East Rock Breads bakery rolls into New Haven
Hand-made rye, sourdough and French baguettes are coming to State Street as Bill Frisch plans to officially launch his new bakery in May.
Courtesy of Bill Frisch
When Bill Frisch first moved to the New Haven area about six months ago, he had difficulty finding a job at a bakery.
Having specialized in the field for the last 10 years, he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else. So he decided to start his own bakery: East Rock Breads.
Located at the site of an old laundromat, the future space of East Rock Breads is currently under renovation. Frisch said he expects the shop to be ready for business within the next few months, and he is aiming for an official opening in May.
“I do a lot of sourdough baking,” Frisch told the News. “I like to make baguettes, country sourdough breads, the kind of rustic, French style. I think there’s a lack of that in New Haven.”
Frisch previously lived in Chicago, where he worked in several different bakeries, including West Town Bakery. His most recent position was at a French bakery called Verzenay — Frisch ran their bread programs for a year and a half.
In opening East Rock Breads, Frisch said that he is “taking a lot of what [he] learned from all these other places,” applying “good recipes and formulas” from his past experience while still tweaking them to make them his own.
Having previously worked in bakeries that were aiming to expand to wholesale and grocery stores, Frisch emphasizes his focus on making smaller, high-quality batches. Frisch said he also favors a model that involves a more direct link to his consumers.
“It fosters community; I get to know my customers personally,” said Frisch. “That’s kind of what the bakery is going to be like too, it’s going to be a very open space. … Everybody is going to be able to see what’s going on and where their food is coming from.”
Although he might consider serving some pastries and sweets like croissants or cookies, Frisch wants to focus on making bread. Unlike a “sugary treat,” he said, bread is a “nourishing” staple that customers can incorporate into their daily lives.
Frisch’s particular love for sourdough bread comes from his fondness for the bread’s slow rising process, which includes leaving the dough to ferment for several days.
That being said, Frisch’s ultimate favorite bread to make remains the classic French baguette.
“It’s deceptively simple,” he explained. “I feel like I’ve been doing it for so long, and I still haven’t made the perfect one. … I’m always striving to get the scores [lines on the baguette] to open up perfectly, to get a nice center.”
For Frisch, one of the keys to a good piece of bread are the ingredients. He uses freshly milled grains to retain the special and subtle notes they carry when they are fresh. The grains then bring a fermented taste that is enhanced without turning into an overpowering, yeasty flavor, he said.
Presentation is also key to good bread.
“With the visual, you want a nice, glossy, thin, crispy crust, it’s like a nice dark color from the oven at high heat and it opens up really nice,” said Frisch. “It’s a lot [to perfect] but that’s what makes me able to come back to [making bread] day after day.”
While Frisch’s love for baking can be traced back to him making pretzels for his friends in high school, he never expected it to turn into his career.
After college, Frisch went to school for music performance but had trouble finding a job right away — with this, he decided to fall back on his baking hobby.
Frisch’s wife, Ida Cuttler DRA ’25, said she has seen how Frisch has grown through his baking journey.
“When I met Bill seven years ago, he talked about one day opening a small bakery,” said Cuttler. “It’s so exciting to finally see him make his dreams come true.”
With renovations of East Rock Breads’ future home underway, Frisch envisions a minimalist decor style for the bakery. As a new business owner working on a budget, he wants to keep things simple. With this design, Frisch said he wants to draw attention to how the bread is made by hand.
Nevertheless, Frisch has faced some administrative challenges when trying to secure his permits in order to get the space renovated. He has had to coordinate with the fire marshal, the city’s health department and a number of other bodies, making the process “tricky.” But Frisch credits other small business owners in the area with helping him navigate the logistics or introducing him to people who have assisted him in the process.
As he plans for the opening, Frisch expects the bakery to be open three to four days a week to start, most likely two weekdays and both Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In the meantime, Frisch has been taking pre-orders for bagels that he makes from home. Customers can message him on Instagram Monday through Thursday to place their order. Then, on Saturdays, Frisch organizes a large pick-up day where customers can come collect their orders.
Through these bagel distributions, Frisch has amassed a loyal clientele, mostly composed of New Haveners and Yale graduate students. New Havener Caroline Tanbee Smith ’14 said she sees Frisch’s project as a great addition to the East Rock area.
“Bill hasn’t even opened the doors on the actual space, and yet East Rock Breads already is building a growing community around delicious bread and neighborhood friendships,” Smith said.
Yale drama student Danielle Stagger DRA ’24 also is an avid fan of East Rock Breads.
“Not until I ordered from East Rock Breads did I realize how satisfying it is to eat bread from a baker who really loves to bake,” Stagger said. “I’ve genuinely looked forward to the times I’ve gotten to pick up bagels and hear Bill so kindly and excitedly describe the differences between his weekly flavors, new recipes, and adjusted techniques.”
East Rock Breads is located on 942 State Street.