Tucked away towards the back of a Kimball Junction shopping area, between the Best Buy and Jupiter Lanes bowling alley, you will find the newly-opened Hearth and Hill restaurant. This smartly-designed restaurant seeks to be a local-centric, community-focused restaurant. A place where you would be comfortable hanging with your friends, go on a first date, or hang out with your grandparents. A lot of time, attention, and money was spent on the interior of the restaurant, which I would call industrial-chic. Large-pane windows showcase the bright white kitchen—kind of a different take on the open kitchen concept—and I like it. Make sure you spend some time at the gorgeous bar, and enjoy a cocktail or mocktail as you pre-game dinner. During the warmer months, live music will be featured on their large patio.
Brooks Kirchheimer, proprietor of Hearth and Hill, has restaurants in his blood. As a child his very first Christmas present he recalls asking Santa for was a cash register, and he would routinely drive his sisters crazy asking them to “play restaurant” with him (his restaurant’s name was Sharky’s).
“Under the radar” is an apt phrase to describe Stoneground. It seems to me that nine time out of ten, when I’m eating out and think to myself “this is really good bread,” I would find out it came from Stoneground. Their ability to consistently crank out some of the best-tasting bread around intrigued me, so I thought I’d give them a visit to speak with Linda Hines, their business manager, and to take a tour of their facility.
Flour is fed into the mixer from the large hopper above
Just a few baking trays
Stoneground got its start as a tiny bakery on Main Street in Heber City. German-born Hans Schmerse fled East Germany and opened a small European-style bakery in 1979, and the growth of Stoneground since then has been more than Hans could have ever imagined. Stoneground has over 180 employees, serves over 770 different wholesale customers, and ships their products as far as Ohio.
Stoneground makes all sorts of baked breads steeped in old-school European baking tradition, including dinner rolls, ciabatta, pretzel buns, brioche hamburger buns, giant sandwich loaves, bagels, rye, pumpernickel, and hot dog buns, to name a few. Their sourdough starter dates back to before 1979.
The bakery seeks to set itself apart by truly being a custom shop for their customers. Stoneground meets with potential customers to formulate the perfect bread for their needs. They will make a test batch, meet and taste, and repeat this process until it meets the customer’s requirements perfectly. This specialization has resulted in a recipe catalog of more than 650 items. But you’d be mistaken to think that they just focus on the big customers. In fact, the opposite is the case. Their minimum order is $25 and they encourage frequent deliveries (their delivery charge is $0.75/order, no matter the size) to make sure that their bread is as fresh as possible, and to make sure that their breads are accessible to all customers, big and small.
Three of their large mixing machines
The bakery still uses very analog scales to measure dry ingredients
Adding ice to the dough to ensure consistent temperatures
A look inside one of their oldest ovens
Don’t expect to be able to buy Stoneground bread at a retail location, at least under their own name. One large grocery chain is finalizing a deal to private-label Stoneground’s bread in their stores. But historically the baker has specialized in wholesaling baked goods to local food establishments.
Hans has retired, and his children Derrick and Tammy run the day-to-day operations, with Derrick over the baking operations and Tammy over everything else. The company continues to grow and just last month moved in to a second large production facility across the street from their existing bakery in order to accommodate their growth.
The family ties in management also trickles down to the employees. Second generation employees are now working at the bakery. One administrative assistant’s parents worked at the bakery, and she remembers roaming the bakery halls as a small child.
“You’ll find that a lot of whole families work here. My assistant’s mom, dad, aunts, uncles all worked at the bakery. Her mom was pregnant with her while working at the bakery. She grew up in the bakery and started in packing, production, and has now moved up to work in the office.” Linda Hines
Employees are happy and fulfilled, with master mixer Octavio Flores having 20 years under his belt, and Jesse Farlanio in packaging at 14 years, for example.
The company values the community, and aims to give back by developing a refugee employee development program. Stoneground works with various refugee integration centers and gives many refugees their first job in the U.S. They teach them the job skills and language skills that are so important in order to integrate into the American culture. They additionally seek to give back to the community by supporting local flour mills and other ingredient providers, with locally-milled grains coming from Utah, Idaho, and Montana, with the majority coming from Big J Mills in Brigham City.
While you can’t find their bread for sale in stores, you can go directly to the source. Their front office shares space with a small retail store, which sells a selection of their baked goods. The selection varies, as the store is stocked based on baking overruns, but the mainstays such as ciabatta and sandwich loaves are usually easy to find. Every now and then you can find some sweet treats like cinnamon rolls as well. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 2pm, located at 1025 South 700 West in Salt Lake City.
The first Summer Downtown Farmers Market opened to big crowds this weekend, despite the drizzly weather. The market runs every Saturday from 8am – 2pm from June through October. Later in the Summer when there’s more produce, the market also has a smaller market on Tuesday evenings.