One man’s backyard bakery in Scituate evolves from a passion project into a full-time business
By Kelly Chase Photography by Kjeld Mahoney Photography
At 3 a.m., the town of Scituate is still and dark. But there’s a light on inside a barn off of Country Way. Twice a week, before the sun comes up, ovens are switched on, doughs are pulled out of a refrigerator and Thomas Generazio begins a day of baking.
Operating out of the “bread barn” in Generazio’s backyard, Mainstay Bakery provides homemade pastries and breads to local families on a weekly basis. The business, which has acquired most of its customers through social media and word of mouth, is akin to a secret club.
“It’s like a CSA for baked goods,” says Generazio.
Customers pay a monthly membership fee and place orders on a weekly or more occasional basis. Generazio sends out his menu for the upcoming week on Mondays. Orders are placed online—ahead of time—and picked up on “bake days” between designated hours. In the fall, bake days tend to land on Friday afternoons, when customers can choose from breads and desserts like pies, cookies and pretzels, and Sunday mornings, which are reserved for bread and pastries, such as chocolate croissants, homemade granola and morning buns.
On one particular weekend bake day, the air is warm, the gardens are in full bloom and customers are filing into the barn one after the other. Generazio is on a first-name basis with most of them, and he quickly assembles their orders while chatting with them until the next customer comes through.
“Any extra croissants?” one woman asks. Fortunately, today he has a few. In general, Generazio bakes according to what his customers have ordered. “The beauty of this kind of model is that there’s virtually no waste,” he says. “At nine in the morning the racks are filled and by noon, almost everything is gone.”
One customer leaves with a sliced Super Seed loaf under her arm. The nutty bread contains a blend of sunflower and sesame seeds, flaxseed, quinoa and a sourdough base, like most of Generazio’s breads. “Sourdough takes between 38 and 46 hours to make, from start to finish,” he says. “It’s a lot healthier, in my opinion, and a lot more digestible.” Preparing the bread takes skill and patience. “Sourdough is alive and unpredictable,” says Generazio. “Everything is dependent on weather and the mood of the sourdough culture. There’s a real craft to it.”
As a steady stream of customers moves up Generazio’s driveway and flows through the doorway of his barn, one can’t help but wonder—how did this one-man, community-driven, barn-based bakery come to be?
After living in Boston, obtaining a law degree from Boston University and meeting his husband, Mark (who is also a lawyer), Generazio was ready to leave the city for greener pastures. The couple first landed in Vermont, where they fell in love with the wide range of community-supported businesses. “The devotion to local agriculture and food was really amazing,” says Generazio. After landing jobs in Boston, the couple moved back to Massachusetts but held onto that artisan spirit. “We were missing the good bread we had in Vermont, and I had this motivation to start making my own,” says Generazio.
The couple ultimately made their way to Scituate in 2013, where they fell in love with the town’s proximity to the beach and a particular 19th-century farmhouse with a barn out back. For years, they both commuted into Boston. Being able to return to the quiet, seaside community made the effort of battling the traffic worth it.
Still, in the back of his mind, Generazio held onto his dream of someday owning a bakery. He had worked in restaurants and cafes for years before becoming a lawyer. However, with two full-time lawyer jobs and two sons at home—Jonathan, who is now 11, and Cameron, who is 5—life was busy, and Generazio tucked his idea away.
In the backyard, the barn served as storage space until plans began to evolve for a playroom in 2017. “My husband put in new floors and we were going to make a game room for the kids,” says Generazio. “Then I made a comment like ‘so much for the
bakery,’ because I always thought a bakery would be awesome in here and he knew that.’” The next day, Generazio’s husband told him to go for it. “He said, ‘I think you should do it. Forget about the playroom, let’s do your bakery.’”
At first, Generazio aimed to create a weekend-only business, but he spared no expense on equipment. Industrial ovens and refrigerators were moved into the barn and a giant kitchen island capped with a butcher block countertop became his work station. The bottom shelf of the island is stocked with ingredients while its smooth top is the ideal place to roll out doughs (and during pick-up hours the perfect resting place for the elbows of chatty customers).
Generazio attracted his first fans on social media; a single Facebook post generated about 50 orders. “This was just going to be something we did for fun on the weekends, and then the next weekend, we had about 100 orders,” he says. “Then it just skyrocketed. We were selling out from the very beginning.”
In August of 2018, Generazio’s commute got a lot shorter when he decided to leave his job at a Boston law firm and focus on his backyard business full time. His husband helps with operations and his oldest son will pop in from time to time to assist with cleanup, but for the most part, Mainstay Bakery is a one-man show. Generazio sets the menu, collects orders, does the baking, and when everything is done and the ovens are shut off, he is the one sliding orders across the counter to his customers.
Nothing gets stale inside Mainstay Bakery. Generazio switches his menu weekly and his list of items varies depending on the season. “The other day I was in someone’s backyard picking rhubarb and the next day I made rhubarb danishes,” he says. He also picked pounds of cherries and gooseberries to freeze and use for jams.
As summer turns to fall, Generazio expects Mainstay’s business to pick up again like it did last year. His apple pies will undoubtedly fly off the shelves. His popular harvest loaf, which is made with sweet dried cranberries, flaxseeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, sea salt and rosemary, will be sliced for sandwiches and dipped into steamy soups.
Not only do customers love the products, they also enjoy the personal experience of buying their weekly bread from someone who asks how their week was and knows about their vacations, renovations and upcoming sports games. On pick-up days, the line of customers can get long, but that’s just part of the experience. “The line can be out the door but everybody knows somebody, and people talk and catch up,” he says.
The impact of his backyard bakery was somewhat of a surprise to Generazio, but a happy one. “When we started, our aim was to serve as a place to get good bread. I never realized that it would become such a community gathering place.”