.
Now, with the kitchen fully finished, Doden is coming on as a third co-owner and part-time cook, and Houk is stepping into a more “boots-on-the-ground” managerial role.
“I’m here to make sure that the cooks have the best environment to create,” he said. “I will try to manage everything that happens outside of the kitchen — whether that’s keeping track of the books, washing sheet pans, mopping floors or ordering ingredients. I’m just trying to make it easier for them to do what they do.”
In a recent interview, Doden told the News he’s now looking forward to the creative opportunities working at the Yellow Springs Baking Company will afford him.
“I like making laminated things,” Doden said. “So, from me, people can expect croissants and danishes and things of that nature. I also make British-style savory pies — I hope to make both individual-sized pies as well as family-sized pies with a variety of fillings. And there are some cookies that I’d like to toss in from time to time.”
Taken together, Doden and Tafolla’s recipes amount to a unique intersection of culinary styles that they see as a kind of cultural fusion — a coming together of different perspectives and gastronomic skill sets: Doden with his Western European-inspired style of baking, and Tafolla with her stable of Central American-style recipes and lifelong experiences in kitchens across the continent.
“We come from different communities, different cultures. We have different [kinds of] creativity,” Tafolla said. “You can always learn something new from someone else.”
Owing to these factors, Houk said he expects the menu to change and evolve over time.
“I’m not going to presume to know what the market of Yellow Springs wants right from the start,” he said. “We will adjust our offerings as people tell us. I suspect that in Yellow Springs, people will tell us what they want — either by their wallets or face-to-face comments.”
But those changes, Houk said, are down the road. Following the last two weekends of soft openings, the trio is still ironing out what they want the baking company’s menu to feature permanently.
“Initially, we’ll be pretty limited,” Houk said.
In addition to the menu, Houk said the logistics of running the Yellow Springs Baking Company are still being determined. Without a dine-in option, the trio envisions their operations predominantly involving carryout and preorders. Upon the completion of the Yellow Springs Baking Company’s website — which Houk said is in the final stages of development — customers will place their orders almost exclusively online.
“We want to keep it simple for the customer,” Houk said. “We’re having it developed so you can order and pay online, as opposed to just seeing an online image and then calling in to order what you saw. For us, it’ll be ‘click, click, click,’ and then come and pick up your food.”
Houk said he imagines an occasional exception will be made for those with limited access to technology.
“But for some items, like wedding cakes or cakes with custom decoration, even some breads, we will want you to order over 24 hours in advance,” Tafolla said.
“In a lot of ways, we see ourselves kind of like a food truck without wheels,” Houk said. “But instead of going up to a window, you can do it from the convenience of your computer or phone.”
In the meantime, while the Yellow Springs Baking Company continues its weekly soft openings, Houk, Tafolla and Doden encourage customers simply to walk up to their brick and mortar to place their orders.
According to them, the best way to keep up with the company’s weekly hours, offerings and any specials is through their social media — on Facebook at facebook.com/yellowspringsbakingco and on Instagram at @ysbakingco. For now, orders can also be placed by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The official opening is set for early 2022, and an announcement will appear in a future issue of the News.