But when his wife got a new job a few years ago, Robertson decided to hang up his epaulettes and take on a new (and equally challenging) role: stay-at-home dad. “I stayed home for three years, and was ‘Daddy’ for three years,” he says, grinning. “And that’s when I really started to became obsessed with bread.”
With no culinary background, Robertson read as much about the business as he could and signed up for online courses to help hone his skills in the kitchen. Eventually, he started bringing his baked goods to parties and sharing them with family and friends. And as his carb creations got better and better, friends started to suggest that this thing could be bigger than just dinner parties. Robertson signed a three-month lease with the commissary kitchen Stock Pot Malden and started taking his dough on the road to the Peabody and Harvard Ed Portal farmers markets. Before long, he had set his sights on a more permanent storefront.
“I started to build a decent enough following where I was like, ‘This might work,” he says. To that end, he’s readying to open a brick-and-mortar location (415b Medford St.) in a unit that’s literally around the corner from his house on Vernon Street and—surprisingly—not much more expensive than his shared kitchen in Medford. “The space opened up, and the price was right—it all kind of just aligned.”
Robertson will stick to his buns at the Medford Street storefront, where his focus will still be on serving organic breads made with fresh, local ingredients. He’ll be using the same overnight cold ferment process he perfected at the commissary kitchen—a “low and slow philosophy” that works for braised meats, barbecue and, as it turns out, bread—increasing the flavor profile and the shelf life of his wares. (“I’m not saying this will last for months,” he jokes, “but it does help.”) And while Somerville Bread Company will continue wholesale distribution to area shops, Robertson plans to open his doors in the afternoons and early evenings so that hungry ‘Villens can pick up his famous “Cherry Seinfeld” or bacon brioche on their way home from work.
“I keep the door open in a lot of cases, and people have come in and have been really excited about me coming to the neighborhood,” he says. “Retail is not the biggest part of my business, but I want Somerville Bread to be a part of the neighborhood. That was really important to me.”
The bakery is still a one-man operation for now, but if all goes well, Robertson hopes to hire some additional help. He shouldn’t have any trouble: The brick-and-mortar shop hasn’t officially opened yet, but more than a few people have dropped off their resumes.
And even as the business expands and evolves, what won’t change is what goes into making Robertson’s bread so fresh and delicious: “small batches and patience.”