As two bakers churned out batch after batch of the Blue Duck Bakery's large bread orders on Wednesday, owner Keith Kouris was whipping up something smaller.
After carefully measuring out each ingredient, Kouris poured water and dough mix into a giant mixer and watched it spin.
But Kouris was mixing just one batch with one specific customer in mind.
"I have one guy who I know really enjoys this rye," he said. "That's what's nice about being a small bakery. I can still fill each customer’s orders."
But recently, in addition to his customer base at both of Blue Duck's locations in Southold and Southampton, Kouris is also serving up breads to Whole Foods markets in Long Island and New York City.
In December, nine varieties of artisan breads from Blue Duck Bakery became available at nine of the gourmet food chain’s local stores - six in Manhattan, plus the Lake Grove, Manhasset and Jericho stores.
Kouris said the partnership came about at the beginning of the summer, when the Lake Grove Whole Foods sponsored a farmer’s market with the goal of finding new local products to sell in stores. Kouris said Blue Duck breads were chosen by Whole Foods on the first day of the farmer’s market.
Kouris opened the first Blue Duck location in Southampton in 1999 with his wife, Nancy, and they expanded to Southold in 2008. But they never expected their breads would reach so many tables.
"My wife and I are very proud to be where we are now," he said. "We never imagined we'd even serve other parts of the island."
The breads being sold at Whole Foods are classic European artisan breads, Kouris said, which tend to be a harder bread, with a thick crust. He said when he first opened his store in Southampton, customers would complain that the bread was stale or burnt.
“We were the first artisan bread shop in the area,” he said. “They had to get used to the texture of a true artisan bread.”
But once they did, business took off.
Nancy Kouris said the bakery has remained a family business, with the couple’s adult children, Christina, Noelle and Anthony, helping out in their spare time. Nancy said their son-in-law, Peter Donovan, is like her husband’s “right-hand man.”
Before the deal with Whole Foods, which Kouris said tripled his business, Blue Duck also started delivering to Union Market in Brooklyn, and will soon be at Grace’s Market in Glen Cove.
“When I bought this place, I thought I’d be here for a long time before I outgrew it,” Kouris said, walking through his Southold kitchen on Wednesday. “But I think I have to start looking for a bigger space soon.”