Bikery du Nord
Shop owner spins love of bikes, baked goods
Olivier Vrambout will open a second branch of The Bikery in Marine on St. Croix later this fall.
By Kelly Jo McDonnell,
MARINE ON ST. CROIX - It's all about community, in addition to plenty of biking and good bread.
Those are the primary emphases of Olivier Vrambout, the 35-year-old Belgium-born owner of The Bikery Shop in Stillwater.
This summer, the entrepreneur is planning to branch out his successful idea to downtown Marine. The shop will feature the same baked goods, bikes, accessories, and bike tune-ups as the Stillwater branch and will be located downstairs from the Edward Jones building in a former fly-fishing shop.
"I've been able to build strong friendships," Vrambout said in accented English. "You don't always get that in busier settings. Here you can get the feel of regular people, get to know them, and we all help each other out really. It's been great. It really helped create a sense of community."
Vrambout has been part of the Stillwater community for two and a half years, since he and his wife Shelley, a Stillwater native, opened their shop, which is literally a cross between a bicycle shop and a bakery. He said it was the perfect opportunity to combine two of his passions.
The Belgian transplant moved to the U.S. when he was 14, living in Pittsburgh before moving to Florida for high school, then majoring in restaurant management in college in Alabama. He said a food-related course of study was always a natural for him.
"My grandmother was a baker," he said. "Growing up in Europe, always around food and stuff, we always had it as part of our culture. Cooking or baking or gathering - we were always around food or at the farmers market. That's why I went into the baking and cooking... it was always second nature to me."
After college, he opened his first restaurant/bakery venture, Mount Bakery, in Bellingham, Wash., and started sponsoring a biking team. Biking has been another important element for Vrambout since he started racing as a child.
"I always wanted to do something in cycling," he said.
Moving from Bellingham to be nearer to Shelly's family was a bit intimidating because of Minnesota's winters.
"I was really scared coming here, scared and nervous about the winters," he said. "But you get used to it. It's a very amazing, pretty area. You can really enjoy the seasons."
His entire family is now involved in the business, including his three children ages 2, 7 and 9. Plans call for Shelly to run the shop in Stillwater and his mother Maryce to help out in Marine while he works at both locations as needed.
"My 9-year-old enjoys busing tables and helping out," he said. "They (the kids) are very much part of the business. They love going in there."
A new location
Vrambout said he hadn't really thought about adding another location until approached by some Marine City Council members who suggested that he open a shop in their area. He said he was intrigued immediately after seeing the location.
"If I wanted to duplicate in Minneapolis or St. Paul, floor to finish, I probably couldn't afford it," he said. "This place however, has a lot of equity already in it."
His business concept seems to have taken off regardless of the still-slumped economy.
"My whole philosophy and goal is to building a sense of community and community gathering ... whether it's me or another coffee shop downtown," he said. "(I recognize) the importance of supporting small businesses so they can continue to be part of the community."
His entrepreneurial ideas fall right in line with his philosophy: for example, he makes it a point to feature local farm products and other local goods. His shop features Salsa Cycles and Surly Bikes, both made in Bloomington.
Some of his breads are made from spent grains from Stillwater-based microbrewery Lift Bridge Beer Company.
"I would like to continue to expand on that," Vrambout said.
He said trying new ideas and constantly training oneself, especially in the many origins and cultures of baking, is always a good thing.
"You can never know too much," he said with a laugh.
The two shop locations will both maintain the same goal: sales of bikes and bike accessories in addition to a myriad of bread, sandwiches and more. The Marine shop, though, will have more of a sitting studio and a bigger emphasis on the training part of cycling. The shop will get some new paint and a light remodel. Vrambout hopes to open sometime in August.
"The reward is getting to meet everybody in the neighborhood here," he said. "It's been a great place. And definitely combining the two passions, well, that makes your day go by very easier."
Visit Bikery du Nord or call (651) 433-3030 for more information.