Having a wonderful time… really wish you were here!

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King Arthur Flour, Norwich Vermont.

May 2011, ready to break ground on our expanded Baker’s Store, Bakery, and Baking Education Center.

Fast forward 16 months – September, 2012.

See how we’ve grown?

Come with us now as we celebrate, in pictures, our grand opening party this weekend, an event that drew bakers from all over the country – ready to enjoy good food, good fun, and good friends.

If you’ve visited us in the past, but haven’t been up to Vermont in awhile, our wonderful wood-burning stone oven is all that remains of the original King Arthur Flour store (1992), and more recently, our bakery and education center.

We intend to build a pavilion over the oven, so we can continue to bake the crusty, wood-fired breads and pizzas so many of you have enjoyed in the past.

But enough of the past – let’s check out the new King Arthur campus.

OK, before we get too far into this – to view any of these and the following pictures full size, simply click anywhere on the grid – they’ll become much larger.

Thursday evening marked the beginning of our grand opening celebration (which continues through Sunday). Visitors enjoyed music in the courtyard, our new timeline, and lots of bread.

Inside, folks chowed down on soups, salads, hand-crafted beer from our local Norwich Inn, and Farnum Hill cider from Poverty Lane Orchards, right next door in Lebanon, NH.

But that wasn’t all we offered.

Pizza! Our education center staff worked hard and fast to keep the pizzas coming – over 100, before we lost count.

Friday evening, author/blogger/pastry chef Gesine Bullock-Prado kicked off the series of celebrity baking demos held throughout the weekend.

Her subject: the most delightfully buttery, crunchy, delicious elephant ears, made from an easy blitz puff pastry dough.

(And yes, in case you movie fans are wondering, she IS Sandra Bullock’s sister!)

On Saturday, it was all hands on deck as King Arthur’s employee-owners were out in force, meeting and greeting the thousands of visitors who arrived early – and stayed late!

There truly wasn’t a dull moment. The folks behind the bakery counter were straight out filling bags with sticky buns, baguettes, brownies, and napoleons.

Other KAFers led what turned out to be popular tours of the new facility.

And who’s the crew at lower left? Those are some of our King Arthur Flour Bakery bakers, leaving for home mid-afternoon; they’d been at work since 3:30 a.m. turning out all the yummy treats mentioned above.

Lots of our vendors, the folks who fill our store shelves with their quality products, were on hand to offer samples.

We were especially pleased to welcome Bob Kaufman, and Kent and Marcia Symns (upper left), all representing Farmer Direct Foods of Atchison, Kansas – the folks who grow and mill our white whole wheat flour. Bob is one of the farmers who grows the wheat; Kent is the company’s CEO.

A sampling of other companies represented Saturday included (clockwise from top right) Vermont Farmstead Cheese; Callebaut (chocolates); Vermont Smoke and Cure; Mimmo’s Marinara; and Nielsen-Massey extracts.

Aside from the many, many, MANY free samples from vendors, visitors were also treated to lots of door prizes; free King Arthur products of all kinds, including bags of flour; and baked treats from the various demos going in the the education center.

Did we mention the treats coming out of the education center? How about a mammoth slab of apple pie?

I was thrilled to get back together with Brinna Sands for a baking demo; we started working together in 1990, with the first editions of The Baker’s Catalogue and The Baking Sheet newsletter.

Brinna is an author (The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook), and the original heart and soul of baking at King Arthur.

Saturday, we were tapped to do a baking demo: my favorite recipe from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion, Almond Puff Loaf.

Looking at all the empty seats in the education center, we wondered if anyone would come.

Yup, guess so!

And how about that almond puff?

SO easy – SO tasty!

Next up: our head baker and Certified Master Baker, Jeffrey Hamelman, with one of his favorites: German-style soft pretzels.

Jeff teaches the professional classes at our education center, and he’s all about hands-on; he invited the whole crowd to try shaping their own pretzels, and quite a few folks took him up on it.

The last demo of the day – well, it just had to be chocolate, didn’t it?

Author/blogger Dédé Wilson showed the crowd how to make chocolate cake balls – chocolate mixed with chocolate coated with chocolate drizzled with chocolate sprinkled with chocolate chips… WOW.

Unfortunately, one of our scheduled celebrity bakers, Joy Wilson (Joy the Baker), was unable to make it Saturday – her Friday flight from Los Angeles was delayed, delayed, and finally cancelled.

