We had the good fortune of connecting with Wesley Ervin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wesley, what matters most to you?
I truly believe the health of our community comes down to food eduction, mostly to identify where our ingredients are coming from. I’ve always been told “know who grew your food, know where your food was grown, and how it was grown.” That’s been a major motivation for me as we’ve got our bakery going; to illuminate what is in our food and how it’s being grown. Once we start to answer those questions, I’m able to get a better grasp on which ingredients fit our model the best. We try our best to support a sustainable, low ecological impact food system. At our current size, voting with our dollar is just about the only way we can have any influence. First, we try to purchase from local farmers who are active in environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices. Being in Hawaii, we have to bring in all of our flour from the mainland. We buy all UDSA organic flours, grains, and other dry goods. Though there are many holes in the organic certification system, I feel some sort of solace in taking these small steps to eventually build up to what I see as a better, healthier navigation through our foodways.
What should our readers know about your business?
Over four years ago, my partner and I started a small sourdough bakery in a little wood-fired oven on a coffee farm in Kona. We were very appreciative to the farm owner to have given us the opportunity to start making small batches of bread and sell down in the small slow mountain village. We’re were warned many times how difficult it is in our area to scale up production to a sustainable level, but we learned as the years went by. It has been incredibly difficult to stay optimistic 100% of the time. With the prices of land, space rentals, utilities, ingredient freight, access to resources, swaying customer base, the odds are stacked against a feasible food business. We’ve even thought of calling it quits at least a couple of times.
But as we’re the only bakery of our kind on the island, we feel overwhelming support and gratitude almost every day. And even though we are a profiting business, I feel we’re offering a special service to our immediate community that they wouldn’t have otherwise. We’re taking all of these amazing, exceptional local fruits and veggies and changing the format in which they usually eat them. Whether it be in a pastry or a loaf, I like to think we’re keeping food exciting and fun for everyone involved. I believe always flavor first. Hawai’i makes that easy.
It took us a few growing pains to find a perfect place for us to base our production bakery. We’ve finally landed in what feels like our “forever home.” We’ve aligned ourselves with an established family that owns a successful coffee farming operation. They’re big supporters of us and of community, so I knew everything was clicking into place.
I’ve learned a decent amount the past 4 years. But living in such a small community, my takeaways are be kind to everyone and don’t burn bridges. You’ll reap what you sow quickly.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Kona Coffee and Tea
Ola Brew Co
HICO Hawaiian Coffee
Magics Beach Grill
Super J’s Lau Lau
Papakōlea Green Sands Beach
Volcano National Park
Pololū Valley/Waipio Valley
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I think that I’ve had a fairly easy, privileged life. Even though that privilege didn’t necessarily mean being monetarily stable, my family raised me to make use of what I have no matter the circumstances. I’m grateful that I have parents that encouraged me to work hard and be myself. That’s not as common as many people like to think, so I need to recognize that.
It would be amiss if I didn’t mention the Bread Bakers Guild of America. Personally, I’ve been a member of the guid for almost ten years and have benefited from the connection year after year. The national community has helped me gain confidence in my systems and daily production while still encouraging individualism. I can’t put a value on the amount of networking and educational classes I’ve got through BBGA.
And of course, our little bakery wouldn’t be anywhere near the success (such a strong word) without the constant, unwavering support of my life partner, Sarah. Still, she works just as hard as I do to keep our brand bright and consistent, keep the train rolling every day for four years, and simultaneously keep me sane. I owe a lot of my progress to her.
Lèzanne Fourie; 2 photos (personal photo and two bakers with the dough)