Barker Brothers: Siblings sell artisan baked goods, coffee out of former laundromat
Talk about brotherly love.
It’s partly what pulled 21-year-old Reagan Petrehn back home to Kansas last summer from Xining, China.
The Paola native was helping establish Greenhouse Coffee Co. franchises and taking classes at a local university in China’s Qinghai province when his brother Taylor first approached him with the idea of turning an old East Lawrence laundromat into an artisanal bakery and coffee shop.
“I was like, ‘Oh (expletive), now I have to come home.’ It was too good to pass up,” Reagan says of the recently opened 1900 Barker, which he co-owns with his older brother. “Honestly, I wasn’t sold on it for a while — I was enjoying living in China — but it’s an amazing opportunity. I felt like I should be a part of it.”
The bakery, which launched a little over a month ago at 1900 Barker Ave., transitioned into expanded hours earlier this week. Now, customers can peruse the Petrehn brothers’ rotating menu of pastries, bread and coffee from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Reagan says things have been running smoothly so far, perhaps because he and his brother have been able to devote their time to what they do best: Reagan handles the shop’s coffee offerings, and Taylor manages the baked goods.
There’s a rhythm to the schedule, says the 23-year-old Taylor, who worked in Kansas City restaurants and bakeries as a pastry chef for three years before deciding to consolidate his professional and personal lives here in Lawrence.
He now starts each day at 4 a.m. in order to get the pastries out of the oven (a 4,500-pound stone-hearth behemoth imported from Italy) and onto the counter by opening time. Then, Taylor starts work on the bread — if the timing’s just right, fresh loaves should be ready around 2 p.m., though the Petrehns keep customers updated via 1900 Barker’s Facebook page.
“It’s very interactive. People can see the process from start to finish,” says Taylor, whose commute from the brothers’ East Lawrence home (yep, they share that, too) now takes just about 10 seconds, by his count. “Our bread is as simple as artisan bread gets.”
For Taylor, that means sourcing as many ingredients as possible from local farmers and producers — 25 percent of the wheat 1900 Barker uses comes from Common Harvest Farms. About half of that is milled in-house; the other half is sprouted (a process that allows whole grains to germinate, which bumps up nutritional value and imparts a sweet, grassy flavor) in-house, Taylor says.
1900 Barker’s utility loaf (an all-organic, naturally leavened hearth bread) provides the base for Taylor’s two other varieties: a seeded loaf and raisin-pecan bread.
The bakery usually sells out of pastries by 11 a.m., says Taylor, who switches up his selection of galettes (a sort of freeform cake with crusty dough) just about every week depending on what kind of fruit he finds at the farmers market. This week’s flavors: peach, rhubarb, blackberry and lemon.
Offerings also include savory quiches and tarts, and Taylor has plans to add croissants to the mix sometime down the road.
As far as caffeinated beverages go, Reagan hopes to eventually offer cold-brew options as well as a seasonal menu and perhaps a few non-coffee drinks. Right now, the shop carries the Oregon-based Heart Roasters and California’s Supersonic Coffee Co., though Reagan says he’d like to switch up vendors quarterly.
“I wanted to stay true to making good coffee, so the menu is focused on doing less options and doing them well,” says Reagan, a four-year veteran of the industry. “We want to be approachable — what we don’t want is to be the coffee shop that thinks it’s too cool.”
Right now, they’re sticking to the basics: espresso, cappuccinos, lattes, and for those with a sweet tooth, in-house mochas made with all-natural ingredients.
Looking toward the future, the brothers have plans to host events (Reagan’s thinking of hosting a coffee tasting; Taylor is considering bread-making classes) and hopefully, expand their hours to six days a week.
They also have plans to add more inside and outside seating, plus additional signage. The response so far has been positive, the brothers said, with customers traveling from both near — their East Lawrence neighbors are especially supportive — and far, i.e., the Kansas City and Topeka areas.
Despite all that, some folks remain under the impression that the building at 1900 Barker Ave. still operates as the same laundromat that shuttered two years ago.
“We still have people coming in with laundry baskets,” jokes Taylor.