Some people cut it off. Others eat around it. But from the items on display to the sign out front, there’s no escaping it at one local bakery.
It’s crust, and according to Crust Bakehouse owner Zackery Gates, it’s the best part of the bread.
Gates took ownership of the Rosewood bakery in 2019 after the previous owners stepped down. The business already established itself in the community during its seven-year tenure, so Gates inherited Crust’s existing customers.
“Rosewood’s a pretty mellowed-out area of Columbia,” Gates said. “People around here really like their fresh bread.”
Gates said he has made major changes to the shop that were initially met with mixed reception.
Aesthetically, the shelves, paint and wallpaper are all brand new. The menu also shifted to focus more on pastries and expanded to include new items such as bagel bombs and kolaches, which are puffy dough pastries containing sweet or savory fillings. The bread recipes remained mostly the same, but there has been minor tweaking.
According to Gates, the transition was “like a gauntlet” as he tried to please both longtime and first-time customers, who didn't always want the same thing in their bakery.
“There kind of was a culture clash at first, to where [longtime customers] liked it the way it was, and then some new young guy shows up, and he’s changing everything,” Gates said. ”If you take something away, people get mad at you.”
Zara Rabnawaz has bought her bread from Crust ever since the shop opened in 2012. She was apprehensive of the shift in management.
“A lot of times when there’s new ownership, things change either for the better or for the worse,” Rabnawaz said.
Crust changed for the better, she said. Neither Rabnawaz nor anybody she knows has been dissatisfied with the changes to the bakery.
“You can taste the quality,” Rabnawaz said. “And I figure particularly with all the stuff that’s going on now, you need to put good stuff inside of you to stay healthy. And they’re very, very pleasant people, which always makes a big difference.”
Pastry chef Amber Garner said her years of experience working in the restaurant industry have taught her "how to appease" people. Even with all of the changes, she worked to cater to the needs of longtime customers.
“We have so many regulars that come in, and I love knowing their name, and I like to know what they’re getting,” Garner said. “To me, that’s important.”
Gates previously worked as a wholesaler, meaning he sold his products to other businesses. He didn't have much face-to-face customer interaction before Crust, so he said the new job has forced him to improve his people skills.
Gates started to form friendships through his five-minute conversations with customers as they stop by for their regular orders. The negative part of the changes, Gates said, is over. The customers who remain "seem to like" what they're doing — customers such as Rabnawaz.
“I have never had anything here that wasn’t good,” Rabnawaz said. “It was good before. I think it’s excellent now.”