But the apple pie she was planning to demonstrate was very well-received!

Speaking of well-received – it wasn’t only the grownups having fun. We had a special tent just for the kids, with cookie decorating, face painting, and Marko the Magician.

Of course, kids being kids, they also found other ways to amuse themselves – as this little guy did, turning the flywheel on our grind-your-own flour mill.

Our decision to put large viewing windows all around our bakery was obviously a good one, if the weekend was any indication. Visitors throughly enjoyed watching the bakery crew at work.

Finally, here’s what it’s all about: flour.

And baking.

And the wonderful people who’ve taken King Arthur from a small New England flour importer, to America’s premier baking resource, and the largest educator of home bakers in the world.

That would be you, all the people out there who love to bake.

You want the best for your friends and family. You enjoy using your hands, mind, and heart to create something wonderful.

Thank you for inviting us into your kitchen; we appreciate your trust and loyalty.

And we promise to provide you, always, with top-quality flour, ingredients, tools, recipes, education, AND inspiration, so that every baking experience is a happy one.

Bake on!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. sue

    Thank you so much for posting the pictures! I wanted so badly to go.It looks like a great time was had by all. You all must be soooo tired! :-)

    Reply
  2. homebird

    This brought tears to my eyes – joyful tears for all of you and the hours you’ve put in to make it a reality, sad tears for me that I couldn’t be there to taste and fraternize. Congratulations to all! I think I’ll make an Almond Puff to celebrate vicariously.

    Reply
  3. Renee N.

    We were there 2 weeks ago while on vacation. What a treat it was to see. I wish I would have looked online before so I could have taken a class or two.

    Reply
  4. Sandy

    Yea!!! Just in time for my upcoming visit to your store. Will be in NH in a couple of weeks to see the grands and plan to make a trip to your fab new store. Last time I was there, you were still in process a year ago. So excited to see the changes. See you soon!!

    Reply
  5. "Paul from Ohio"

    JOYFUL journey! Delicious ‘taste’ of the great weekend at KAF! Thanks so much for sharing. I ate up every word and devoured each photo! Love popping up the photos to enlarge them to really “see” what’s going on. And I had separate windows for the BEFORE/AFTER views from overhead – great photos – so awesome to see how you’ve grown! Just BEAUTIFUL! Congratulations to all the owners on a major expansion – and, I’m thinking on the completion schedule that was established before the changes began: amazing design, construction contractors and crew. Well done!

    Thanks so much, Paul – we’re looking forward to your next visit! PJH

    Reply
  6. mbmitchell

    Looks like a great time, wish I could have attended. I hope to visit next April over school break on visit to mt daughter in NH. Love your products, high quality and consistently good! Beautiful facility!

    Thanks so much – we’ll look forward to seeing you in April. PJH

    Reply
  7. "said the hobbit"

    I too was there 2 weeks ago and saw how hard everyone was working to set things up. Sorry I couldn’t be there for the party but, happy for all you have accomplished as I usually reap the benefits. Annual trip seem to miss the fun things but, always enjoy the great photos.

    Thanks for your kind comments – it was really a lot of fun being there, taking the photos, and putting this blog together… PJH

    Reply
  8. karenbrat1

    Now if I could only find a supplier for KA flour in 50 lb bags :-)

    Karen, sometimes your local bakery is willing to throw an extra bag onto their order, and resell to you – worth a try, anyway, if you’re too far away to get to our store. Yes, the 50# bags are very cost effective! PJH

    Reply
  9. waikikirie

    I so wish I was better orgainized. My husband asked me during the week, where I wanted to go this weekend. It was my birthday yesterday. If I had had a thought in my head, I should have requested a few V-days, had a long weekend and headed up to Vermont to celebrate your “grand re-opening”….Middle-age mind. Thought of it too late. Although I couldln’t be with you this weekend, I thought about you all. After seeing the photos it was ALMOST as good as being there. Thanks for sharing PJ and thanks to all the KA staff for making me a better baker….xoxoxoxo

    xoxoxoxox back at you, waikikirie – we hope sometime when you’re in your right mind :) you’ll make your way up here! PJH

    Reply
  10. nancykc55

    Fantastic day! Really enjoyed the tour of the building and the company history lesson. The Almond Puff demo was terrific! Really liked being able to see and handle the products in the store (spent too much but it’s only money).

