The smell of fresh bread will soon be commonplace near Orleans Avenue and Bayou St. John, where a bakery and coffee shop is putting the final touches on its new digs in the former Bibleway building at North Rendon Street.
Mayhew Bakery is planning an Oct. 2 opening, owner and chief baker Kelly Mayhew said. Sourdough baguettes are his specialty — he supplies them wholesale to restaurants — but the shop will also offer the full array of coffeehouse fare, including pastries baked onsite.
The bakery and coffee shop will be on the Rendon Street side of the building on 3201 Orleans Ave. On the other side, Bayou Works, a shared workspace, is also set to open soon, anchored by Friends of Bayou St. John, the nonprofit that produces Bayou Boogaloo.
Zeller is planning an open house for Thursday, Sept. 26, to introduce neighbors to the space — and get a taste of Mayhew’s products.
The coffeehouse will have indoor seating for about 20 people, Zeller said. Because of the bakery operation, the coffee shop space is smaller than originally planned when The Station, a Bienville Street coffee shop, was going to open a second location there. After that deal fell through, Mayhew stepped in.
The coffee house is, however, larger than what Mayhew is used to. His former bakery in Old Metairie was at first simply a wholesale operation, then he started selling to neighbors from a walk-up window, like a sno-ball stand. The lines would get especially long during king cake season.
Mayhew said he has friends and clients, such as Marjie’s Grill and Piece of Meat, in Mid-City and has long enjoyed spending time here. “I love this part of town,” he said. “When I heard the bayou fest dude had an opening, I went for it. This is a really hot spot right now.”
Baking comes naturally to Mayhew. He grew up with the smell of fresh-baked doughnuts — his family in North Carolina owned and operated the first 10 Krispy Kreme franchises, starting before World War II.
He didn’t go into it right away, however. He was an infantryman, until he was wounded during his third tour in Iraq. When he got out of the Army, he went to the culinary school at the Art Institute of Charleston, South Carolina, then worked in some top Charleston restaurants.
A job as sous chef under chef Slade Rushing at Brennan’s brought him to New Orleans. But, perhaps it was the lure of bakery smells from his childhood, baking still drew him. He started selling breads, baked in his home kitchen, at the Crescent City Farmers Market.
“Once I figured out I can sell my product, I quit my job,” he said.
His farmers market sales allowed him to buy more equipment, and his business kept growing from there, leading to the opening of the Mayhew Bakery at Rendon and Orleans, where awnings were going up on Wednesday.
After about 18 months in development, there’s still more to be done, Zeller said. They are working on getting outdoor seating and will be installing exterior lighting, a bike rack and signage.
The iconic white-neon Bibleway Missionary Baptist Church sign, a landmark for many in Mid-City and Bayou St. John, had to go down, Zeller said. It was nixed by the City Planning Commission.
The building won’t have off-street parking for customers, Zeller said; none was required by the city. The parking lot on the side of the building will have five spaces for employees.
Lack of parking was one of the factors that drove the Bibleway church to a larger building further toward the bayou on Orleans. Before the church inhabited the 100-year-old building in the early 1980s, it served as Joe’s Food Store and as Petarama, a pet supply store.
To see the transformed space, neighbors are invited to the open house and welcome party on Thursday, Sept. 26, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It will feature food from Big Boyz BBQ & Mayhew Bakery and complimentary wine and beer, plus live music by Matthew Occhipinti.