It’s not uncommon for baker Chase Agee’s Base Camp Bakery to sell out long before closing.
A husband-and-wife team of bread enthusiasts, Chase Agee and Ayla Groom, are transforming their farmers market stall into a retail bakery, where they can bring the community together through bread.
One would never guess that behind the endless loaves of wheat and densely seeded rye breads, the “everything” bagels with just the right chewy texture, the fresher-than-imaginable baguettes, and the genuine smiles that greet you, there is one baker standing before you who baked all of it just last night.
Such has been the life of Chase Agee, owner of Base Camp Bakery, for more than a year now. Agee has been renting time in a commercial kitchen. But with only a tiny window to use the kitchen’s highly coveted, steam-injected deck oven, he had to be creative with his schedule.
“I generally bake from 10 p.m. on Friday to 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, then I come home and take a short nap,” Agee said. “And then by about 7 a.m., I’m up and headed to the market to sell.”
The freshness that wafts over Base Camp Bakery’s stand at the Grand Lake Farmers Market is hard to compete with. Tantalizing loaves bask on wooden racks catch the eyes of passersby. But the freshness doesn’t just come from the baked goods. Both Agee and his wife and co-owner, Ayla Groom, exude warmth and cheer to every person who comes by their table.
“I worked at another bread bakery for two years before I started at this bakery. It was wholesale, and I never once saw customers. I had very little connection to the community. That’s largely why I wanted my bakery business to be in a farmers market.”
The joy of cooking and sharing meals has been a center point for the couple since their childhood. Groom credits her mom for modeling hospitality and generosity. “Every Friday night, my mom hosted Shabbat dinner for anywhere from 25 to 90 people in our Brooklyn home. The door was unlocked and anyone she met, she’d invite in.”
Agee was born and raised in Alaska and holds fond memories of his dad’s sourdough pancakes.
“My dad had a sourdough starter that had been brought from San Francisco to Seattle to Alaska by the gold miners. They literally carried this stuff in their pockets as sustenance.”
Years later, Agee’s fascination with sourdough was rekindled when he was training as a chef, and he worked in a bakery right out of culinary school before cooking in cafes and restaurants in Alaska and New York City. Now baking with sourdough has become his life, and that of his wife, the business and marketing genius and full-time preschool teacher. The couple has been living in the East Bay for more than four years and wants to start a retail bakery in Oakland.
“We want a place where we can gather the community, host dinners and live music events, and bring people together through bread,” explained Agee.
Base Camp Bakery breads can be purchased at Berkeley Bowl, GoodEggs.com, and the Grand Lake Farmers Market. Learn more at BaseCampBakery.com.