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A Napa Farmers Market success story: West Won Bread

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West Won Bread in Napa offers freshly baked bread, scones, cookies, and other seasonal dishes.

The passion for his craft is immediately evident when speaking to West Won Bread's owner Kyle Keuhner, one of Napa Farmers Market’s favorite bakers. From the outside looking in, there seems to be a constant experimentation that comes along with owning and operating a bakery.

Keuhner seems to embrace experimentation by welcoming feedback from customers at the Napa Farmers Market and committing to continually offering new and interesting products, while also meeting the explosion of demand for staples like his West Won Sourdough as his operation has blossomed over the years. Today we share more details about this local vendor.

How did you get your start? Was there a major catalyst that set you down the path to becoming a vendor?

Kyle Keuhner: I was working in San Francisco at an English language school in San Francisco — a co-worker brought in a loaf of bread they had baked one day. I decided to try my hand and ended up falling in love with it.

I was looking to make a change professionally, so I quit my job and worked a couple bakery jobs before landing a full-time gig at Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland. I started at the bottom by packing up bread and worked my way up to eventually learn the craft with the owner and head baker, Matt Kreutz.

I then moved to Napa where I worked at Model Bakery for a short time, but my goal was always to have my own operation. A catalyst to being a vendor at the farmers' market was that it was the only place I could sell.

I have always seen farmers' markets as great community hubs. I think they’re fantastic because they support farmers and are great incubators for people who want to start a new business. For me, the Napa Farmers Market has been a great place to test products, get feedback and develop a commitment to consistency with customers. Even today, we will still look to farmers' markets for support.

What is the most rewarding part of being a vendor? What is the most challenging thing for you?

Keuhner: The most rewarding aspect is getting to know your neighbors and the people who live in your community. You get to build those relationships with the people around you. I recognize the Napa Farmers Market is a staple; it’s a meaningful relationship here between vendor and customer.

The most challenging part is how we’ve been able to grow within the confines of a 10-by-10 stall in a market. We started with bringing 60 loaves and now bring 500 total products, but to me that’s all part of it; the hard work is all part of the fun.

What is something people might not expect about your line of business?

Keuhner: This is maybe not specific to us, but in all restaurants it's how much behind-the-scenes work goes into what the customer sees when they walk in or taste products. All the work is manual and hands-on work that makes for some long hours. You need to have a passion in this business — there are easier ways to make more money!

Do you have long-term, pie-in-the-sky plans to grow, or are you happy having a more focused, hands-on approach?

Keuhner: We definitely want to grow. Our goal is to land a bigger production space — a bigger building with a full kitchen and cafe. We are working towards that now. At the close of this year, we will have been through our first full calendar year of business in this location so it will be good to reflect, look back at the numbers, and see how we can accomplish that goal.

As far as items you sell, what is a crowd favorite, and does it align with your personal favorite?

Keuhner: For bread, our top seller is West Won sourdough. We like to use a lot of ancient grains and different varieties of flour. We just started selling croissants that we are doing a bit differently, using ancient grains in those too, which are becoming popular.

In general, we listen to our customers because they give us feedback of what they like and don’t like. It goes a long way for costumers to see the owner there and know we care about their feedback when dreaming up new products for the store and for farmers' markets.

My current favorite is a bacon date scone that we will begin selling soon. My favorite from the beginning has been the sprouted rye and sesame bread, but anything that is left at the end of the day I gladly take home and snack on.

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