CONNOR TOWNSHIP, Maine — The last place many might expect to find the Caribou region’s newest bakery is in a home kitchen on a quiet country road.
But that’s exactly where Autumn Labreck has been honing her skills in breadmaking.
Across Maine, restaurants, farmers markets and even school lunches showcase locally sourced food. Since the pandemic frenzy waned, Aroostook’s grocery stores and bakeries have no shortage of breads. But Labreck has found that many people crave the special tastes that rise out of a home oven.
“People are becoming more aware of what they’re eating and where it comes from,” Labreck said. “So the more local food you can buy, the better.”
Labreck is the owner and only employee of Lovely Loaves, which is based at her home in Connor, an unincorporated township outside Caribou.
In just one year, she has gone from not even considering herself a baker to opening a fully licensed bakery, where she crafts artisan breads, doughnuts and other treats that are becoming popular with her fanbase.
In February 2022, Labreck was experimenting with homemade pizza dough when she first thought she might try baking her own breads. Though she had always loved cooking, she had no experience with breads or pastries, so she taught herself by listening to podcasts and reading all the recipes and social media advice she could find.
As Labreck’s enthusiasm for baking grew, she began selling white, whole wheat, sourdough and half-wheat breads at summer festivals to good reviews. In August, she officially launched Lovely Loaves, a pick-up and delivery-based business, and began attending local farmers markets.
Labreck’s expanded menu now includes her four original breads as well as sweet brown mini loaves, bagels, rolls, oatmeal bread, gluten-free bread and glazed raised doughnuts. Her website and Facebook page display photos of some of her artfully designed products.
Part of her growth strategy is asking customers what they want.
“Rather than guess what people might like, I’ve been asking them what they want to see on the menu,” Labreck said. “That’s really how it has grown.”
Though Labreck has gained many loyal customers, especially during the summer market season, one challenge remains: letting people know where she is.
Her home on Madawaska Road is a far cry from the busier downtown streets. That’s why she is working toward opening a storefront in Caribou that would have a commercial oven, more space to display her products and visibility beyond social media and local events.
For now, Labreck remains committed to growing as a baker and seeing where her newfound talents will take her. She said she often compares her journey with breadmaking to life in general.
“Life can be messy. You take all that messiness and mix it in a bowl. Then you dump it on a table and knead it until it comes together,” Labreck said. “If you stick with it, you usually end up with something beautiful.”