A recent visit to Baltimore-based H&S Bakery affirms what we’ve known about the company all along: “Quality is the most important thing for us.”
A walk through the H&S Bakery feels a whole lot like stumbling into someone else’s family reunion. As Ryan Paterakis leads me around the plant, he seems to say in response to every friendly face that crosses our path: “That’s my cousin, so-and-so.” This warmth and familiarity are in keeping with the origins of H&S Bakery, which was founded by Harry Tsakalos and Isadore “Steve” Paterakis, for which H&S is named. It all began with two families coming together to bake bread from a hearth oven in their Baltimore row home in 1943—a humble startup story that SAGE loves, having started in the basement of the Rodriguez home in 1990. Today, a thriving H&S employs nearly 900 people in the city.
The company’s storied foundation is reflected in the structure of the South Bond Street plant. Outside, Ryan points out the large duct that spans over the street from one building to the next—it houses a conveyor belt that carries fresh bread from the bakery to the distribution center to be wrapped and shipped. He explains: “We had to grow our operations as we grew, little by little. Instead of amassing one large facility from the get-go, we had two separate ones, and we had to figure out how to mold our business around the community.”
Sleek, modern, and wonderfully mechanized, the machinery inside the bakery is a surprising contrast to the well-worn brick of the building’s exterior. I watch, fascinated, as dough balls are dropped into pans, proofed to get the desired volume and texture, and scored by a jet of pressurized water. After running through the oven, each loaf of hot Italian bread is lifted out of the pans by vacuum suction cups, which place it on the conveyor belt to cool before the wrapping and shipping. The scientific precision of it all is incredible. Still, there’s a little human touch at every quality assurance checkpoint, to ensure that each product ends up just right. In Paterakis’ words, “Quality is the most important thing for us, and consistency is what we strive to achieve every day for our customers.”
Currently, H&S provides fresh-baked goods to seven states; this bakery in particular supplies 21 SAGE schools in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. They produce 150 different products, including bagels, English muffins, hoagie rolls, onion rolls, raisin bread, and rye bread, among others—about 2 million pounds of product every week!
Although it’s 73 years old, H&S is anything but set in its ways. They’re always seeking out new improvements, and they’re committed to making environmentally responsible choices. For instance, last year, they replaced their fleet of bright-yellow diesel delivery trucks with propane-fueled ones—burlap-patterned to evoke an “artisan, hearth bakery look”—that release substantially less carbon into the atmosphere. In the interest of being thorough, they replaced not only the route trucks that clients see, but also the less-visible tractor trailers that drive between facilities.
Says Paterakis, “Our company is cutting-edge and industry-leading in terms of sustainability and best practices in the baking industry.” In addition to improving air quality with their updated trucks, they’re conserving energy by reducing the amount of plastic encasing goods sold in bulk, and conserving water and gas during production with state-of-the-art meters. We’re proud to purchase from such a civic-minded, sustainable partner to deliver fresh goods to our local school communities every week.