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Southampton bets on bakery to spark Riverside economy

Keith Kouris and his wife Nancy, owners of

Keith Kouris and his wife Nancy, owners of the Blue Duck Bakery and Cafe in Southold. (Aug. 13, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

Southampton officials are hoping the sale of town-owned land to a bakery on the rise will be the first spark in a new economic development zone in the Riverside area.

Blue Duck Bakery and Cafe owners Keith and Nancy Kouris have agreed to pay $405,000 to buy two parcels zoned "light industrial" to house their new artisan bread baking facility. Keith Kouris said the business has outgrown its bread-baking space at its Southold location.

The lots are off Flanders Road, an area town officials consider ripe for economic development. The Blue Duck facility will be the cornerstone of an effort to promote the site to businesses.

"It represents the first real shovel in the ground in that area," said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. "It's a positive story of economic development."

Kouris said about 20 to 25 production jobs will be added initially at the new facility, which he hopes to open at the end of 2013. The Southold location, which also has a robust pastry and cookie baking business, has a retail area at the front of the store. Kouris hopes to add a similar configuration, and possibly a dozen more jobs, at the Riverside location.

Kouris added that Blue Duck, which employs 48 workers, will soon open another retail space on Main Street in Riverhead, adding 12 to 15 jobs.

He said being a part of the community is the secret ingredient of the bakery's success. The family lives in Aquebogue, the couple's children help run the business, and all the workers -- most of whom learned the trade at Blue Duck -- are local. Plus, residents support the shop with the iconic blue duck.

"We're here for birthdays, all celebrations," said Nancy Kouris. "They know [our front-shop workers] by name."

The Kourises opened their first location 13 years ago in Southampton, and added the Southold store four years ago. Kouris said he plans to use the same business model to open "several more [cafes] over the next few years" on Long Island.

Another big element of the bakery's success has been its artisan breads. Every weekend during summer, Blue Duck bakes about7,000 to 10,000 loaves, Kouris said. That compares to its modest beginnings, when Blue Duck baked about 750 loaves a day. In the new Riverside facility, Kouris said he hopes to bake 30,000 to 40,000 loaves a day.

Blue Duck sells its bread to restaurants and gourmet shops from Montauk to Manhattan. It has 120 accounts, Kouris said, including Whole Foods markets.

Kouris is sold on the East End. Particles of wild yeast in the air are what make his award-winning breads unique. If he opened a production plant in Brooklyn, it wouldn't have the same special taste, he said.


Family affair


The Blue Duck Bakery and Cafe is a labor of love for the Kouris family

Owner & chief baker: Keith Kouris, 55

Owner & baker's wife: Nancy Kouris, 54

Daughter: Noelle Kouris, 31, teaches in Ridge but works for Blue Duck in summer

Daughter: Christina Donovan, 33, office manager

Son-in-law: Peter Donovan, 35, production manager

Son: Anthony, 29, works for MTV, but dons the Blue Duck mascot suit on occasion

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