Taylor Petrehn is a talented baker, and his brother Reagan is an expert barista. They’d been pursuing separate careers in hospitality halfway around the world from each other, before an old laundromat in Lawrence, Kansas, brought them back together.
It’s on that site that they expect to open their bakery and coffee shop, 1900 Barker Bakery & Café, in May. Construction delays related to retrofitting the laundromat have cost them more than a year, but they’re excited about the possibilities: light wood, white walls, and a comfortable place to start your day with a pastry and coffee -- or just stop by to pick up a hot loaf of bread on your way home from work.
The shop takes its name from Lawrence’s Barker neighborhood. “We want the neighborhood to tell us what purpose they want us to serve in their lives,” he adds. “We will be defined by the neighborhood, not the other way around.”
On the bakery side of things, Taylor Petrehn is planning his schedule so that at least five different types of bread will be fresh out of the oven around dinner time, allowing customers to swing by for hot bread on the way home from work. “This way people can experience bread when it is at its best,” he says.
The Petrehns are known in local food circles as “The Fabulous Barker Boys,” and the name fits. Both men are handsome, articulate and humble. It’s impossible not to like them.
Raised on a family farm in Paola, Kansas, the brothers were home-schooled, each eventually leaving the farm at 16 to attend Johnson County Community College. At 19, Taylor graduated with honors from the JCCC culinary program, the youngest person to ever complete the program. Reagan pursued a business degree, with a minor in coffee, and worked as a barista for Parisi’s Coffee to put himself through school.
While Taylor built a 10,000 pound pizza oven, “The Ashery,” in the backyard of the family farm and began hosting pizza parties for friends and family, Reagan found his calling as a barista, realizing he loved teaching others about coffee.
After JCCC, Taylor went to work for the pizza station at Chef Colby and Megan Garrelts’ TrezoVino in the Park Place Shopping Center. Meanwhile, Reagan was approached by a group of U.S. entrepreneurs who had decided to open a chain of retail coffee shops in China. He sold his possessions and took off for China.
Several years passed. Then Taylor, who’d moved to the Barker neighborhood in Lawrence, noticed the little laundromat on the corner.
“I had worked in several fine dining restaurants by this point and I knew I wanted to have a place of my own to bake fresh bread,” he says. “The laundromat seemed like best place in Lawrence to open a bakery."
After a phone call to the owner of the property, Taylor learned the laundromat had closed years ago after a bad water main break. Around Christmas 2013 his offer for the building was accepted.
What followed was a slow remodeling process. It took several months just to get the proper permitting, as the space had been zoned for residential use. But he’s been able to do it with his brother by his side.
In early 2014, while the two were Skyping, Taylor asked him to come home and help him with the project.
“I had to really think about whether I was ready to come home, and if this was really what I wanted my future to be,” Reagan says, “but the importance of having a place that Taylor and I would share was too great, and I packed up and moved back to Lawrence to help with the remodeling.”
With their contractor, the Barker Boys have slowly been working from the bottom of the space up. They replaced the floor joists and reinforced an addition. As of last week they had to block off the street to tear down one whole wall to move in Taylor’s new toy, a 4,500-pound Italian stone-hearth deck oven.
Eventually, the brothers hope to grow the business so they can mill their own flour and roast their own coffee beans, but right now they are just focused on getting 1900 Barker Bakery & Café open and ready for business.
They plan to be open 7am – 7pm Monday through Saturday.
1900 Barker Bakery & Café
1900 Barker Avenue