    Can’t take it with you, right? But chocolate – yes, you CAN take it with you! Thanks for coming, Nancy, and for coming to our demo – where you got to see me leave something out of the recipe (a usual occurrence!) – and then offer a way to make things right. That’s how we learn and grow, right, recovering from mistakes? :) PJH

    Reply
  11. jacquie2022

    Had a great time. Spending all my gift cards. Special thanks to Michelle who helped my far beyond the call of duty. I am a Vermont Snowbird. Coming from California each spring and not leaving untill early Oct. And frequently visiting the store. This year I even went to a bread class and it was great. Next year I’ll try a couple more. Thanks so much for being here.

    Jacquie, so glad you were still on the East Coast so you could enjoy the festivities. We look forward to seeing you at some classes next spring/summer… PJH

    Reply
  12. Anne

    “Not a dull moment” – that must be some party! I would have loved to be there if not for the long distance. I would be glad to get a slice of those 100+ pizzas, AND trying my hand on the flywheel of that green flourmill. Thankfully, next to actually being there, I find consolation in PJ’s vivid account of the event and in those charming photos. (Who’s that lucky fellow who gets to pose with that enormous apple ‘pie’?) PJ, It’s so kind of you to write this up and share the celebration with those KAF fans who couldn’t make it to the campus. (Does this picturesque compound have a name? ‘Camelot’ seems to be an obvious choice, or perhaps it is something more baking-oriented?)
    Yes, this is a happy occasion, an American success story in a bag of flour. Although from afar, I send my congratulations to all the good people at KAF. Continue your good work. Wishing you many more good loaves – and pies, and cakes, and cookies… And above all, endless (sourdough) pizzas!
    Hello Anne – We also wish you could have been here to help us celebrate. It was a stellar event and I think we are all a little tired and still reeling from the excitement of the 4 day gala event. I was able to enjoy the happenings on Saturday with my family and then work in our Baking Education Center yesterday where we provided hands-on baking activities for our customers. Everyone had a blast! Thank goodness for blogs and social media so we can bring these nice events to all of you. The name of the facility is still Camelot. It is now a much bigger Camelot! We have 2 other buildings about a mile south. Avalon is where I am now in Customer Support. Also in Avalon we have our Fulfillment Center, Merchandising, Graphics and our Test Kitchen! Then there is Excalibur where we have IT, HR, PR, Finance, Payroll, Bakery Flour Support and the list goes on! Pretty cool names for our buildings though, right? Happy baking! Elisabeth

    Reply
  13. takefive34

    Well, P.J., we ALMOST were there for the grand opening; however, we’d been in N.E. for two months and were on our way back to FL at the time. BUT…………we made two trips to KAF during our two months, the first with one of our daughters, the other with my husband’s sister-in-law (she’d never been there before!!). Bought a few “gotta-have” items, including two bags of self-rising flour which aren’t yet on the shelves at either Publix or Sweet Bay – you can be sure we’ll be keeping after the grocery managers to put in an order! Bottom line – what an absolutely awesome facility, a true testament to the employee-owners. Also, one instance where new and improved truly is!!!

    Thanks so much for your kind words! I hope you had a safe trip home – and we’ll look forward to seeing you up here again next year. PJH

    Reply
  14. jadobbins

    PJ, I am so proud of all of you. Your bakery, store and education center look amazing. KAF is an awesome success story!
    I love reading you blogs on recipes. Thanks for writing up the Grand Opening of the new facilities. It was fun to read and the pictures were great also.
    I have printed off so many recipes — all I have to say is “So many recipes so little time and energy to bake!” Your products are fantastic. I need a special panty just to store everything I’ve bought and all I plan to buy.
    Thank you, thank you for all your had work! Jo

    Jo, you’re so sweet… thank you. It’s customers like you who fuel our enthusiasm for what we do every day. I hope you’ll be back to visit sometime – maybe when it’s not quite as hectic! :) PJH

    Reply
  15. Sandy

    Wow…I had the pleasure of visiting your newly remodeled facility this past week while was up visiting the grandkids in NH. My dau-in-law and I were both totally impressed! What a beautiful place you now have..so open, bright and airy. Love the new cafe also. Every employee we encountered was so helpful and so, so proud and enthusiactic about your new place. I look forward to visiting again next year on my annual trip to NH!!

    Reply

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